This is a crosspost from our campaign in India called India Beyond Coal.
Renuka Saroha is an organizer who works at 350.org. Last week, she was witness to a passionate rally organized by Chhattisgarh Bacho Andolan. Speaking to the locals about coal mining, its devastating effects and 350's National day of action on coal, a concerned Renuka writes for us their story.
“Humare pas bas yeh Shareer aur Tokda Zamin hi hai, inmese ek bhi chala gaya to dusra apne aap hi khatam ho jayega” (All we have is our bodies and a small patch of land, if we lose either of them the remaining one serves no purpose) said Vishakha, a Bangladeshi refugee from Baysai Colony in Dharamjaigarh. As the government dreams of making Chhattisgarh the Power Capital of India, millions like Vishakha Devi lose their sleep from the fear of losing their land, forests and future. They may not understand the complex science behind climate change or the long lasting health impacts of coal mining, but they do know that these forests are their lifelines and that any activity that requires clearing them can in no way be the sign of a brighter future.
Dharamjaigarh, a quaint town in Raigarh District in the state of Chhattisgarh is located on Raigarh-Ambikapur highway. This small town is surrounded by forests and is occasionally visited by magnificent tuskers and bears. When Dharamjaigarh’s people were notified about proposed mining of the so called Black Gold, they did dream of a better life as promised by government and the miner, DB Power Company. The power company is owned by the DB group which prints the widely read national daily Dainik Bhaskar and the DNA. The 10 proposed coal blocks are spread out across 1700 acres covering six villages of Taraimar, Bayasi, Medarmar, Dharamjaigarh, Dharam colony and Bayasicolony. Locals have been opposing the proposed mining sites since 2011.
As the news of land acquisition and mining grew stronger, few locals started studying the impacts of the proposed coal blocks on Dharamjaigarh’s environment, ground water level, forests and their beloved wildlife. The results were shocking. The company planned to mine the entire area of 1700 acres, which meant that even the Nagar Palika and Panchayat area would also be driven out for mining. The first coal seam is at 600 ft whereas the water level is at 200-300 ft which could result in the drying up of wells, tube-wells, water ponds and other water sources in the mining process. Dr D.S. Mallyia, geologist and principal of a local college started explaining the ill-effects of indiscriminate mining and how all the companies have failed to keep their promise of better relocation and stricter environmental policies. He, and his colleagues, have organized various movie shows and public gatherings in the villages to be affected. The purpose of these events was to tell people about the realities of the proposed coal blocks and to unite them in their fight against the all-engulfing giant. Dr D.S.Mallya said “It is the people of Dharamjaigarh who would be affected, so it us who would have to fight to protect our motherland. Even if the battles cost us everything, we will fight on our own.”
With their efforts started a wave of awareness and courage. On 3rd October this year more than 3000 locals gathered at the Club Ground, Dharamjaigarh to register their protest against the proposed mining and land acquisition plans. More than 3000 people participated in a daylong protest, which started with a peaceful rally, followed by interactive and informative sessions. The peaceful yet strong march conveyed the strength of people’s determination to local governance and officers of DB Power Company. As people marched around the town, residents joined the movement making a huge human chain around the city. Their voices echoed loud & clear, demanding the Government and the DB group and other proposed industrial group to leave their homes and fields alone.
The important question we should ask ourselves is why the people of Dharamjaigarh are not ready to accept the lucrative packages being offered by the industrial groups. The package includes compensation for their agricultural land, better housing to replace their mud huts, labour jobs for farmers and an overall development of the area that would follow because of the CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives. What these packages can never return is their sentiments and love for their small patch of ancestral land, the cohesiveness their village provides and the serenity of their forests. How can an open cast mine replace their lush green forest? Can an earth digging bulldozer replace their beloved elephant? Can a concrete road on their sacred groves be a symbol of development? Can smoke from these mines and power plants replace their pristine environment? Should such carbon neutral communities pay for power hungry cities of India and the world?
Renuka also spoke to the organizers of the rally about 350.org, climate change and our efforts to move India beyond coal and bring the much needed transition towards renewable energy. The organizers have registered actions for India Beyond Coal. We hope to support each other in this common struggle against coal. Join them in their fight here:
Fight for nature -http://act.350.org/event/india-beyond-coal/3589
Top right - Banner at the rally which reads - ' The sons of forests have the right over it, elbow out the enemies of farmers'.
Bottom left - Banner at the rally which reads - ' Balco DB should leave, we do not want to eat coal'.