Geoff Law

  • Recent developments regarding India’s import of palm oil from SE Asia

    For several decades now, India has been importing approximately half of the country's total requirement of edible oils. Most of the edible oil imported by India is refined palm oil or palmolein and much of the imported oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. India is the world’s largest importer of palm oil from its largest producers, Indonesia and Malaysia. Both countries have large palm plantations created out of rainforests and irrigated by year-round tropical rainfall. The multinational Wilmar group has been criticised by environmental activists over the years for its involvement in the establishment of mono-cultures of palm trees in place of rainforests, orangutan habitat and ancestral lands of indigenous peoples. The Adani Group is associated with Wilmar through its 50:50 joint venture, Adani Wilmar, which imports large quantities of palm oil into India. India’s second-richest man, Gautam Adani, is the patriarch of the sprawling Adani Group.

    On 30 September 2019, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stood before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and launched an unexpected attack on India, accusing the country of violating the UN’s resolutions by ‘invading and occupying’ Kashmir, referring to India’s decision in early-August to revoke the special Constitutional status granted to Jammu & Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state. The subsequent lockdown and human rights abuses had been condemned across the world, but none were perhaps as high-profile as Mahathir’s barbs on the floor of the UNGA.

    The Malaysian PM’s remarks were strongly criticised by the Indian government, and supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Reacting to Mahathir’s comments, the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEAI), a Mumbai-headquartered lobby of some of India’s biggest edible oil companies, issued an unprecedented advisory to its members to stop importing oil from Malaysia. The unprecedented advisory added a geopolitical twist to one of the most fundamental aspects of India’s food security, and also one of its biggest businesses. The SEAI is currently headed by Atul Chaturvedi, former CEO and current board member of Adani Wilmar.

    Mahathir’s remarks came at a time when the SEAI was already engaged in a trade dispute with Malaysia. Imports of palm oil from Malaysia increased dramatically in 2019 after a scheduled cut in import duties came into effect on 31 December 2018. SEAI filed for trade protection from the Indian government, claiming that the Malaysia oil imports had put Indian oil companies at the risk of ‘serious injury’. It won the dispute after the government imposed a ‘temporary safeguard duty’ on Malaysian edible oil in September 2019. Malaysia had initially retaliated with its own export duty, and Mahathir then commented against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

    The CAA was passed by the Parliament of India on 11 December 2019. It amended the Citizenship Act, 1955 by providing a path to Indian citizenship for illegal migrants of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian religious minorities who had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before December 2014. Muslims from those countries were not given such eligibility. Critics say this was the first time religion had been overtly used as a criterion for citizenship under Indian law.

    In January 2020, the Indian government made a major decision to restrict imports of refined palm oil. The oil can now only be imported with a licence issued by the central government. This is the first time such a licence is being demanded for undertaking refined oil imports after the trade was opened up in 1994 as part of India’s shift towards liberalisation and globalisation.   

    (See: https://www.newsclick.in/Samosa-Prices-Geopolitical-Twists-Palm-Oil-Imports-Benefit-Adani-Patanjali).


  • Coastal ecosystems and livelihoods devastated by Adani’s massive Mundra port complex and power station

    As opposition to Adani’s proposed Godda power plant spreads internationally, discussion of the Adani Group’s environmental legacy in other parts of India is intensifying. A recent webinar heard graphic details about the impacts on local people and the coastal environment of the operations of the Adani Group and the Tata company at Mundra in the Indian state of Gujarat. The description was based on various studies in which Mr Soumya Dutta was a key player.

    Soumya Dutta is also a co-convenor of the South Asian People’s Action on Climate Crisis (SAPACC), and active on the Climate & Energy Group, the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (India people's science campaign), and India-Climate-Justice. He is an Ashoka Fellow and a member of the Advisory Board for the UN Climate Technology Centre and Network.

