Respected Sri Narendra Modi ji,

We understand that the Union Ministry of Coal is going ahead with the auction of 41 coal blocks in MP, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and Maharashtra and that the private players to whom those coal blocks will be allotted will have the freedom to mine the coal and put it to any end-use they wish. Apparently, the government is planning to augment domestic coal production to reduce dependence on imports. Also, the coal auctions and coal mining will bring some revenues for the Centre and the States.

As a part of the civil society and, in particular, as those concerned about the need to conserve the existing fresh water sources in the country and revive those on the decline, we feel that the proposed coal mining activity will adversely affect the catchments of several important rivers in the northern and the eastern parts of the country. Therefore, the proposed coal auctions will not be prudent.

In order to elicit the views of the civil society, we conducted a webinar on the 4th of July, 2020 in which several persons including advocates, environmental activists, women representatives, students etc. had participated. The webinar was held under the guidance of Dr Rajendra Singh of Tarun Bharat Sangh, Rajasthan. We enclose a summary of the deliberations that took place at the webinar. The concerns expressed at the webinar are briefly as follows.

Adeverse impact on the catchments of several important rivers:

The proposed coal blocks are largely located in dense forests which overlap the catchments of several rivers that constitute the lifeline of the communities downstream. The forest areas where mining will take place are rich in bio-resources and are home for a wide range of protected wild life species. Mining in those areas will adversely affect the river catchments, reduce the water inflows and also pollute the water that is consumed not only by the tribal communities who reside in the forest areas but also by the communities that live downstream. This will not only affect agriculture but also the health of the people, running counter to the vision set out by you for the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti.

Damage to the environment and wild life:

We owe it to the posterity to conserve the environment and its rich biodiversity. Any loss in biodiversity can never be made good. Moreover, the value of the forest produce and the other bioresources that will be lost as a result of coal mining will far exceed the meagre benefits that will accrue from it to the government. Therefore, purely on the basis of economic logic, the coal auctions do not stand to reason.

Adverse impact on the tribal communities:

The coal blocks which are being auctioned cover several tribal tracts notified under the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution, which confers special rights on the tribal communities. The apex court, in several important cases, has reiterated that mining activity in the Scheduled Areas should not be entrusted to private players and coal mining if unavoidable should be carried out by cooperatives of the tribals or the government agencies. In addition, under the two laws, namely, the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act,1996 (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (known popularly as the Forest Rights Act), no projects can be taken up without the prior consent of the local tribal Gram Sabhas. Since no such consultation has taken place, we feel that the proposed coal auctions will violate the statute and may lead to avoidable litigation. Anyway, since coal mining in the forests where the tribal reside will disrupt their lives, the least that the government ought to have done is to consult them beforehand. Failure to do so runs counter to the democratic spirit that underlued the Constitution.

Coal mining and its use are highly polluting activities:

Coal contains toxic pollutants such as zinc, cadmium, arsenic, lead, mercury and radioactive isotopes that cause irreparable damage to the health of the people. Both the Centre and the States are incurring substantial expenditure on public health and that expenditure will become counter-productive if the health of the people is allowed to be affected by pollution in the air and in water. In the case of health, prevention is always better than cure, less expensive and will have more long lasting benefits.

Should coal production be augmented?

In view of the climate concerns and the impact of coal use on the global atmospheric temperatures, there has been a worldwide attempt to move away from coal towards renewable energy. Moreover, in India, there is excess dependence of the power system on thermal power, especially coal-based power, that has forced the coalbased power plants to operate at low capacity utilisation factors and add to the unit cost of electricity to the consumer. In that context, we feel that it will not be prudent to move in the direction of higher coal use. Instead, India should go all out to uitilise the power house of solar energy. Roof-top solar generation in replacement of coalbased electricity will bring about a radical transformation of the energy scene to the benefit of the consumer.

Should a scarce natural resource like coal be handed over to private players?

Like any other natural resource, coal belongs to the people and the government is a trustee of it on behalf of the public. More important is the fact that, unlike bioresources, coal is a non-renewable resource. Handing over such a scarce resource to the private players will amount to allowing the latter to profiteer at the cost of the public exchequer. Public control over coal mining and extraction of coal in line with the concept of sustainability should guide the public policy in this regard. In fact, these were the considerations that prompted the then government in the early seventies to nationalise the coal industry. We feel that it will not be desirable to reverse that policy.

