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Mumbai – Protests against the plan to mine in MP forests

: In a display of its penchant for eyeball-grabbing protests to voice environmental concerns, activists of non-profit Greenpeace unfurled a massive banner – ‘We Kill Forests: Essar’ on the façade of Essar Group’s 21-storey headquarters in Mahalaxmi on Wednesday afternoon.

KALPAK PATHAK/HTActivists hold up placards in Mahalaxmi, protesting proposed mining in Mahan forests.The banner was rolled down the 180-foot tall building by 12 Greenpeace activists to protest against Essar’s plan to begin mining in Madhya Pradesh’s Mahan forests.

The banner also had pictures of PM Manmohan Singh and environment minister Verrappa Moily. Greenpeace demanded the sacking of Moily, claiming he has been responsible for clearing big ticket projects without regard for forests, wildlife or the people living around them.

The climbers who unfurled the banner were brought down by the fire brigade, but three others positioned at the top of Essar’s building refused to exit.

“These were trained industrial c limbers who were Greenpeace volunteers and not our employees,” said Priya Pillai, campaigner, Greenpeace India.

Manish Kedia, senior vice-president, corporate affairs, Essar, said, “At the behest of Greenpeace, some people masqueraded as cleaning agents and gained access to the Essar office. It is an illegal act and the trespassers misused the office premises to spread false propaganda. We sought the help of the police to clear the building.”

The Tardeo police detained 59 people. “We are in the process of registering an offence against 10 protestors, including Priya Pillai, for trespassing and attempt to commit suicide,” said Vinayak Deshmukh, DCP Zone III.

The Mahan coal block was allotted to Mahan Coal Ltd. a joint venture of Essar Power and Hindalco Industries in 2006. Although then environment minister Jairam Ramesh rejected the clearance, it received an in-principle nod in October 2012. According to Greenpeace, 62 villages depend on the deciduous Mahan forests known to be rich in sal. Greenpeace activists in London also demonstrated outside Essar Power’s office at Berkeley Square.

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