    ‘The Tatas and Adanis call these thermal power projects development, but I barely see any kind of development happening here. Our fishing season is from August to mid-May but owing to their outlet and intake pipes, the hot water and the pollution, we are packing our way back to our villages now in April. Not enough fish this year so we are going back early... What is development to us? … Let them leave us on our own, we were happy earlier.’    Ahmed Ali Illiyasa, fisherman and head of a local advocacy group for fisherfolk, 24 April 2012, as reported by an independent fact-finding committee (see below).

    Ahmed Ali Illiyasa (centre), fisherman and head of local fishing advocacy group, Mundra. Photo Soumya Dutta

    The jewel in Adani’s industrial crown is its giant port complex at Mundra in the Indian state of Gujarat. This 15,000-ha ‘special economic zone’ has numerous factories as well as power stations operated by both Adani Power and the Tata company. According to the website of Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ), Adani hopes this hub will also attract petrochemical industries, textile manufacturing, food processing, warehousing and defence and aerospace industries.

    The Mundra industrial complex is located on the Gulf of Kutch. A prominent feature of this coastline is the vast intertidal zone comprising a network of creeks, estuaries and mudflats. These features provide a conducive environment for several sea-based traditional occupations such as fishing and salt-making as well as land-based occupations like agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry. Even by the standards of India, the region has a very high rural population density. The rapid development of Adani’s port and associated infrastructure over the last 30 years has generated intense concerns amongst such communities.

    In 2012-13, an independent fact-finding committee headed by Justice (retired) S M Bhargava carried out studies of the areas affected by Tata and the Adani Group at Mundra.  Soumya Dutta was the committee’s convener as well as lead author of the ensuing reports which included extensive documentation of social and environmental impacts, including measurements of water temperatures, pH, dissolved oxygen (all critically important for marine life), damage to mangroves and creeks,  increases in particulates and noise levels in adjacent villages, radioactivity increase near the ash ponds of the mega power plants, and a drastic reduction in fish catch across a range of species. Dutta says that very clear impacts on women and children were documented.

    Because of the huge influx of workers from outside, alcoholism increased. Local production of alcohol increased significantly causing an increase in family violence. To tackle the problem, a women’s group, Rina Rabari, had to raid some of these illegal alcohol-making establishments. In response, an Adani spokesperson said that the state of Gujarat follows a strict prohibition policy and the law is implemented with equal rigour for all.

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  • Tribal W&J protest against Adani to continue despite police action

    Friday 28 August, 3.30 pm: Police force W&J protest from the road

    Statement from ‘Standing our Ground’ blockade camp of W&J people:

    The police have done Adani’s bidding and forced us to remove the spirit fire from the road. The Queensland police has promised to arrange a meeting with the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships. They have broken that promise and instead brought in an excessive number of officers to break up our peaceful stand. But we are not done, we will not be silenced. We are proud tribal warriors of the First Nations of Wangan and Jagalingou Country. We remain on our Country at another campsite. 

    EARLIER (28 August, 10 am): An overwhelming presence of 20 police vehicles has just arrived at the W&J blockade camp, according to the 'Standing our Ground' Facebook page. They are pressuring W&J people to leave their country. See: https://www.facebook.com/WanganJagalingouStandingOurGround/photos/a.107254014431287/113863887103633/?type=1&theater

    On 24 August 2020, Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners who oppose Adani’s Queensland coal mine (the Carmichael mine) blocked workers from reaching the mine construction site. They blocked the access road to the remote mine site, which is about 400km from the coast. On 20 August, they served Adani with an eviction notice (see earlier story). Their statement is below:

    MEDIA RELEASE, Monday 24 August 2020

    Traditional Owners have today re-established control of access to Wangan and Jagalingou country leading to the Adani Carmichael Coal Mine site, enforcing protection of their home lands.

    Starting today, Traditional Owners will restrict Adani, and their contractors, movement to and from the mine site.

    Traditional Owners issued Adani Australia with an eviction notice at the company’s offices in Brisbane, Townsville and at the Carmichael mine site, last Thursday. 

