Geoff Law

  • Love is in the air – the Modi-Adani sweetheart deal on privatising airports

    For many observers of Indian politics, the relationship between Gautam Adani and PM Narendra Modi has become the epitome of crony capitalism. The billionaire’s perpetually expanding empire has been nourished by government policies on energy, deregulation, infrastructure, solar energy, agriculture and mining. Perhaps the most egregious example of a government deal tailormade to suit the Adani Group is the leasing of six major airports to Adani Enterprises.

    In February 2019, India’s airport authority announced that the corporate group led by Gautam Adani had made the winning bids to operate and develop the airports in six major Indian cities, four of them state capitals. Data released in the wake of the decision showed that these six airports were among the highest revenue earners and generators of profit among all the airports operated by India’s airport authority. News reports said that Adani had outbid eight other large corporations.

    The six airports service the cities of Ahmedabad (capital of Gautam Adani's home state of Gujarat), Jaipur, Thiruvananthapuram, Lucknow, Mangalore and Guwahati.

    The deal raised eyebrows because the Adani Group had had no previous experience at running airports. Some commentators said that the Modi government had violated its own procedures in reaching this outcome. Recommendations by the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) in the Ministry of Finance on the technical, financial and legal aspects of the bidding process were said to have been ignored. The state government of Kerala, whose main airport had been allocated to Adani against its stated wishes, challenged the decision in the courts. Its finance minister said the deal was an act of ‘blatant cronyism’.

    Indian PM Narendra Modi at Ahmedabad airport - one of the six airports leased to the Adani Group. Photo Wikimedia Commons

    According to its website, Adani Enterprises mounted the successful bids for 50-year concessions and ‘100% ownership’ for the airports. It would take on the ‘design, development, financing, construction, upgradation and expansion’ of the airports, but had also acquired other valuable assets, such as ‘large and attractive land for monetization’. The website spruiks the commercial virtues of the deal for Adani and the group’s shareholders. The deal was the forerunner of another foray into the airports business by the Adani Group, which in 2020 acquired airports in the Mumbai area (to be covered in a later story).

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  • Adani’s massive coal mine on a tiny Indonesian island

    Off the north-east coast of Borneo is the small island of Bunyu. Adani’s huge coal mine here has been blamed for degraded water supplies, reduced fish stocks and plummeting agricultural production. According to an Indonesian advocacy group, the very existence of the mine violates an Indonesian law aimed at protecting small islands from the predations of mining companies.

    Bunyu lies in the Indonesian province of North Kalimantan. It is home to 11,000 inhabitants, including the indigenous Tidung people, as well as numerous migrants from Java and Sulawesi. For generations, Bunyu provided its people with abundant fish, rice and fruit. However, large-scale extraction of coal since the 1990s has severely degraded the island’s natural resources. The Adani Group arrived in 2006 and owns the largest mining operation on Bunyu.

    According to some advocacy groups such as JATAM, Adani’s large mine should not even be permitted on Bunyu. Indonesia is a vast archipelago of over 17,000 islands. Its coastal region encompasses over 160 million people, about 60% of the nation’s entire population. According to JATAM, there are over 9700 mining leases in Indonesia, with exploration licences of coal companies covering over 35% of the islands’ area. JATAM says that 55 small islands are at least partly covered by such leases.

    Bunyu lies off the coast of North Kalimantan, Borneo

    Small islands are particularly vulnerable to the social and environmental impacts of mining. As a result, government authorities have attempted to define small islands and the operations permitted on them. In North Kalimantan’s zoning plan, a ‘small island’ is one with an area of less than 200 square kilometres. The area of Bunyu is 198.32 square kilometres. Article 23 of Law (UU) Number 1 of 2014, states that it is not justified to have mines on small islands.

    In other words, Adani’s coal mine should not be permitted on Bunyu.

    Unfortunately, Indonesia’s governments also have laws designed to encourage investment in mining. Under such regulations, Bunyu is classified as a ‘Class A’ strategic area for the development of oil and gas. The inconsistency between one set of laws designed to protect small islands from mining and another set of laws designed to encourage mining has yet to be definitively resolved in a court of law.

    According to JATAM, more than 50% of Bunyu's land area has become a mining concession. Coal mining on Bunyu has therefore proceeded according to the agenda set by Adani, the other coal company active on the island, and the state-owned oil-and-gas company.

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  • Adani Group under scrutiny for links with brutal Myanmar military

    The Adani Group is coming under increasing scrutiny for its links with Myanmar’s brutal military. Myanmar military organisations perpetrated the 2017 killings, torture, dispossession and rape of Rohingya people, becoming the subject of UN investigations and international sanctions.

    The Adani Group’s links to the Myanmar military include an Adani port development on land in Yangon owned by a corporation run by the military, and the 2019 visit to one of Adani’s ports in India by Myanmar’s commander in chief, a senior general on whom the USA has imposed sanctions. A UN mission to Myanmar found that the Adani Group was a ‘stark example’ of how foreign businesses can risk contributing to – or being linked with – the crimes against humanity carried out by the Myanmar military. To add further controversy to this mix, Australia has invested in the parent company of Adani’s Yangon port development.

    In December 2020, the ABC reported that Australia’s sovereign-wealth body, the Future Fund, had invested $3.2 million in Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (‘Adani Ports’), the parent company of the developer of a new port in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon. The port is being established on land owned by a corporation that is, in turn, owned by the Myanmar military (otherwise known as the ‘Tatmadaw’).

    Myanmar Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, visiting the Adani port of Mundra in 2019

    In January 2019, it was reported that the Adani Yangon International Terminal Co Ltd had received approval from Myanmar authorities to establish a container port in Yangon. The company was to develop, operate and maintain the Ahlone International Port Terminal on the Yangon River about six km from the centre of the city. (See interactive map for location) The deal was said to be worth $US290 million. About 20 hectares of land were to be leased from the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), a large company owned by the Myanmar military.

