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To protest, he lived on a tree in a jungle

Last updated on: October 1, 2012 16:55 IST

To protest, he lived on a tree in a jungle

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On Monday, Greenpeace activist Brikesh Singh will finally leave a tree house close to the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, where he has spent nearly a month protesting against the "brutal sacrifice of forests, wildlife and forest dwellers" for the sake of coal mining.

Singh gave up his life in the city and chose to live in the forest for a month to understand the issues that were at stake. Many forests located in central India face the threat of destruction due to the expansion of mining activities to extract coal.

Nearly 35 per cent of India's tiger population is scattered across central India along with innumerable other wildlife species. Thousands of forest-dwellers also live here and depend on these forests to earn their livelihood.

Singh spent a month in the jungle, educating people about this issue through social media, blogs and videos. He also hosted and explained his cause to various visitors including students from nearby schools, NGO members, coal mine workers, Member of Parliament Hansraj Ahir and even nuns from a local convent.

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Image: Greenpeace activist Brikesh Singh in the tree-house
Photographs: Harikrishna Katragadda/Greenpeace

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To protest, he lived on a tree in a jungle

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On Monday, he also led a bicycle rally to the Durgapur coal mine bordering Tadoba Reserve. He, along with local activists and volunteers, used a petition made of 135-feet of fabric to demarcate the forest area that is facing the threat of destruction from coal mining.

The fabric represented over 1,10,000 people who had signed the petition -- created by Greenpeace on July 19, 2012 -- to protect the forest.

According to Greenpeace, the proposed expansion of the Durgapur coal mine is a threat to many hectares of forest land. The area is also an important tiger habitat and part of the corridor connecting Tadoba-Andhari to other southern forests.

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Image: Brikesh Singh in the tree house
Photographs: Sunny L/Greenpeace

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To protest, he lived on a tree in a jungle

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After spending a month in the jungle, Singh is now headed to Hyderabad, where he hopes to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity that India is hosting. He will hand over the petition to the PM and urge him to protect the forest and its wildlife.

During his stay in the jungle, officials of the Maharashtra forest department had assured him that they were not completely oblivious to the plight of forest-dwellers in Tadoba region. They had earlier rejected clearance to Adani Power to set up a coal mine in Chandrapur's Lohara block as the project would have been a direct threat to the tiger population there.  

"Saving Lohara's forests was just the beginning -- lakhs of hectares of forest are facing destruction from coal mining throughout central India. A month of living on this tree made me realise that our forests give us infinite resources and lakhs of Indians want them to be saved. It does not make any economic sense to destroy them for coal, which will only last a few years," says Singh.

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Image: Local people from Chandrapur showing their support
Photographs: Harikrishna Katragadda/Greenpeace

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To protest, he lived on a tree in a jungle

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Greenpeace activists point out that while forest-dwellers fight to protect their habitat, they rarely receive support from people living in urban areas.

According to them, while there are alternatives to coal like renewable energy, vested interests want to keep the need for coal alive. They will go to any length to procure rights to mine in central India's forests, where coal is plentiful.

 "Greenpeace is calling for a moratorium on all new forest clearances for coal mining until a transparent public consultation process is held to arrive at the criteria for determining which forest areas will be permanently closed to mining. These criteria need to take into account a range of factors, including biodiversity, livelihood dependence, hydrological values and the value of intact landscapes," says Greenpeace campaigner Nandikesh Sivalingam.

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Image: Tigers in the Tadoba-Andhari Reserve
Photographs: Harshad Barve/Greenpeace

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To protest, he lived on a tree in a jungle

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The environmental organisation argues that life in one part of the country cannot simply be destroyed to fulfill energy requirements in another part.

'It is not fair for us to destroy forests, kill wildlife and displace forest-dwellers just so that we may have coal for electricity. If we all decide today that our forests and all life it supports must be protected at any cost, it can be done. We can keep a watch on our natural spaces and force the government to completely close forests to coal mining and focus more on clean energy. This will protect the forests and save the environment from more pollution,' states a press release by Greenpeace.

You can show your support for India's forests by visiting www.junglistan.org/home.

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Image: The tree house on the fringes of the Tadoba Tiger Reserve
Photographs: Sunny L/Greenpeace

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