    Today’s action marks the start of a direct campaign of enforcing the eviction, led by the Wangan and Jagalingou tribal people, to protect Country.

    Confrontation between W&J and police

    The following can be attributed to Adrian Burragubba:

    “Today we are re-establishing tribal control of our home lands.

    “We will restrict Adani Australia and contractors free movement within Wangan and Jagalingou lands. These restrictions will not apply to the general public or local farming families.

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  • Traditional Owners stand ground to enforce eviction of Adani

    BREAKING (28 August, 10 am): An overwhelming presence of 20 police vehicles has just arrived at the W&J blockade camp, according to the 'Standing our Ground' Facebook page. They are pressuring W&J people to leave their country. See: https://www.facebook.com/WanganJagalingouStandingOurGround/photos/a.107254014431287/113863887103633/?type=1&theater

     

    On 24 August 2020, Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners who oppose Adani’s Queensland coal mine (the Carmichael mine) blocked workers from reaching the mine construction site. They blocked the access road to the remote mine site, which is about 400km from the coast. On 20 August, they served Adani with an eviction notice (see earlier story). Their statement is as follows:

    MEDIA RELEASE, Monday 24 August 2020

    Traditional Owners have today re-established control of access to Wangan and Jagalingou country leading to the Adani Carmichael Coal Mine site, enforcing protection of their home lands.

    Starting today, Traditional Owners will restrict Adani, and their contractors, movement to and from the mine site.

    Traditional Owners issued Adani Australia with an eviction notice at the company’s offices in Brisbane, Townsville and at the Carmichael mine site, last Thursday. 

    Today’s action marks the start of a direct campaign of enforcing the eviction, led by the Wangan and Jagalingou tribal people, to protect Country

    The following can be attributed to Adrian Burragubba:

    “Today we are re-establishing tribal control of our home lands.

    “We will restrict Adani Australia and contractors free movement within Wangan and Jagalingou lands. These restrictions will not apply to the general public or local farming families.

    “Adani are operating without authorisation within our boundaries.

    “Adani have cleared land which is home to many sacred totemic animals.

    “It is our duty as Wangan and Jagalingou people to act against Adani’s Carmichael project that interferes with our ancient law and custom.

     

     

     

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  • Adani’s coal power will impose ‘heavy debt burden’ and ‘financial crisis’ on Bangladesh

    Power generated by Adani for export to Bangladesh will weaken that country’s economy, according to energy analysts.

    The Adani Group intends to export coal from its Carmichael mine in Australia in order to generate electricity for export to Bangladesh. The coal is to be burnt in the Godda power plant (under construction) in India – about 130 km from the border with Bangladesh. Supporters of the project claim that this will help ‘lift Bangladesh out of poverty’.

    However, analysts from two Bangladeshi community groups strongly disagree. A presentation to a webinar by the Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED) and Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) says that Adani’s plan threatens to increase the external debt of Bangladesh.

    ‘It is obvious that Bangladesh will not require (Adani’s) electricity,’ said Sajjad Hossain Tuhin from BWGED, ‘as it is already experiencing over-capacity.’

    He said that if the power deal proceeds, Bangladesh will fall into a ‘heavy burden’ from external loans.

    He said the financial arrangements contained in a power-purchase agreement between an Adani company and the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) mean that Bangladesh will have to pay for contracted power even if the power is not used. Such payments are called ‘capacity payments’.

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  • Eviction notice issued to Adani by W&J Traditional Owners

    The Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J), the traditional owners of the land in the Galilee Basin, have issued an eviction notice to Adani for its intention to commit serious breaches to land, life and community health.

    The eviction notice was served in person by Mr Adrian Burragubba at the company’s Brisbane office on the 20 August 2020, with other notices of eviction served in person by Traditional Owners at the Adani mine site and at the multinational corporation’s headquarters in Townsville.

    Adani’s actions are considered unlawful under Wangan and Jagalingou tribal law. W&J representatives will commence legal proceedings against the attack on Country by this mining company. A statement W&J Traditional Owners went on to say:

    'Our objections to this mine are well known and have been ignored. Our basic rights have been torn away and trampled on. Sovereignty remains.