    According to the UN Mission that investigated the abuses in Myanmar, the MEC is fully owned and controlled by the Myanmar Ministry of Defence and is a direct source of revenue for the military. The Mission cited evidence that the MEC and other military-controlled entities generate revenue that dwarfs that of any civilian-owned company in Myanmar. The MEC therefore helps enable the operations of a military machine accused of genocidal crimes.

    The MEC also has a wholly-owned private subsidiary, Myanmar Economic Corporation Ltd (MEC Ltd), whose board is reported to include Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force, with the implication that it is influenced by senior leaders such as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

    Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has been described as a potential future president of Myanmar. On 5 November 2020, the Tatmadaw declared that his rank is equivalent to that of Vice President of Myanmar. In December 2019, the USA imposed sanctions on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing for his role in presiding over the military while it perpetrated atrocities on the Rohingya people.

    According to his own website, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing toured Adani’s massive port complex at Mundra (India) in 2019 and exchanged gifts with officials of Adani Ports.

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  • published Adani ramps up attempts to gag critics in Blog 2021-01-06 09:53:09 +1100

    Adani ramps up attempts to gag critics

    Amid growing protests against crony capitalism in India, the Adani Group appears to be more sensitive than ever about its public image.

    In January 2021, it was reported that an Adani company obtained a court order against a YouTube broadcaster preventing him from publishing reports of any kind pertaining to Adani until the next hearing of the case. The broadcaster, Vinay Dubey, had allegedly accused Adani Agri Logistics of building private railways and food-grain silos for the purposes of hoarding and profiteering. The Adani company claimed that the video had been published ‘to create civil unrest by instigating farmers and people at large’.

    Adani’s move comes at a time of massive protests by farmers against the deregulation of agriculture by India’s Modi government. As a likely beneficiary of the new system, the Adani Group is one of the targets of a proposed boycott by farming groups and other protesters. Farmers have protested outside at least one Adani silo.

    The strength of feeling appears to have spooked Adani. According to media reports, the Adani Group wrote to a government minister in late 2020 seeking an intervention against ‘fake news’ and an associated Twitterstorm. The letter reportedly complains of ‘a planned attempt to malign the reputation of the prominent business houses through fake news on Twitter to systematically wreak havoc even as the Centre has launched a campaign focusing on making India self-reliant in various sectors to promote investments and generate jobs locally’. It calls for the government to crack down on such attempts with ‘the utmost severity’.

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  • General Electric called on to shun Adani coal-power station

    The campaign against Adani’s Carmichael coal mine has now turned to the giant multinational company, General Electric. An international media conference on the weekend called for General Electric to stand by its public commitment not to provide equipment to new coal-fired power stations. The power station in which Adani plans to burn its Australian coal is under construction in India and should be subject to the promise.

    In September 2020, General Electric announced that it would exit the ‘new build coal power market’, a move aimed at helping the world meet its targets for reduction of carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement.

    However, at a weekend media conference, General Electric was chastised for potentially providing steam turbines to the Indian power plant at Godda that will burn coal from Adani’s Carmichael mine in Australia. The media conference involved community representatives protesting against 15 proposed coal plants in 14 countries, including India, Indonesia, Bosnia-Herzogivina and Kenya. The proposed coal plants would generate up to 12 gigawatts of power. General Electric was urged to come clean about its involvement in these projects.

    Sreedhar Ramamurthi, Indian geologist from Environics Trust, at media conference on General Electric.

    Sreedhar Ramamurthi, an Indian geologist from the Environics Trust, said that the provision of steam turbines by General Electric for the Adani coal-fired power plant at Godda would violate the company’s public undertaking to exit new coal plants.

    ‘General Electric must now have the courage and commitment to say NO and they must do it now,’ said Sreedhar.

    According to GE's website, the company is supplying turbines to the 1600-MW plant at Godda. Under a section spruiking new projects, GE says:

    • India Godda Coal-fired Power Plant: GE and SEPCO3, a subsidiary of PowerChina, booked a contract for the supply of India's Godda-2x800 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant project. GE will provide two 800MW ultra-supercritical steam turbine generators which will be jointly supplied by GE’s ABP factory in Beijing, China and its Sanand factory in India. SEPCO3 will provide construction and equity financing. Located in the Gunda area of Jalang (sic), the plant is developed by Adani Power Co., Ltd. of India under the IPP model. It is India's first ultra-supercritical coal-fired power station project, and GE’s first project with a Chinese EPC in India. When completed, the plant will provide reliable, efficient power to up to four million households in neighboring Bangladesh.
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  • published 'Boycott Adani!' say protesting Indian farmers in Blog 2020-12-13 13:20:14 +1100

    'Boycott Adani!' say protesting Indian farmers

    A revolt by hundreds of thousands of farmers has taken India by storm. The farmers are incensed at the deregulation of India’s agricultural sector, a move seen to benefit the food companies of the Adani Group at the expense of local producers. Tens of thousands of people from distant communities have travelled to the outskirts of Delhi in a mass movement that has rocked the Indian capital and brought traffic on major thoroughfares to a standstill. The organisers of the march, known locally as Dilli Chalo (Go to Delhi), have called for the government of Narendra Modi to repeal the new farming laws.  With Modi digging in, a community boycott of the products of the Adani Group has kicked off.

    The Modi government’s response to the mass movement has been heavy-handed, with protesters blasted by water cannons, smothered in tear gas or beaten by police. An image of an armoured paramilitary policeman about to strike an elderly farmer with his truncheon now emblemises the protest after going viral. Defending the farmers’ right to demonstrate peacefully, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sparked an international incident, with India withdrawing from a joint India-Canada event and then calling in Canada’s envoy for a carpeting.

    An image that went viral - paramilitary about to strike protesting farmer.  Photo Ravi Choudhary

    Entry points into Delhi from some adjacent states have been barricaded, disrupting travel in the region. Further marches have been planned, with moves to block more major highways into Delhi.

