Events in India over the last few weeks have or will have big impacts on tigers. India’s Supreme Court recently issued a temporary ban restricting tourists access to tiger parks. The month of July ended with a massive blackout that left close to 700 million Indians without electricity – about 10% of the world’s population. Then August started off with a report by Greenpeace calling for a moratorium on new coal projects in India, citing evidence that coal mining threatens wildlife and forests.
No doubt the blackout will increase the number of voice calling to expand coal mining; coal-fired power plants produce almost 80% of India’s electricity.
According to the Greenpeace report, most of the new coal mines will be in central India – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and parts of Odisha and eastern Maharashtra. 1.1 million hectares of forests are under threat. Moreover, these places are home to 35% of India’s tiger population. And probably more than a few people depend upon the forest for their livelihoods.
So on the one hand India is trying to protect the endangered Bengal tiger, and on the other it is continuing its dependence on one of the most dirty of fossil fuels, even importing coal to feed the system.
The UK Guardian put it quite well: “A hot-button issue in India, the question of tiger conservation pits the responsibility for preserving wildlife against the development needs of a country that witnessed the slowest economic growth in nine years in March and where hundreds of millions continue to live below the poverty line.”
The situation India is in is also one most of the world is in – development/lifestyle vs. the environment. Do countries continue to mine for coal, knowing that it will destroy animals, forests, and communities, not to mention the vast amounts of pollution it creates and the toll mining takes on the miners themselves? Or is it time to seriously invest in clean energy?
India has abundant solar and wind (read Andy Revkin’s blog on bringing solar to rural communities; I also wrote about this a few years back for Triple Pundit). Off-grid electricity has huge potential, not to mention increased energy efficiency efforts.
Business as usual cannot work much longer on a planet with finite resources and a growing number of consumers.
The Greenpeace report is long and very detailed. But all one really needs to take from it is that there are at best 1,700 tigers left in India, over 80% of India’s proven coal reserves are found mostly under forests in Central India, and that India’s coal is likely to last only 30-40 more years.
Is it worth destroying so much when proven alternatives exist and the lives of future generations are at stake?