    Our land has been sold off to be ruined.

    The State and Federal Government, and Adani in partnership have:

    Approved the mine in opposition to traditional owners,

    Established a sham Indigenous Land Use Agreement,

    Extinguished lands rights and native title of traditional owners,

    Barred traditional owners from entering their lands,

    Bankrupted cultural leaders,

    Begun the destruction of our land, water and cultural sites.'

    Adrian Burragubba, cultural leader, said, 'the time for talk is over, and Adani has got to go.'

    'This is our home, and we will defend our Country,' he said. 'Adani has ignored our concerns. They created sham agreements. They used their power with the government to try and criminalise our actions, and bankrupted us. They have attacked us in public.'

    'They are squatters on our land. So they’ve got to go. And we will stand up to them until they have.'

    Watch this video to see Adrian and W&J people stand their ground:

    https://www.facebook.com/WanganJagalingouStandingOurGround/videos/1609811655845378/?v=1609811655845378


  • Campaign against Adani’s Godda coal-power station builds momentum in Australia, India and Bangladesh

    Community groups, financial experts and lawyers from three different countries have collaborated to stop Adani’s coal-fired power station at Godda from being completed. Godda is in eastern India, about 400 km north of Kolkata. The power station that Adani is constructing there is the lynchpin in Adani’s plan to ship Australian coal to India and sell the power to Bangladesh.

    About 70 people participated in a webinar on 10 August 2020, swapping stories and insights about the environmental, social and economic damage associated with the Godda plant.

    AdaniWatch coordinator, Geoff Law, who addressed the webinar, said that the campaign against the Godda power station is building international momentum.

    ‘It’s great to see dedicated people in three countries getting together to tackle the destructive plans of the Adani Group,’ Mr Law said. ‘The Godda power plant, if completed, will cause even more suffering amongst the local people and degrade India’s holy Ganges River.’

     

    Local campaigners describe impacts of Adani's Godda construction

    Dispossessed indigenous farmers told how their land was seized on Adani’s behalf by the Jharkhand government’s use of coercion and underhand tactics (at about 34:00, 44:00). Their local supplies of water for drinking, cooking and farming have been drastically degraded.

    Environmentalists described how the Godda power plant’s thirst for water will deplete and degrade India’s sacred Ganges River (at about 2:26:00 and 2:40:00).

     

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  • commented on Contact 2021-02-16 14:00:14 +1100
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  • Interview with Chief Minister about Adani, coal mines, indigenous people and elephant reserve

    Interview by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, translated into English by Abir Dasgupta

    This interview deals with Adani’s coal-mining and iron-ore mining operations in the Hasdeo Aranya forests of India. The Chief Minister of the Indian state of Chhattisgarh is interviewed by investigative journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. They discuss the state government’s responses to claims that local approval for one of the mines had been forged, the secrecy surrounding contracts with Adani and the government’s proposed elephant reserve.

    Bhupesh Baghel has been Chief Minister for 18 months. His Congress party government replaced that of the Hindu-nationalist BJP in 2018, having made commitments to stand up to corporations such as the Adani Group. A sub-titled version of the interview is here:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GIwlUpI8yDVX_z7gLcqJHd9bB5T4wlON/view

    The full interview was first published by NewsClick – see the link below. The section pertaining to Adani and the Hasdeo Arannya forests starts at 17:27.

    https://www.newsclick.in/covid-19-will-have-huge-unpredictable-impact-politics-bhupesh-baghel

    Translation

    17:27 Paranjoy Guha Thakurta (PGT): Before the elections [in December 2019] you had said you are afraid of no one. You once tweeted, “no matter how big someone is, even if it is Adani, rules would no longer be bent.” You have alleged that recent raids by central government authorities on bureaucrats in your government are a “political vendetta” since you have initiated investigations into past decisions. Could you elaborate?