    Meanwhile, protesting farmers have accused the Modi government of doing the bidding of the Adani Group and other companies that would profit from the new farming laws. The Adani Group is developing businesses in the food industry that would benefit from the widespread deregulation of the agricultural sector. They have been accused of building new railway lines and siloes for the purposes of transporting and storing grain that, under the new laws, can be bought directly from farmers that have become vulnerable to the purchasing clout of big corporates. Farmers have protested outside at least one silo of the Adani Group.

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  • StopAdani solidarity with mass protests by Indian farmers

    Australia's Stop Adani movement has expressed solidarity with Indian farmers' groups that have organised huge marches that have converged on the nation's capital, Delhi, paralysing transport routes. The farmers' mass movement is in response to the Modi government's deregulation of the agricultural sector, a move seen to benefit the Adani Group and other large corporations. Farmers say they will be at the mercy of large corporates when it comes to growing and selling their produce and have called for a boycott of Adani's products. The government's heavy-handed crackdown against the farmers, including the use of tear gas, water cannons and truncheons by paramilitary forces, has created worldwide expressions of support for the right of Indian citizens to peacefully demonstrate their dissent. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is one of many overseas political figures to stand up for peaceful protest.


    Statement of Solidarity

    10 December 2020

    As a people-powered movement that has prevented the Adani company from digging its climate-wrecking coal mine for ten years, the Stop Adani movement stands in solidarity with Indian farmers leading mass peaceful protests against Modi and Adani’s farm laws.  

    Arguably the largest protests in human history, with organisers estimating 250 million people have taken part, farmer-led protests erupted in response to three laws passed by Modi’s Government, with farmers concerned that deregulation of agricultural markets will favour corporate interests such as billionaire Adani’s agricultural businesses, and make farmers vulnerable to exploitation. Amongst other changes, the farm laws could lead to minimum support price (MSP) safeguards being scrapped. MSP guarantees a price for farmers for particular crops, no matter the seasonal outlook. 

    Blatant crony capitalism in India and Australia favours billionaires at the expense of communities, families and the environment. Recent news of a potential billion-dollar loan from the State Bank of India to Adani confirms that Modi’s Government is working for corporate interests above all else. In Australia too, Governments have showered Adani’s coal project with public funds and special treatment, with mass protests stopping a billion-dollar public loan to Adani in 2017. 

    Governments must act in the public interest by putting farmers, communities and the environment first. The Stop Adani movement will continue to push Government decision-makers to act for the public good, and support those campaigning against crony capitalism in India.  

    As the world experiences more droughts, heatwaves, floods and storms from climate change, driven by export coal from Australian coal mines, these farm-law changes make Indian farmers even more vulnerable to the seasonal disruptions that will intensify with climate change. Projections estimate climate change will reduce wheat yield in India by up to 23% by 2050.   

    Manjot Kaur, Stop Adani spokesperson and Indian-Australian says, 'my family in Punjab comes from generations of farmers, the same farmers that are currently protesting against Modi’s farm laws. My father, grandfather, and many before me have been farming wheat on the same land, for generations. My family wants to continue farming for generations to come, but these law changes and climate change threaten our way of life. My grandfather has seen the weather change, seen the river he used to play in become polluted, and struggled against drought. 

    'Crony capitalism in India is driving Indian farming communities  to the brink - from deregulating agricultural laws for big corporates to the State Bank’s 5000 crore (AUD $1 Billion) loan to Adani for their dangerous coal project, a project that will mine and burn coal and bring more climate disasters to Indian farming communities. Farmers that are fighting for their existence are the ones who deserve support from the state bank and protection from the Government, not billionaire coal companies like Adani.” 

    Simon Gedda, Central Queensland farmer from Lotus Creek said, 'as a Queensland farmer who understands the impacts of climate change first-hand, I stand in solidarity with the millions of Indian farmers who are pushing back on Adani and the Government's farm laws. It can be tough being a farmer. Not only do we battle the elements and, increasingly, climate change impacts, but we are now also called on to protect farmers' rights against billionaire coal-barons. This is a fight many Australian farmers understand, and it's a fight we can't shy away from. Adani and pro-coal governments are ruining farmers' livelihoods from India to Australia.' 

    Meanwhile, the Adani Group is asking the Modi government to crack down on the Twitterstorm of dissent erupting throughout India:

  • SBI loan to Adani’s coal mine a risky proposition say analysts, investors

    In November 2020, news that the State Bank of India was considering loaning AUD $1 billion to Adani’s Carmichael coal mine swept through Australia. Protests erupted. Subsequently, major financial-service companies, including investors in the SBI, have warned of dire consequences if the loan proceeds.

    Financial analysts have also been critical. On 8 December, for example, Crikey’s John Quiggin said that a loan to the controversial coal mine would be an even worse investment today than it was when the SBI rejected a similar proposal in 2014. That’s because the mine has been downsized, thereby increasing the proportion of a billion-dollar loan to the overall value of the project. In Quiggin’s words:

    'The proposed loan from SBI would amount to half the project’s value. If the project falls short of its goals regarding output, sales price or cost efficiency, SBI will very likely be exposed to some of the loss.'

    The downbeat assessment comes in the wake of reports that major investors in the SBI were warning the bank off the Adani coal mine.

    On 4 December, Bloomberg reported that US-based BlackRock Inc and Norway’s Storebrand ASA had contacted the SBI about the loan. According to the report, Storebrand said ‘financing new coal plants is clearly not part of a sustainable future.’ BlackRock has raised objections due to the environmental, social and governance (ESG) problems associated with the Carmichael coal mine.

    Earlier, the Business Standard reported that the French financial-services giant Amundi had threatened to divest from the SBI if the loan to Adani went ahead.

    The majority shareholder of the SBI is the Government of India. The bank is therefore backed by the Indian taxpayer. The close association between India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the Adani Group’s founder, Gautam Adani, is notorious. The SBI, in deciding whether to loan a billion dollars to an Adani company, may have to deal with a clash between commercial good sense and hard politics.

