Rekha Bhattacharjee | IANS | The News Minute | July 21, 2014 | 3:27 PM IST
Even as Greenpeace Australia denies charges of targeting an Indian energy major led by Gautam Adani for reasons other than environment safety, the Adanis say green activists are hampering India's progress and job creation in Australia.
"Greenpeace's campaign is not even specific to Adani. It is against any company from any country threatening the health of the climate, local eco-systems and the future of the Great Barrier Reef," a Greenpeace Australia spokesman told IANS when asked whether Adanis were being made a target of an orchestrated campaign.
There has been speculations in the mining and political circles that Adanis are facing severe opposition from some global NGOs in India, Australia and elsewhere because of their proximity to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The rumour mills got further fillip when Australia's Environment Minister Greg Hunt extended his review of Adani's A$16.5 billion ($15.5 billion) Carmichael coal and rail project last month.
Adani's Carmichael project is one of the three major, multi-billion dollar projects which are trying to export Australia's thermal coal to India. Another Indian company GVK has partnered with Hancock Prospecting which is owned by the richest Australian Gina Rinehart. The third mega project in the remote part of Queensland is owned by an Australian maverick politician Clive Palmer who also happens to be a mining magnate.
Greenpeace Australia has labelled Adanis' multi-billion dollar Carmichael mine project, which is located in the remote Galilee Basin, as a "major threat to the environment".
"The mine itself will clear 20,000 hectares of bushland, including areas which are home to threatened species like the black-throated finch. Scientists estimate the mine's water use will cause water tables to drop significantly outside the mine boundaries, reducing underground water supplies to surrounding farms and rivers," Greenpeace has alleged.
Greenpeace has been running a sustained campaign against the Carmichael project. The well known green organisation recently commissioned a highly-damaging report against Adanis' various commercial activities in India. The report is titled "Adani's record of environmental destruction and non-compliance with regulations".
When asked for their response to the Greenpeace campaign, an Adani spokesperson criticised environmentalists for obstructing the progress of India and also employment generation in Australia.
"This massive mine, rail and port project will not only generate 8,000 Australian jobs during construction and nearly 12,000 when operating, but the coal produced will support the growth and electrification of India, helping to bring more than 100 million people out of poverty," an Adani spokesperson wrote in response to an e-mail questionnaire sent by IANS.
Adanis have also allayed the environmentalists' fears that burning Australian coal would lead to more pollution.
"The electrification is through modern, more efficient generators and our coal and the more modern generators replace a range of dirtier and less efficient energy sources. That's better for India and better for the world environment," the spokesperson wrote.
It also looks like as if Adanis consider the delay in getting the Australian government clearance as only a temporary setback. The Indian conglomerate is likely to shop elsewhere if its Australian project fails to take-off as per the plan.
"One way or the other, India will buy coal -- and if it's not ours, it will likely be lower quality coal from less-regulated nations. So, activists stopping these well-regulated projects will only not only cause more environmental harm, they will cost much needed Australian jobs," the Adani response read.
The Indian mining company's confidence in getting the project clearance is reflected in the recent agreement signed with Korea's Posco E&C. According to the binding deal, Posco would be the procurement and construction contractor for Adanis' rail project which, when completed, would be capable of hauling a whopping 60 million tonnes per year.