    18:14 Bhupesh Baghel (BB): As far as Adani is concerned or anyone else is concerned, all industrialists are welcome, however, no help will be given to them by the government by flouting rules. For example, we found discrepancies in the case of iron ore mines in Dantewada – owned by a joint venture between CMDC (Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation) and NMDC (National Mineral Development Corporation). The Mine Developer and Operator (MDO) is an Adani group company. In that case, the local residents had alleged that their consent by means of the gram sabha (village meeting) had been forged. My government considered the various demands raised by the people and accepted them. We committed that there would be no steps taken towards opening the mine, no cutting of trees and that we would investigate the consent of the local residents obtained through the gram sabha.

    The report of the district collector that was prepared after investigation showed that no meeting of the actual gram sabha had taken place, and a falsified report had been prepared, and the “consent” acquired was a forgery. On that basis, we raised a show-cause notice to NMDC. They had requested one month’s time to respond, that we granted. They have requested an extension due to the ongoing lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Its a matter of natural justice, how can anyone answer during the lockdown? So we have granted the extension. However, NMDC will have to answer, notices sent by two departments of the government.

    I bring this up to clarify that the law will prevail, whoever is the industrialist concerned.

     

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  • published Port expansion threatens vital Indian lake in Blog 2020-06-11 10:04:36 +1000

    Port expansion threatens vital Indian lake

    Just north of Chennai, a proposed expansion of one of Adani's ports threatens an important area of wetlands, including Pulicat Lake, a vital fishery and buffer against the open ocean.

    Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZ), an Indian shipping company, is working to expand an existing port in nearby Kattupalli, a dozen kilometers south of Pulicat Lake. APSEZ is proposing to increase the port’s capacity from roughly 25 million tonnes per year to 320 to support the region’s coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and car factories. Expanding the port would change the coastal landscape drastically and put livelihoods at risk.

    Karthikeyan Hemalatha reports for Hakai magazine about the potential impacts on millions of people if the development goes ahead.


  • Adani’s power plans threaten PM Modi’s promise to restore the Ganges River

    ‘I feel Mother Ganges has called me to Varanasi,’ said Narendra Modi in 2014 as he launched his campaign to become Prime Minister of India. The holiness of the Ganges River to Hindus was a constant theme in Modi’s successful pitch to the Indian electorate. But he didn’t just speak about the river’s religious significance; he also spoke passionately about the river’s practical significance as a source of water to millions and as a remarkable natural feature facing enormous threats.

    On taking office, Modi promised to restore the great river’s cleanliness and flow. In 2015, he pledged over US$3 billion to clean up the Ganges, a river degraded by dams, diversions, industrial pollution, raw sewage and plastic litter. He established the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. A moribund river authority was replaced by a new institution – the National Ganga Council. An ambitious program of research, monitoring and projects was laid out. People had reason to feel optimistic about the future of the Ganges and its threatened life forms.

    Five years later, there is deep disappointment. In October 2018, a prominent advocate for the Ganges died after 111 days of fasting to protest the lack of action to address the river’s many problems. For almost all of its length, the river’s waters are unfit even for bathing. According to international news outlets such as Reuters, many of the promised funds for clean-up programs have not materialised. Less than one third of the promised clean-up projects have commenced. And the Modi Government, under the guise of minimising delays to new industrial projects, has dismantled environmental protections and put in place a speedy process for granting approvals. Numerous waterway developments have been given the green light, despite warnings from experts about resulting impacts on the health of the river. And one of the players contributing to the trashing of Modi’s pledge to save the Ganges River is the Adani Group.

    Adani plans to draw millions of cubic metres from the lower Ganges every year. The water will be piped to the company’s massive power plant (currently under construction) at Godda where it will be used to wash coal, to manage industrial wastes, and to generate steam to power the turbines. In 2019, Adani’s plans to deplete India’s holiest of rivers received environmental clearance – despite potential impacts on threatened species, such as the Gangetic dolphin, that depend on the river.