    The NGO Market Forces has ramped up the pressure on another investor in the State Bank of India, the UK-based bank HSBC, with an email/twitter campaign that can be found here.

    According to Market Forces, HSBC is a major green bond arranger for SBI, contributing to hundreds of millions worth of funds for the bank. This capital that HSBC has raised for SBI may have helped free up other funds for SBI to sink into devastating thermal coal projects like Carmichael. Expert economic analysts have called out HSBC for saying one thing but doing another - spruiking its green bonds while remaining silent as their client SBI considers a massive loan to Adani’s climate-wrecking project. Any climate benefit from the green bonds would be overwhelmed by the damage done by the massive Adani coal mine.  

  • Senator tables dossier on Adani's atrocious international record

    An Australian Senator has tabled the AdaniWatch dossier on the atrocious international record of the Adani Group on environmental and social issues.

    The Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Nick McKim, last week drew on parts of the dossier in a speech that slammed the Adani Group's proposed Carmichael coal mine.

    Senator McKim also described the assaults on indigenous farmers opposing the takeover of their lands for Adani's Godda power station in India. This is the power station (under construction) for which Adani's Carmichael coal is destined. The land was seized from villagers using coercion and underhand tactics.

    Also under fire was the Adani Group's deal with the Myanmar Economic Corporation, 'bagman' for the brutal Myanmar military, for a huge port development in Yangon. He quoted Australian human-rights lawyer, Chris Sidoti, who investigated atrocities against Myanmar's Rohingya people for the United Nations and said that Adani would be enriching the culpable generals through its Yangon port development.

    Senator McKim chastised the Adani Group's joint venture with palm-oil giant Wilmar, which has profited from the large-scale destruction of rainforests in south-east Asia, including the habitat of elephants and orangutans. The palm-oil operations of Adani Wilmar have also been implicated in human-rights abuses.

    Senator McKim described Adani's Carmichael mine, under development in Queensland, as a 'carbon bomb' that would have devastating consequences for the Earth's climate, as well as direct and indirect impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. Vision of his speech can be found here.

  • published The Ugly Side of Adani’s Solar Success Story in Blog 2020-12-08 09:49:46 +1100

    The Ugly Side of Adani’s Solar Success Story

    When large tracts of land are intensively developed for industrial infrastructure, governments should assess impacts on the environment and communities. Local critics and international experts say that this is not happening in the sprawling solar complexes that Adani is establishing on farmland in India. They warn that the country’s burgeoning renewable-energy industry could be brought into disrepute if environmental degradation and social dislocation are not addressed.

    According to energy analysts, the renewable-energy company, Adani Green Energy, is the largest listed energy company in India and one of the world’s biggest developers of solar power. It operates 2.6 gigawatts of renewable-energy plants across India with a further 11.4 gigawatts of projects in the pipeline. The company aims to achieve 25 gigawatts of renewable power by 2025. By comparison, the entire capacity of coal-fired power stations in Australia is also 25 gigawatts.

    Adani Green Energy was created when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as part of the Paris Agreement on climate, committed to develop 275 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2027. The objective was to transform the country’s power sector from an expensive, unreliable and polluting system based on fossil fuels into a low-cost, reliable and low-emissions system based on renewable energy.

    Already, Adani has developed ‘solar parks’ spreading over thousands of hectares of land in the Indian states of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The electricity tariffs from these installations are generally 2 to 3 rupees per unit, undercutting some new coal-fired power stations by 60-70%.

    A massive solar-energy installation in India. Photo WikiMedia Commons

    The markets have lapped it up. Adani Green Energy has seen a 2400% rise in its share price since its launch in 2018. The share price rose 565% in 2020 alone. This is remarkable, says Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), for a company that was in an embryonic stage only five years ago. Adani Green Energy’s current market capitalisation of US$15.6 billion is 40% above that of India’s largest thermal power generator, NTPC, a company with 22 times as much power-generating capacity.

    The burgeoning share price reflects the market’s confidence that Adani Green enjoys the backing of Prime Minister Modi, leading to easy access to vast tracts of land in a lax regulatory environment.

    With the world facing a climate crisis, Adani’s big move into solar-energy generation is to be applauded. But behind the glittering success of Adani Green lie some ugly truths.

    Adani’s sprawling solar arrays require the acquisition of land from farmers and other inhabitants. There have been protests and court actions against these takeovers. Farmers say that valuable agricultural land is being alienated and that poor villagers are losing their only enduring assets. Compensation in the form of cash is short-lived.

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  • published Scientists to assess ‘death trap’ harbour in Blog 2020-12-04 10:10:26 +1100

    Scientists to assess ‘death trap’ harbour

    In October 2019, the Madhyamam Weekly published a story by Jisha Elizabeth entitled ‘Vizhinjam Harbour a Death Trap’. It described the dangers to fishing boats allegedly caused by Adani’s construction of breakwaters associated with its massive port expansion at Vizhinjam in the south-western Indian state of Kerala. Parts of that story are re-published here together with an update on a situation that is becoming increasingly perilous for fishermen.

    According to many locals, the massive rock breakwaters associated with Adani’s construction of an international container terminal at Vizhinjam are bouncing waves into the opening of a harbour that used to provide safe passage for fishing boats. The situation has been described as a ‘death trap’.

    Fishing-community representatives say that waves that used to bounce from the shoreline away from the harbour entrance now ricochet off Adani’s infrastructure into the mouth of the harbour, capsizing fishing boats (see diagram). Many say that this new hazard has been exacerbated by rising sand deposits, also associated with the impacts of the port re-development, at the harbour entrance.

    As a result of the rebounding waves, numerous fisherfolk have been injured and hospitalised as boats collide either with each other or with the walls of the harbour. In response to an outcry from the fishing community, a panel of government experts has visited the site and is expected to report by May 2021.

