Mumbai: Activist group Greenpeace ambushed the Essar Group on Wednesday by rolling down a huge poster that screamed “I Kill Forests: Essar” on the façade of the Essar headquarters in Mumbai. The protest relates to Essar Power’s plans to start mining at Mahan in Madhya Pradesh, one of the oldest deciduous forests of India.
The poster was rolled down on Wednesday afternoon by Greenpeace activists and removed later in the evening. Some of the activists were arrested. “In a blatant and anarchic act of trespassing some people, at behest of Greenpeace, masqueraded as building cleaning agents and gained access to the Essar office in Mumbai,” an Essar group spokesperson said. “In this illegal act, the trespassers misused the office premises to spread anti-corporate, misleading and false propaganda.”
The ambush was carried out by 12 Greenpeace activists who scaled Essar’s 180ft tall headquarters in tiger costumes, and carrying a giant 36ft by 72ft banner. Apart from the message, the banner also featured photographs of environment minister M. Veerappa Moily and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Mahan coal block in Mahan forest was granted to Mahan Coal Ltd, a joint venture of Essar Power Ltd and Hindalco Industries Ltd, in 2006 . It was granted an in-principle approval by the environment ministry on 18 October, 2012, after pressure from a group of ministers (GoM) on coal mining. This approval came with 36 conditions, which require a range of studies to be completed and the processes under the forest rights law to be complied with. There are 62 villages that depend on the forest for their livelihood.
Greenpeace activists demanded that Essar drop the proposed coal mine project, and that Singh sack Moily, who, according to the organization, has been fast-tracking environment clearances with disregard for forests, and human and wildlife that depend on them.
“In a matter of 20 days, our new environment minister has cleared 70 projects worth Rs.1.5 lakh crore, which means he can’t possibly have considered each proposal properly,” said Priya Pillai, a campaigner for Greenpeace India. “Has he been appointed to line the pockets of a tiny number of wealthy corporate companies like Essar, who are out there to wipe off forests like Mahan, or to safeguard the environment, rights of people and wildlife of the country?”
Greenpeace activists in London also demonstrated outside Essar Power’s office at Berkeley Square. The company is listed on the London stock exchange.
Greenpeace activists have staged similar protests in the past—including an instance where one activist dressed up as a Ninja turtle jumped into the swimming pool at a hotel run by the Tata group in Mumbai, to protest the construction of a Tata Steel Ltd plant near Gopalpur in Odisha that threatened to destroy one of the nesting grounds of the Olive Ridley turtle.