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Paris talks? India to double coal production by 2019, as affected communities’ rights put on back foot: Report

Counterview Desk
An international advocacy group report, prepared even as the Paris talks on climate change are on, has accused India that Government of India and India’s coal companies operating in the private sector of causing “major, countervailing detrimental effects on communities which had previously sustained themselves with farming, fishing, hunting and other activities.”
The report states, this is happening not just in around the coalmines, which are spread across fifteen states, with Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand being the top coal producers, but also states like Gujarat, which has been a major player in private sector coal-based power plants.
Already, the report says, India the "third-largest consumer of coal in the world, generating approximately 80% of its electricity from coal", adding, "It is also the third-largest producer with a production of 613 MT of coal in 2013, and the third largest importer, as despite its vast reserves, it needs to compensate for the poor quality of its domestic coal."
Underlining that "the high ash content of India’s coal pollutes twice as much as the coal it imports", the report predicts doubling of use of domestic coal by 2019. It says, this would be possible thanks to India shedding its 40 year state monopoly over coal mining in India, with the game changers being two laws, the Coal Mines Special Provisions Bill, and the Mines & Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Bill, "allowing private companies to mine and sell coal in India.”
“These laws also made way for foreign investment in India’s coal sector”, the report, titled “Digging Deeper: The Human Rights Impacts of Coal in the Global South”, a report by the Dejusticia, Colombia, and Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, London, notes.
Identifying several companies – an RP Goenka Group conglomerate in Jharkhand, Welspun Energy in Uttar Pradesh, Adani Power in Karnataka, Reliance in Madhya Pradesh, and Tata Mundra plant in Gujarat, the report states, they present a “gloomy picture of land acquisition without protection of affected people’s rights”.
Claiming that “pollution from coal power plants is causing 80-120,000 premature deaths per year, and as many as 20 million new asthma cases”, the report quotes a Greenpeace India report which says that “coal-fired energy production, as currently conducted in India, is responsible for hundreds of thousands of lives lost.”
Referring to how those operating these mines have found “the perfect workers: children”, the report states, “Employment in the mines represents one of the worst forms of child labour.” It quotes a study to say that an “estimated 70,000 children work in these mines, most of whom were illegally trafficked from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh and Nepal.”
Referring to Tata Mundra Plant in Gujarat, the report says, “The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, which financed the project, touted it for its support to local communities. However, its effects on the Wagher fishing community, a Muslim minority identified as ‘a socially and educationally backward caste’, contradict these claims.”
“The operations of the power plant devastated the community’s livelihood, having salinized fertile land and ground water, and caused both decline in the local fish population, and lasting health effects on the community. With the destruction of their fishing livelihood, the community, with the support of local NGOs, filed lawsuits against the company”, the report says.
The report says, “India faces contradictions between the drive to develop and industrialize, and the need to address the severe negative impacts of coal energy. In making major decisions on these questions, vulnerable populations’ rights must be put back at the forefront.”

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