    Illustration of altered wave-regime at Vizhinjam Harbour

    1. Incoming wave. 2. Adani port infrastructure. 3. Previous trajectory of waves. 4. Wave rebounds from port infrastructure. 5, 6, 7. Waves rebound within fishing harbour. (Diagram prepared for Madhyamam Weekly as illustration only. Angles of deflection are approximate)


    Johnson Jament, a faculty member at Northampton University, who is a marine conservationist, was quoted in the Madhyamam Weekly saying that faulty design and construction of Adani’s port re-development have aggravated the problem. The form, direction and pressure of waves have become unpredictable. Dredging and the building of breakwaters have compounded the dangers, he said. As a result, even fishermen with long experience of the sea’s local conditions are now confounded by the rebounding waves. When the 3.1-km breakwater is fully completed, these impacts are likely to become even worse.

    Fisherfolk say that the port development has also reduced local harvests of mussels, prawns, squids, anchovies, mackerel and lobsters. Encroachment of immense artificial structures on to the seabed, dredging, disrupted sediment flows, and extra turbidity have all contributed to impacts on what was previously a thriving local industry.

    Smashed boats at Vizhinjam, near Adani's port expansion

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  • published Government downplays Adani's violation in Blog 2020-12-03 13:47:14 +1100

    Government downplays Adani's violation

    The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has fined Adani for breaching environmental conditions that apply to the approval of its Carmichael coal mine. The infringement notices and fines totalling $25,920 were issued on 30 October 2020.

    The Department found that Adani Mining Pty Ltd (now Bravus Mining and Resources) had failed to carry out surveys of some of the bushland it cleared for its operations. It is therefore clear that the Adani Mining company has potentially harmed threatened species.

    The fine of $25,920 to a company that is part of the multi-billion-dollar Adani Group is a pathetic gesture. A pat on the knuckles with a bit of limp lettuce.

    Even the government's media release treated the crime in a derisory manner. The media release was headed 'QLD mining company fined for breaching environmental approval conditions'. The first paragraph of the release referred to 'a mining company'.

    The Australian Government appears to be playing the company's game of hiding the discredited name 'Adani' whenever possible.

    The media release says that the government 'takes non-compliance with approval conditions seriously'. But it is hard to see such a puny penalty or the government's limp rebuke acting as a deterrent to further wrongdoing.


  • Australian Senator slams Adani Group's international record

    An Australian Senator has slammed the international track record of the Adani Group, calling for the company to be 'sent packing'. He also tabled the AdaniWatch dossier on the Adani Group's atrocious international record on the environment and human rights.

    Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Nick McKim, speaking in the Senate on 2 December 2020, described the assaults on indigenous farmers opposing the takeover of their lands for Adani's Godda power station in India. This is the power station (under construction) for which Adani's Carmichael coal is destined. The land was seized from villagers using coercion and underhand tactics.

    Senator McKim also criticised the Adani Group's deal with the Myanmar Economic Corporation, 'bagman' for the brutal Myanmar military, for a huge port development in Yangon. He quoted Australian human-rights lawyer, Chris Sidoti, who investigated atrocities against Myanmar's Rohingya people for the United Nations and said that Adani would be enriching the culpable generals through its Yangon port development.

    Senator McKim chastised the Adani Group's joint venture with palm-oil giant Wilmar, which has profited from the large-scale destruction of rainforests in south-east Asia, including the habitat of elephants and orangutans. The palm-oil operations of Adani Wilmar have also been implicated in human-rights abuses.

    Senator McKim described Adani's Carmichael mine, under development in Queensland, as a 'carbon bomb' that would have devastating consequences for the Earth's climate, as well as direct and indirect impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.

    Senator McKim took some of his materials from the AdaniWatch dossier on the Adani Group. His speech can be found here

  • Warning that 'failed bidding process' will benefit Adani to detriment of Modi's credibility

    Last week, AdaniWatch reported that participants in a multi-billion-dollar bidding process for the assets of an insolvent bank had complained that the rules were being bent in a way that benefited the Adani Group. The process is now subject to litigation. And a financial commentator has warned in the Times of India that the accommodation of Adani's late bid could result in a 'failed bidding process' that will dent Prime Minister Modi's 'assurances of fairness and transparency for foreign investors'. He also said that Adani's 'mounting debt' and 'highly leveraged' situation is 'worrying', and that the bursting of the Adani bubble 'is very much a possibility'. Surely this is a warning of great pertinence to the State Bank of India as it considers whether to loan the Adani Group a billion dollars for its Carmichael coal mine.

    The Adani Group and three other major companies are participating in a formal bidding process for the assets of DHFL, a failed home-loan bank. It is a multi-billion-dollar bidding process. The three other companies have threatened to walk out of the resolution process if a late bid by the Adani Group is accepted, saying that the bid was submitted in violation of the rules laid down by the government.

    The controversy has deepened, with Mint reporting that a promoter of DHFL is taking the issue to the National Company Law Tribunal in Mumbai. The report says that the bidding process is stalled until after the tribunal hears the matter on 3 December.

    Meanwhile, a commentator in the Times of India has warned that failure of this troubled process will dent the credibility of India amongst international investors. He also issued a scathing assessment of the Adani Group's financial situation and tactics. In a column, the commentator, Dr Muneer, has written that:

    'Definitely something is stinking here [in the way the multi-billion-dollar bidding process is being conducted] given that this is paving way for Adani to seal the deal by not breaking any rules. They had also submitted their bid six days post the deadline, which should have disqualified them but was not done for obvious reasons, according to rivals.

    'This essentially will result in a failed bidding process with only one player, Adani. That does not augur well for the stakeholders and the public funds and it will affect future foreign capital inflow into stressed assets here...

    'There is a merit in this accusation [by one of Adani's rival bidders] and it should thoroughly be investigated given that the creditors are representing public funds and not their personal wealth. Besides, the transparency that was offered to foreign investors must start with this.