We earnestly appeal to you not to proceed with the proposed coal auctions and, instead, adopt a policy as indicated above to move in the direction of renewable energy based on distributed generation. We are sure that you will ponder over what we have collectively opined and proceed accordingly.

Respectfully,
Dr Rajendra Singh
JAL BIRADARI
jalpurushtbs@gmail.com

List Of Appealers –

1. Dr Rajendra Singh (Chairman, Tarun Bharat Singh, Rajasthan)
2. Dr E A S Sarma (Former Union Secretary)
3. Sri. Rajagopal P.V. (Activist, President Of Ekta Parishad)
4. Mr .Advocate Gurusamy (Convenor Rivers Retrieval Forum, Tamil Nadu )
5. Dr Sanjay Singh (National Convenor Of Jan Jan Jodo Abhiyan , MP)
6. Sri.D. Kothai Selvan (Educationalist,Ex.Committee Member NWC, Tamil Nadu)
7. Mr. Satyanarayana Bolisetty ( Social Activist, Andhra Pradesh)
8. Mr. Ramesh Sharma (National Convenor Of Ekta Parishad )
9. Smt. Indra Khurana (Environmentalist , Writer , New Delhi )
10. Mr. J.K. Jamadar (Environmentalist, Karnataka)
11. Mr. Veeramalla Praksh Rao (Chairman of W. R .D. Corporation Telangana)
12. Mr Ranveer Singh Parmar (Director Of Ekta Parishad)
13. Mr.Sudarsan Das (Convenor Of Mahanadi Bachao Andolan , Odisha)
14. Mr. Atul Kulkarni (Member Of Jal Biradari, Environmentalist, Maharashtra)
15. Mr. Vinod Bodhankar (Member Of Jal Biradari, Maharashtra)
16. Smt. Snehal Dhonde (Member Of Jal Biradari, Environmentalist ,Maharashtra)
17. Mr. Kishore Dharia (Member Of Jal Biradari, Maharashtra)
18. Mr. Narendra Chugh (Member Of Jal Biradari, Environmentalist ,Maharashtra)
19. Mr. Pramod Deshmukh (Member Of Jal Biradari, Maharashtra)
20. Dr Nilesh Heda (Member Of Jal Biradari, Environmentalist ,Maharashtra)
21. Mr. Manoj K.Ramamurti (Producer Unit Manager Action For Food Production)
22. Swami Shivanand Ji (Chairman, Matri Sadan, Uttarakhand)
23. Mr. Suresh Bhai (Environmentalist Uttarakhand )
24. Swami Dayanand ji ( Matri Sadan, Uttarakhand)
25. Mr. Mdhukar (Senior Journalist, Jharkhand)
26. Mr. Rampraksh bhai (Environmentalist, Jharkhand)
27. Mr. Gyan Aadhar Shastri (Environmentalist, Jharkhand)
28. Mr. Ghanshyam Bhai (Environmentalist, Jharkhand)
29. Mr. Shivkumar Bhai (Environmentalist, Jharkhand)
30. Mr. Sanjay Mishra (Environmentalist, CG )
31. Mr. Prashant Kumar (Environmentalist, Member Of Ekta Prishad CG )
32. Dr Jagdish Chodhri (Environmentalist, Haryana )
33. Mr. Ibrahim Khan (Environmentalist, Haryana )
34. Mr. Rajkumar Sagwan (Social Worker, Haryana )
35. Mr. Umendra Datt (Environmentalist, Punjab )
36. Mr. Sudhindra M Sharma (Geologist, Water Management Specialist, MP )
37. Mr. Nirbhay Singh (Environmentalist, Madhya Pradesh )
38. Mr. Santosh Singh (Environmentalist, Madhya Pradesh )
39. Mr.Gaurav Dhakad (JRF NGO Director, Madhya Pradesh)
40. Mr. Manvendra Singh (State Coordinator Jal Jodo Abhiyan, Madhya Pradesh )
41. Mr. Paras Pratap Singh (Social Worker , Madhya Pradesh)
42. Mr. Afsar Jahan (Social Worker , Madhya Pradesh)
43. Mr. Ramshankar Mishra (Social Worker , Madhya Pradesh)
44. Mr. R C Tiwari (Social Worker , Madhya Pradesh)
45. Mr. Kamlesh Upadhyay (Social Worker , Madhya Pradesh)
46. Mr. Vinay Srivas (Social Worker , Madhya Pradesh)
47. Mr. Gyan Chandra Yadav (Social Worker , Madhya Pradesh)
48. Mr. Abhisekh Mishra (Social Worker , Madhya Pradesh)
49. Mr. Rohitas Rana (Social Worker , Madhya Pradesh)
50. Mr. Sanjay Rana (Environmentalist, Uttar Pradesh )
