NGO urges MALs to fight against coal plants, save farmers

Aug 01, 2013, 01:19 IST | Iram Siddique

Greenpeace India activists gathered outside MLA hostels and asked the legislators to choose between two matkas -- one filled with charcoal, representing a barren future, and the other filled with pulses and grains, symbolising irrigation

A group of volunteers from Greenpeace India gathered outside MLA hostels to raise awareness about the ongoing debate over coal-based power plants that swallow a lot of river water, leaving farmers high and dry. 

Proving a point: A volunteer from Greenpeace can be seen holding two matkas -- one filled with charcoal and the other with grains and pulses

Though the state has experienced a satisfactory monsoon season so far, memories of the drought are hard to bury. NGOs across the country have been pooling in their efforts to help state representatives make an informed choice and vote in favour of the needs of farmers.

Members from the NGO met representatives from both the houses, outside Manora, Akashwani and Majestic MLA hostels in Cuffe Parade. They made use of a unique approach, asking representatives to choose between two matkas – one filled with charcoal and the other with an assortment of grains ad pulses. The first matka represented a barren future, which is inevitable if coal power plants are allowed to draw water. The other stood for irrigation, which supports the livelihood of millions of farmers in Maharashtra.

Pranay Jajodia, a volunteer, said, “We are reminding the representatives that there is corruption involved in the use of dams for irrigation, and we want the corrupt politicians to be penalised under law. The water from many dams has already been sold to coal companies. That means that even if dams are built at a large cost to the public, farmers will never get the water for irrigation.”

Power plants producing more than 80,000 MW of electricity have been proposed in the interiors of the state, creating a huge demand for water from irrigation projects including rivers, dams and reservoirs. This puts pressure on the precious resource, which is also used for drinking and agriculture.

“As the representatives of the houses have the right to decide, we wanted to make them aware and ask them to raise this issue in the legislative session,” added Bhagwan Kesbhat.

“There are protests at various coal power plants, as it is one of the main causes of pollution. However, the government is totally sold out to industrialists and other people in power. So it is up to the people to bring about a change,” said Shiv Sena MLA Subhash Desai.

Farmers’ cause
Sanjay Kolhe, a farmer from Amravati, started an online and mobile phone-based petition in support of the farmers’ cause. So far, it has received support from over 2,75,000 people, including Greenpeace India, which is asking the Chief Minister to return the water taken away for coal-based power plant projects.  

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