    'More worrying is what Adani Group is up to with mounting debts and diversification into disparate areas without any strategic alignment. Adani is highly leveraged, likely to get more and more leveraged as it madly extends its footprint across newer and newer sectors. Banks are obviously lending and bank loans are being used to repay other loans. When will the bubble burst? ...

    'If the Adani bubble bursts, and it is very much a possibility, a lot of lenders can go down and, with them, a large number of small investors, depositors and public funds that could be used for development and poverty alleviation programs.'

    Such warnings should be considered by the State Bank of India in assessing the proposed loan to the Adani Group's Carmichael coal mine in Australia.


  • published Dossier exposes Adani Group's appalling record in Blog 2020-11-19 11:43:12 +1100

    Dossier exposes Adani Group's appalling record

    This dossier on the Adani Group's environmental and social record outside Australia makes for sobering reading.

    In Australia, Adani is best known as the company behind the proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland. However, the Adani Group is a conglomeration of companies engaged in a vast array of businesses, including coal-fired power stations, ports, palm oil, airports, defence industries, solar power, real estate and gas. The group’s founder and chairman, Gautam Adani, has been described as India’s second-richest man and is a close associate of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    The Adani Group is active in several countries but particularly in India, where accusations of corruption and environmental destruction have dogged its rise to power. In central India, Adani intends to strip mine ancestral lands belonging to the indigenous Gond people. Large tracts of biodiverse forest, including elephant habitat, are in the firing line. Around the coastline of India, Adani’s plans to massively expand its ports are generating outcry from fishing villages and conservationists. In the country’s east, Adani is building a thermal power station designed to burn coal from Queensland and sell expensive power to neighbouring Bangladesh. Investigations, court actions and allegations of impropriety have accompanied Adani’s progress in many of these business schemes.

    Through its joint venture with Wilmar, Adani is a major refiner and trader in palm oil, an industry responsible for devastating huge areas of rainforest in South-East Asia. The Adani Group is also developing a major port in Myanmar, leasing land from a corporation owned by that country’s infamously brutal military.

    The Adani Group has benefited from human-rights violations and environmental degradation associated with many of the Group’s commercial operations. Some of the abuses have been carried out by governments acting for the benefit of the Adani Group. AdaniWatch has published articles about these issues since February 2020. Such stories have also appeared in many other media outlets. Many of the incidents described in these articles have led to court challenges against the Adani Group’s projects.

    This dossier on the Adani Group's appalling environmental and social record was compiled from AdaniWatch stories published between February and October 2020.

  • published Goa protests target Adani in Blog 2020-11-17 11:51:45 +1100

    Goa protests target Adani

    Protests against turning the popular Indian province of Goa into a massive coal hub have recently targeted Gautam Adani, the founder of the Adani Group. Goa is famous as a seaside holiday tourist mecca, with beaches, seafood and a blend of Indian and Portuguese culture. Inland are the Western Ghat ranges with rainforests, waterfalls and tiger sanctuaries. This gem of a province is under serious assault from the coal-industry plans of the government and corporations. Port expansions, dredged waterways and double-tracking of rail-lines will carry imported coal to steel mills in the hinterland. But the people are out in force to defend their province!

    The proposed Goa coal hub involves expansion of the Mormugao Port, broadening of highways that connect the port to steel plants in the hinterland, the deepening of six rivers to make them navigable by coal barges, and the double-tracking of a railway line to move coal wagons to the steel belt. Given the conflict-ridden history of coal projects in the state and the Goans’ love for their land and a gentle-paced life, the grand plans have run into serious resistance.

    Goans out in force to defend their province. Photo Goyant Kollso Naka

    The proposed 352-km railway track that triggered this round of protests will slice through densely populated areas, biodiverse forests including a tiger reserve, and agricultural lands.

    ‘This is a private project with only three beneficiaries – Adani, Jindal and Vedanta,’ said Deepika D’Souza, one of the volunteers with the multi-organisational campaign Goyan Kollso Naka (No Coal for Goa).

    Recent protests have depicted the corporate beneficiaries as a three-headed monster featuring Naveen Jindal, Gautam Adani and Vedanta head Anil Agarwal.

    The strength of the protests has put the government of Goa on the back foot, promising to apply a cap on coal imports. Such reactions appear unlikely to appease the protest movement, led by Goyant Kollso Naka, or 'No Coal for Goa'.

    A nighttime protest against coal-hub plans for Goa. Photo Goyant Kollso Naka

    Recent blockades are not the first Goan actions against coal. Communities living near the coal port and along the transport routes through which coal moves have already witnessed the havoc that the acidic coal-dust can wreak. In April 2017, when Mormugao Port held a mandatory environmental public hearing to expand coal handling from seven million tonnes to 24 million tonnes per annum, thousands of people gathered to voice their anger. The public hearings ran for an unprecedented eight days ending at midnight every night.

    Goa, which is well known for its idyllic sandy beaches on the shores of the Arabian sea, is bound to its east by the densely wooded and biodiverse ranges called the Western Ghats. For coal to reach the steel factories from the coal port, it would have to traverse the Ghats.  This would entail takeover of 113.86 hectares of forest land and the felling of 18,451 trees. It would disrupt sensitive habitats, including the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and the Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve. The expansion of the highway connecting the port to the steel belt will cost another 12,000 trees. Also on the cards is an electrical transmission corridor along the same alignment.

    Many thanks to Nityanand Jayaraman for most of this article.

    Candlelight vigil opposing Goa coal hub. Goyant Kollso Naka

  • published 'SAVE US FROM BRAVUS', says Bob Brown in Blog 2020-11-05 12:23:10 +1100

    'SAVE US FROM BRAVUS', says Bob Brown about Adani name change

    Adani Mining is changing its name to ‘Bravus’. The re-branding has been announced on YouTube by Adani and widely reported. It comes in the wake of other attempts at re-branding, with Adani expunging its own name from its north Queensland rail and port operations. AdaniWatch has previously described Adani as ‘the company that dare not speak its name’.

