Collective Statement of the Third National Coal and Thermal Power Gathering

Following is the text of the Collective Statement of the Third National Coal and Thermal Power Gathering held at Dumka, Jharkhand on 16-17 October 2014.  

Third National mm&P Gathering on Coal Mines and Thermal power was held on 16-17 October at the Social Development Centre, Dumka, Jharkhand. More than 300 affected peoples from coal mining area and mm&P representatives participated from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, West Bengal, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Protest_Third National Coal and Thermal Power Gathering

The two day gathering reviewed the situation of coal mining and thermal power in the country, particularly in the light of the recent Supreme Court’s historic judgement to cancel the allocation of all coal blocks granted to private companies. People from different areas presented the conditions prevailing in their regions and the machinations of the government and the private companies in the process. After deliberating on the situation and recognising the need to continuously expose the human and environmental costs of such illegal decisions, the gathering unanimously resolved to step-up action and

  1. Demand withdrawal of all the cases against protestors in all the coal and other projects, particularly in those coal blocks which have been cancelled by Supreme Court in it’s judgment dated 25 August, 2014. Cases should be immediately withdrawn and all the injured and those killed by the police repression and firing should be appropriately compensated;
  2. Demand cancellation of all statutory clearances granted to the coal and thermal projects granted earlier to this judgement of the Supreme Court and new such projects shall seek afresh clearances under environment, forest and tribal laws.
  3. Demand CBI enquiry into the police firing on protestors opposing coal, dam and thermal plant in Kathikund, Jharkand in 2008; illegal land deals of Heavy Engineering Corporation and the illegal appointment of over 9000 ineligible people in Damoder Valley Corporation;
  4. Demand resolution of the legacy issues and pending resettlement and rehabilitation;
  5. We totally oppose the dilution of the protective laws such as Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act.
  6. We condemn the efforts and intention of central Government to dilute the provision of environment and forest laws in favour of corporate. The reality, notwithstanding the rhetoric of protecting rivers and environment, is the systematic dilution, amendment and/or abolition of the jurisprudential, constitutional, fundamental rights based on internationally recognized instruments of environmental and community protection built into the country’s laws, rules, regulations and legal system.

Some of the most glaring instances of these have been:

  • The High Level Committee, setup to ‘reform’ Environmental Laws has been given a mandate to overhaul all green laws and make them investor friendly, within a framework of 2 months.
  • 240 projects cleared by the Ministry within 3 months a time period that simply cannot be adequate to undertake proper environmental impact studies, public hearings at local sites, and other mandated procedures
  • Delinking forest clearance from the green signal that is given by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), to projects around tiger reserves, national parks and sanctuaries. Previously forest clearance could only be given after the NBWL approval.
  • Reducing the need for NBWL approvals for projects within 10 km around protected areas to only 5 km.
  • Relaxing procedures under the Forest Conservation Act, which requires central approval of diversion of forestlands, for linear projects through forest areas, projects in forests and eco-sensitive areas along international borders and in “Naxal-affected” areas.
  • Doing away with the need for public hearings for coal mines of less than 16 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) capacity (from the earlier 8), and allowing onetime expansion of mines up to 6 mtpa if they are already of 20 mtpa size.
  • Exempting irrigation projects affecting less than 2,000 hectares from needing environmental clearance, and allowing state governments to clear those a effecting 10,000 hectares.
  • Proposed amendments to the Green Tribunal and Land Acquisition Acts.
  • Systematic removal of independent voices from critical institutions of environmental and social governance
  • Reducing the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) by 50%.
  1. We resolve to take up actions at local level immediately by movement groups on the 42 blocks which are to be transferred to Coal India Ltd (public sector undertaking), w.e.f. 31 March 2015.
  2. We demand the adoption of alternative development paradigm based on decentralised economic activities, decentralised renewable energy generation and equity.

This programme organised during the week of Reclaim Power – Week of Global Action, express solidarity with all the people across the globe who are struggling to keep dirty development away and are seeking ecological justice.

Issued by R.Sreedhar, Chairperson, mm&P (mines minerals and PEOPLE), dated 17th October 2014