51. Mr. Krishanpal Singh (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh )
52. Mr. Manish Rajput (Environmentalist, Uttar Pradesh )
53. Mr. Pawan Rajawat (Environmentalist, Uttar Pradesh)
54. Mr. Birjendra Singh (Environmentalist, Uttar Pradesh)
55. Mr. Ramdheeraj Bhai (Environmentalist, Uttar Pradesh)
56. Mr. Arvind Bhai (Environmentalist, Uttar Pradesh)
57. Mr. Arshad (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh )
58. Ms. Mamta Jain (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh )
59. Mr. Amit Tripathi (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh )
60. Dr Mod. Nayim (Pro B.U. , Uttar Pradesh )
61. Mr Ajay Srivastava (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh )
62. Mr. Abhishek Tiwari (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh )
63. Mr. Rajendra Bhadauriya (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh )
64. Mr. Anil Sharma (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh)
65. Mr. Ramkumar Jadon (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh)
66. Mr. Mahendra Saxena (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh)
67. Mr. Devendra Gandhi ((Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh)
68. Ms. Manju Pathak (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh)
69. Mr. Ram Babu Tiwari (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh)
70. Mr. Vinod Shankar Singh (Social Worker, Uttar Pradesh)
71. Mr. Abhimanyu Bhai (Environmentalist, Uttar Pradesh)
72. Dr U.N. Rai (Ret. Senior Principal Scientist & Pro CSIR , Lucknow UP)
73. Mr Braj Kishore Jha (Concerned For Sustainability, Uttar Pradesh)
74. Mr. Suyash Gupta ( Assistant Teacher, Uttar Pradesh)
75. Mr. Hariom Prasad Chaurasiya ( Trainer, Uttar Pradesh)
76. Mr. Pradeep Priyedarshi (Member Ekta Prishad, Bihar)
77. Mr. Ramesh Kumar (Environmentalist, Bihar)
78. Mr. Krishnamurari (Environmentalist, Bihar)
79. Mr. Ajit Bhai (Environmentalist, Bihar)
80. Mr . Ramesh Kumar (Environmentalist, Bihar)
81. Mr. Hari Om Kishan (Student, Bihar)
82. Mr. A. S. Buvaneswaran(Convenor, Thamirabarani River Basin Parliament TN)
83. Mr. Soban Babu (Chartered Accountant, Tamil Nadu)
84. Mr. A Gopalraj ( Asst. Director Of Agriculture Business, Tamil Nadu)
85. Mr. D. Kamraj (Civil Engineer , Tamil Nadu)
86. Mr. Dr A. Thirumagal Rajam ( Assistant Professor, Tamil Nadu)
87. Mr. Suriya Ganesh (Student, Tamil Nadu)
88. Mr. Jayaseelan S ( Advocate, Tamil Nadu)
89. Mr.Darwin Annadurai ( Founder Eco Society India, NGO Tamil Nadu)
90. Mr. Selvam ( Farmar, Tamil Nadu)
91. Mr. Md Hedayet Tulla ( Student, West Bengal)
92. Mr. C Doraiswamy ( Consultant Projects .cfs West Bengal)
93. Mr.Sameer Kumar Singh (Student, New Delhi)
94. Dr Mohit Bishnoi (Guest Faculty. New Delhi)
95. Mr.Shakeel ur Rasool (Environment And RTI Activist In Kashmir)
96. Mr. Gopal Singh (Member Of TBS, Rajasthan )
97. Mr. Suresh Raikwar (Member Of TBS, Rajasthan)
98. Mr. Chhotelal Meena (Member Of TBS, Rajasthan)
99. Mr. Rahul Sisodiya (Member Of TBS ,Rajasthan)
100. Mr. Brijesh Vijavargia ( President Hadoti Jal Biradari, Rajasthan)

Copy to the Chief Ministers –
Maharashtra – Honourable Shri Uddhav Thackeray ji
Madhya Pradesh – Honourable Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan ji
Chattisgarh – Honourable Shri Bhupesh Baghel ji
Jharkhand – Honourable Shri Hemant Soren ji
Odisha – Honourable Shri Naveen Patnaik ji


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