    The chief executive officer of Adani Mining, David Boshoff, said that Bravus was Latin for brave and courageous, ‘a description that suited the company’.

    However, the company was so ‘brave’ about changing its toxic brand that it made the announcement when everyone was looking the other way, fully engrossed in the USA presidential election.

    The Australian Financial Review said that other definitions of Bravus on the internet described it as meaning ‘cut-throat or villain – not great for a company that has been targeted by environmentalists for its behaviour both in Australia and India'.

    The Australian (paywalled) said ‘the most controversial name in Australian mining is no more after budding coal producer Adani rebranded to call itself Latin for brave. By dumping the family name of its Indian owner, Bravus Mining & Resources is trying to reset after a decade of pitched environmental and political battles over the Carmichael mine in central west Queensland.’

    The Guardian interviewed an expert in Latin who said that Adani had gotten lost in translation. Bravus apparently means 'crooked', 'cut-throat' or 'mercenary'. A Freudian slip?

    Leading environmentalist, Bob Brown, said that the name change won’t change Adani’s ‘infamy’.

    ‘The Adani corporation’s name change in Australia from ‘Adani’ to ‘Bravus’ won’t improve its global reputation for being an environmental monster in this age of climate emergency and extinction crisis,’ Bob Brown said.

    ‘A new anti-Adani slogan is ‘SAVE US FROM BRAVUS,’ he said.

    ‘This must be humiliating for Gautam Adani, the multi-billionaire owner of the mine works in Central Queensland. He is admitting that his name is poison for the public and potential investors alike.’

    ‘Yet he doesn’t get it. It is a game change, not a name change, that is required – and that means stopping his mine and getting out of dirty, polluting coal altogether. That would take an integrity which Adani by any name, from Goa to the Galilee Basin, lacks. The public will think even less of Adani for this failed bit of window dressing en route to his Queensland mine becoming a stranded asset,’ Brown said.

    Frontline Action of Coal staged a hilarious protest, with participants polishing a giant turd, reported by News Ltd (paywalled).

    The Brisbane Times interviewed Mackay Conservation Group co-ordinator, Peter McCallum, who said people would not be fooled by Adani’s attempt to 'hide behind a new name'.

    'Adani wants to arise like a phoenix from the ashes of its damaged corporate image, but that bird won’t fly,' he said. 'They can’t scrub away Adani’s track record of breaking Queensland laws, endangering the reef, destroying black-throated finch habitat and intimidating the community.'

  • published 'Kerala’s Army' up in arms against Adani in Blog 2020-11-01 12:22:08 +1100

    'Kerala’s Army' up in arms against Adani

    In the south-western Indian state of Kerala, an Adani company is constructing a massive port in the midst of fishing villages, beaches and tourist resorts. The company’s deep-water Vizhinjam trans-shipment port has attracted headlines for all the wrong reasons – delays, coastal erosion, public subsidies and damage to fisheries. Since 30 September 2020, a group of determined fisherfolk has tackled Adani, blocking roads into the construction site with their boats. These fisherfolk are a pillar of the local community, having undertaken countless dangerous rescue missions in 2018 when huge floods devastated the local area. Now they are attempting to rescue their own livelihoods. For several months, Jisha Elizabeth has been attending protest meetings and events. She now reports for AdaniWatch on the current situation at Vizhinjam.

    When the floods of 2018 devastated Kerala, a group of daring fishermen did the unthinkable. Navigating their fishing boats like an armada through the deluge, they saved numerous lives and property, like trained rescue personnel. Their selfless service earned the praise and gratitude of the government and people alike. These brave sons of the sea were hailed as Kerala’s Army by the state government. Now, this army, based on the southern tip of India, is on a war footing against the Adani Group, the business conglomerate that enjoys the patronage of the state and central governments. The fishermen are fighting to protect the marine ecosystem, their livelihood and their lives, which they say are being destroyed by the Vizhinjam deep-sea port construction undertaken by Adani.

    According to many reports, the Adani Group enjoys the direct and indirect support of the Modi government and its bureaucracy. Even though the opposition is rich and powerful, the children of the sea have vowed to stand strong and fight this battle for survival.

    Breakwater construction is a crucial part of the project. On 30 September 2020, the fishers of Vizhinjam mounted a blockade against Adani’s works, blocking the approach road, which is used to transport rocks in huge trucks to the site, with their boats – both intact ones and those that have been damaged as a result of port construction. They have also been doing a 24/7 sit-in. Fearing violence, the state government has deployed two buses of police at the strike venue.

    Fishing community protesters block trucks carrying construction materials to Adani's port development at Vizhinjam. Photo Jisha Elizabeth

    The Adani Group has distanced itself from the dispute, describing it as an issue between the fisherfolk and the government of Kerala.

    ‘The blockade … is related to an agreement between the Kottapuram villagers and the Government of Kerala regarding rehabilitation and resettlement, not Adani,’ said an Adani spokesperson. ‘Adani Ports has no role in rehabilitation and resettlement as this work is in the scope of work of the state government.’

    Regular announcements from the nearby Church of the Lady of Good Voyage at Vizhinjam keep the morale of the protestors high. Around 4000 families – approximately 25,000 people – in this village are members of this parish. And the church has installed speakers in all streets of this densely populated area. The probability of the fisherfolk gathering en masse with a single announcement has forced the Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd (VISL) and the Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Ltd (AVPPL) to temporarily halt all construction activities.

    Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Vizhinjam Harbour. Photo Jisha Elizabeth

    According to taped secret conversations by Adani spokespeople, the company incurred a loss of 10 million rupees in 17 days. Media reports have referred to similar losses. This prompted the government, the port authority, the district authority and the Adani Group to hold discussions with the fisherfolk on 16 October 2020, the 17th day of the agitation. But the talks were to no avail. During the six-hour long meeting, protesters rejected arguments put forward by representatives of the government and the Adani Group. Father Michael Thomas, one of the protest leaders, made it explicitly clear that the community will no longer give in to fake promises.