    Such concerns echo criticisms of Adani’s water management in Australia, where it is feared that the company’s Carmichael mine (which is planned to supply the coal to the Godda power plant) will have serious impacts on the Doongmabulla Springs and the Great Artesian Basin.

    Prime Minister Modi notoriously used Gautam Adani's private plane while on the campaign trail in 2014.

    Adani’s apparent disregard for Prime Minister Modi’s pledge to restore flow to the Ganges is ironic. The close relationship between the Adani Group’s founder, Gautam Adani, and the prime minister is well known. They forged close bonds during Modi’s time as Chief Minister of Adani’s home state of Gujarat, while Adani was building his corporate empire. When Modi was running for Prime Minister in 2014, he notoriously used Adani’s personal aircraft while on the campaign trail.

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  • published Interview with Indian expert on Adani in Blog 2020-04-03 14:20:50 +1100

    Interview with Indian expert on Adani

     

    Over the course of a couple of decades, the Adani Group has become a sprawling corporate empire in India, with interests in ports, power generation, edible oils, real estate, airports and defence industries. The group’s founder and chairman, Gautam Adani, is India’s second-richest man and a close associate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Accusations of corruption and environmental destruction have dogged the company’s rise to power.

    One journalist who has followed Adani’s progress is Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. He is lead author of a book on the Adani Group soon to be published in India with the title ‘The Incredible Rise and Rise of Gautam Adani’.

    Paranjoy is the doyen of hard-hitting journalism in India. He’s a broadcaster, writer, documentary maker and critic of crony capitalism. Here he speaks to Geoff Law from AdaniWatch, who visited Paranjoy in Delhi in February 2020.

     

     


  • Adani versus local villagers – the battle over the Godda power plant in India

    In a remote part of India, a huge and grotesque structure is taking shape against a backdrop of gently undulating pastures, woodlands and crops. This is the Godda power station. It is being rapidly built by Adani to receive coal from the company’s mine in Queensland. The output from Godda will be a massive 1.6 GW, more than the four units comprising the Yallourn power station in Victoria.

    Godda is the lynchpin in Adani’s convoluted plan to ship Queensland coal 10,000 km so that power can be generated in India and sold across the border to Bangladesh. Godda is 600 km from the nearest port and hundreds of kilometres from the nearest major city. Despite its importance to the Stop Adani campaign, the situation at Godda has been shrouded in mystery, with few clear indications of Adani’s progress in constructing its power plant. To find out what was going on there, AdaniWatch went to take a look in February 2020. I was accompanied by Abir Dasgupta, a free-lance Indian journalist and contributor to a book on Adani to be published this year, who set up a vigorous schedule of meetings and interviews, organising, recording and translating as we went.

    Our first shock occurs when we are still more than 300 km from Godda, in the provincial capital Ranchi. Two knowledgeable people, a local lawyer and a member of the legislature, inform us that Adani’s power plant is 40% complete. This is completely at odds with earlier reports that Adani had managed little more than clear the land and assemble some office buildings. If the plant is already 40% complete, then Adani is clearly well on the way to meeting its schedule to start generating power from Queensland coal in 2022.

     

    The sign points the way to the construction site for Adani’s Godda power plant, being built to consume Australian coal for export to Bangladesh. Photo by Geoff Law.

    Offsetting this news are descriptions of the ways in which local people are defying Adani in the courts, where a flurry of different actions is underway. To speak to them, we travel to the village of Gangta, hoping to get photos of Adani’s construction site while we’re there. We know we have to be careful while in this area. We have been warned that companies such as Adani carry out their own surveillance using security companies from the USA and Israel, as well as employing local goons to ‘protect’ their sites from the intrusive eyes of journalists. Stories abound of foreigners who, while covering contentious issues in India, have been confronted by security personnel and run out of town.

