How a lizard and snake stopped Adani's project

Devanik Saha
Devanik SahaAug 07, 2015 | 16:07

How a lizard and snake stopped Adani's project

Homo sapiens (Humans) are considered the most dominant species on earth.  The impact created by us has and will shape the future of the planet. But last week, an Australian federal court ruling did something what humans in India couldn't - stop Adani and his environmentally destructive projects.

Globally, cases against coal and mining projects are generally filed on its environmentally devastating impacts, cancelling an approval to a lizard and snake species is unprecedented.The Carmichael coal mine was launched in 2010, and was given environmental approval in 2014 by the Australian government. But the approval was overturned by a federal court, based on a petition by environmental legal centre Environmental Defenders Office, which represented the Mackay Conservation Group, on the premise that it would endanger the Yakka Skink (a lizard type) and Ornamental Snake, two vulnerable species, which face a high risk of extinction.


Who are these species?

The Yakka Skink is an extremely secretive species, hiding under rocks, in hollow logs or ground vegetation, or in burrow systems. The average size from head to tail tip is 40cm, making it one of the largest skinks in the region. Its body colour ranges from pale to dark brown, usually with a broad dark brown stripe extending along the back from the neck to the tail. This dark stripe is bordered on either side by a narrow, pale fawn stripe. There are several large, plate-like scales along the leading edge of the ear, partly concealing the opening.The ornamental snake belongs to the cobra family. These snakes have short tangs with paralyzing venom and are usually found inhabiting on clay and sandy soils. It also grows on natural leaves found near the rivers, forests and marshy areas. These snakes are found only around a small area of Queensland in Australia. Even in Queensland the snake is found mainly in the Brigalow region, along the basin of Fitzroy and Dawson Rivers.

Carmichael's impact: Financial, environmental and economic

The proposed $11.8 billion Carmichael coal mine project is expected to produce 60 million tonnes of coal per year and contribute almost $930 million to the Mackay region's gross regional product and $2.97 billion to the Queensland economy each year for the next 60 years, according to a press release by Greg Hunt, Minister of Environment in Australia, when the approval was given in July 2014.


In terms of jobs, Adani claimed that it will around 10,000 jobs, a claim which has been refuted strongly as Adani's consultant Dr Jerome Fahrer, admitted the mine would only create an average of 1464 jobs per year.

It is estimated the project will provide electricity for up to 100 million people in India, which is contradictory given the fact that India is focusing on reducing coal imports and expanding its renewable energy footprint. Last year in November, Union Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said India aims to completely stop imports of thermal coal within three years.

However, the project will have a significant environmental impact - it will release 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and consume 12 billion litres of water each year.Even in India, Adani and his projects have been accused of regulatory non-compliance, environmental projects and illegal activities. As obvious, his closeness with Narendra Modi has helped him to sail through everything.

Not much support from financial community

Following the court's decision, Commonwealth Bank of Australia announced that it will no longer be the project's financial advisor. Last year, the State Bank of India had announced a $1 billion loan for the project, which created a slight controversy as it coincided with Modi's visit to Australia. But this year, SBI has decided not to pursue the loan for the project, citing its poor financial viability. Several other banks and financial institutions too - including JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have declined to finance the project, albeit for environmental reasons.


Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has not taken the court's ruling kindly and has apparently called for ending the green sabotage of coal projects in the country.He added that the "country must, in principle, favour projects like this because it was vitally important for Queensland's economic development and the human welfare of literally tens of millions of people in India. If a vital national project can be endlessly delayed, if the courts can be turned into a means of sabotaging projects which are striving to meet the highest environmental standards, then we have a real problem as a nation."

Adani has termed the decision as a "technical legal error" and hopes to challenge the ruling soon. But the fact that in India, where projects get environmental clearances even if they displace millions of Indians, rob them of their livelihoods and have a devastating ecological impact, needs to learn from Australia, where a lizard and a snake's survival vulnerability stopped a gigantic coal project.

Last updated: August 07, 2015 | 16:07
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