    The state government accepted that the grievances of the fishing community are legitimate but declined to issue government orders to ensure that their demands were met. The government representative offered to sign assurances on the VISL letter pad. But the protestors did not accept that such a letter would be legally binding. The protest leadership warned against trying to fool the community. They pointed out that before the project commenced in 2015, several Government Orders had been issued but none had been executed. One of the promises made was for a drinking-water project that would cost AUD$ 1.4 million. But the protestors allege that the project is being used to supply water for the port construction.

    Adani says it has made good on its promises.

    Protesters meet representatives of Adani, the port authority and the Kerala government. Photo Jisha Elizabeth

    ‘Adani has employed more than 200 people from within the region, delivering on its commitment to local villagers who requested employment opportunities,’ a spokesperson said.  ‘Adani is also committed to training local young people before commencing work, so they are prepared and highly skilled for port operation work. Everyone has the right to voice their opinion in a democratic way within the factual and legal framework. All stakeholders need to be respectful and not put themselves or anyone else in harm’s way.’

    Read more

  • published Adani - the company that dare not speak its name in Blog 2020-10-30 08:54:47 +1100

    Adani - the company that dare not speak its name

    Adani boasts that work on its Carmichael coal mine in Queensland is ‘well underway’, but the company’s behaviour betrays an attitude of deep insecurity.

    In August 2020, Adani Australia launched legal proceedings against climate campaigner Ben Pennings, alleging ‘a sustained campaign of harassment’ against the company’s business and contractors. Mr Pennings was the public face of Galilee Blockade, a community group dedicated to keeping the fossil fuels of Queensland’s vast Galilee Basin in the ground in order to protect the Earth’s climate.

    In preparing for the court action, Adani secretly sought to raid the Brisbane home of Mr Pennings and his young family in order to obtain ‘confidential information’ it believed Mr Pennings had acquired. The court dismissed Adani’s move, citing the ‘humiliation and family distress’ such a raid might cause.

    On 28 October 2020, it was revealed that Adani had organised surveillance of the home and family of Mr Pennings. A private investigator engaged by Adani covertly took photographs of Mr Pennings walking his nine-year-old daughter to school. Adani confirmed that surveillance had taken place, saying in a statement on Twitter that ‘any surveillance activity related to the relatives of Mr Pennings was an effort to determine the time of day to carry out a search order that would see the least disruption to residents, if it was granted by the courts’.

    This revelation aroused widespread disgust and condemnation.

    Read more

  • How the Modi government tweaked environmental laws to facilitate an Adani-backed project

    On 30 September 2020, India’s National Green Tribunal ordered a company that is part owned by the Adani Group to remove storage tanks for edible oils from a coastal zone in the country’s south-east. The National Green Tribunal is effectively India’s environment protection authority. It ordered the removal of the plant because it found that it had been established illegally. This story presents evidence of the ‘tweaking’ of environmental rules by the Indian government to enable the development to proceed, despite being incompatible with the area’s zoning and the associated risks to the adjacent marine environment.

    The National Green Tribunal, in ordering the removal of tanks and pipeline, also fined the company the equivalent of AUD $50,000. It is not yet known whether the company will appeal the decision. (In India, the term ‘clearance’ means ‘approval’ when pertaining to planning procedures.)

    Background on the Adani Group’s involvement with the devastating palm-oil industry can be found here, and recent developments regarding import of palm oil into India can be found here.

    Did the Modi government tweak environmental laws to facilitate an edible-oil firm – which is partly owned by business tycoon Gautam Adani – to obtain a mandatory approval in an illegal manner? India’s premier court in environmental litigations, the National Green Tribunal, has scrapped the clearance (approval) under rules that regulate activities along the country’s sea coasts.

    In a judgment delivered on 30 September 2020, the National Green Tribunal directed the firm to dismantle structures that had been constructed, even before getting the clearance, along India’s south-east coast near the Ennore port in Chennai for transportation and storage of imported edible oil.

    The project comprises a pipeline and a transit-storage terminal. The pipeline is over 4.5 kilometers in length – from the port to the storage terminal in Tondiarpet village in Chennai – and has a diameter of 25 cm. Five storage tanks with capacities of 1720 KL, 1442 KL, 1281KL, 855 KL and 7527 KL have been installed for handling and transit of edible oil at the transit terminal.

    A penalty of nearly AUD $50,000 was also imposed upon the firm that is based in Chennai, the capital city of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The clearance that was scrapped by the National Green Tribunal had been provided to the private firm in March last year after amending the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011.

    The CRZ Notification, 2011, framed by India’s erstwhile Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, contains rules to regulate human activities, primarily those of a commercial and industrial nature, along the country’s 7500-kilometer coastline.

    The firm in question, KTV Health Food Private Limited, is a 50:50 joint venture between Adani Wilmar Limited and the Chennai-based KTV Health Foods Private Limited India. In addition, documents obtained by the author detailing the corporate ownership of KTV indicate Adani Wilmar’s 50% holding in the company. Adani Wilmar is a joint venture between India’s Adani Group (the group’s patriarch, Gautam Adani, is a close associate of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi) and the Singapore-based agrobusiness Wilmar International. The group manufactures and markets ‘Fortune’, a leading brand of edible oil in India, apart from Rag vanaspati and palmolein. It sells more than a million tons of edible oils in India each year.

    Construction of the edible-oil transportation and storage project commenced in December 2015 pending clearance from India’s environment ministry, that is, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. A Chennai-based social organization engaged in protecting the coastal zone and ensuring welfare of fishing communities – Meenava Thanthai KR Selvaraj Kumar Meenava Nala Sangam – filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal in the year 2016 against the illegal construction activities. The tribunal issued a judgment ordering suspension of all construction work till the appropriate clearances were acquired under CRZ rules.

    Read more

Wilderness conservationist, author and bushwalker, partner of Amanda Sully, father of Elliott. 2010 Churchill Fellow.