    First, we rendezvous with Inam Ahmed, a feisty local lawyer who is representing several of the residents who are refusing to concede their land, on the main street of Godda. With a population of about 100,000, Godda is like other small Indian cities – it’s noisy and polluted. The combination of loud machines, manic tooting of horns, diesel fumes and coal smoke from cooking fires leaves me feeling dazed. We wait in the hot sun for Balesh Pandey and Ramji Paswan. Balesh’s father is among those who have had their land acquired for the power project – he was shown as dead in official papers and thus the requirement to secure his consent waived. He is very much alive. Paswan’s land is also sought to be acquired. He has filed a police complaint accusing Adani of a caste atrocity under an Indian law meant to protect the ‘scheduled’ castes and tribes, communities that are traditionally outside the Hindu caste hierarchy, and still subject to the practice of untouchability and daily violence. Balesh and Ramji will accompany us to the villages adjoining the project. Once they arrive, we leave in a three-wheel autorickshaw, contributing our own noise to the proceedings.

    We putt-putt along the main road out of town, past some huge earthworks that Inam says are for Adani’s Godda rail link, and turn onto a side road. Before long, there are signs pointing the way to Adani’s power plant, under the formal name Adani Power (Jharkhand) Ltd. We turn off again, following a newly-erected wall that obscures our view of the construction site. A village appears – a collection of humpies, smoky cooking fires and dinghy stalls selling plastic packets of stuff. Idle men and scrofulous dogs lounge around amongst the rubbish. But this is not Gangta. It’s a shanty town that appeared next to Adani’s wall shortly after construction commenced. Balesh informs us that all these men are ‘outsiders’ - not locals.

    We leave the shanties behind, wind amongst fields and trees, and pull up outside a temple. Beneath the spreading foliage of a sakwa tree is a welcoming committee. Further away, along a path framed by a wooden arch and lined by vegetation, are the neatly arranged houses of Gangta and the adjacent village Govindpur. The relative quiet is a blessed contrast to the cacophony of Godda.

    We remove our shoes and seat ourselves on mats in the shade. Across the way, a white-haired man washes his thin legs with water pumped up from a well. A woman leads a couple of big white cows past a group of children. The fields are dotted with mango trees, their lower limbs pruned to a straight horizontal line by grazing animals. Another old man – Bhagat – arrives on a bicycle and joins our group. We will soon learn that he is one of the fiercest activists in the movement to prevent confiscation of land for the power project.

     

    Villagers affected by the confiscation of their lands for Adani’s power plant. In front is Ramji Paswan, a retired teacher in a government school and farmer. He has filed an atrocity complaint with the police regarding his treatment during the land confiscation furore. Photo by Geoff Law.

    For an hour and a half, we sit and discuss the details of the government’s acquisition of these people’s land on behalf of Adani – the type of land, the value of it, the inadequate compensation, the various legal measures being taken to uphold their rights. The conversation occurs in Hindi. I take in the surroundings and observe the group of about 15 people who have spared us their time. They are mostly older people, members of an ‘adivasi’ tribe, an indigenous community whose status is recognised by law. They have been carrying on this battle for several years but their indignation has not dimmed. From time to time, their responses become angrily animated; at other times there is grim laughter. To one side sits a small group of women. They remain silent and I wonder how many times they have heard their story told to journalists who listen, record and then leave.

    The land has been in these people’s families for generations. It’s fertile, yielding up to four crops a year. It provides a living for the villagers – direct food and then cash from the sale of the excess. The loss of land undermines their economic security. But it’s not just livelihoods affected. Land ownership allows people to get health services and to get their children married. Loss of land threatens these things.

    There are other impacts of Adani’s encroachment, in particular, the degradation of domestic water supplies. We are shown water pumped from a well that runs red; it leaves a dirty residue in cooking pots. This is because Adani’s consumption of water for its construction works has lowered groundwater to the level of iron-rich bedrock.

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  • Exposing the dark side of the Adani group with colour and wit.

    Many thanks from AdaniWatch to the cartoonists featured below for generously allowing us to display their work.

    Courtesy of First Dog on the Moon / The Guardian

     

     

    Courtesy Matt Golding

     

     

    Courtesy of First Dog on the Moon / The Guardian


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