Fakir Abdullah Mohammad is a young fisherman from Saleiha village on the Mundra coast of Gujarat, India. He is an active and valued community member. Fakir is one of the most skillful local fishermen and he is also a spearhead for the resistance to harmful coal power.
Saleiha village is situated close to the site for the ‘Tata Mundra’ power project, a 4 GW coal-fired power station. In one year the plant burns huge volumes of coal and pumps out vast quantities of polluting emissions – equivalent to more than half of the annual CO2 emitted by the 155 million people living in Bangladesh.
Souyma Dutta an activist with the Beyond Copenhagen Collective says, “this project is a monstrous climate spoiler – this Tata-Mundra energy is over five times as carbon-intensive as India’s present energy mix.”
In addition to being a ticking-time-bomb for the global climate, the coal plant poses a serious threat to public health. There has been a sharp rise in breathing problems and respiratory illnesses suffered in Saleiha and other villages near the plant, including Tunda-Wandh, Navinal, and Mota Kandagra.
The Tata Mundra project has dredged and destroyed local mangroves and creeks as well as discharging huge quantities of warmed water into the gulf. These destructive practices have combined to undermine the livelihoods of Fakir and many of his colleagues, who rely on a healthy marine ecosystem for food and income.
Amina Behn, another fisherwoman affected by the plant, says, ‘the outlet channels have led to drastic reduction in fish catch and the water supply in our villages. Thanks to these companies, we now have to take a long walk to fetch water even for our daily activities.’
Yet, despite these local impacts and the huge risk the project presents to the climate, Tata Mundra continues to receive funding from the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, and other development banks.
Fakir and other locals are attempting to sever this lifeline for dirty coal power in their region. Through their organization Machhimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS), they are banding with groups around the world, to put pressure on World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, calling on him to withdraw funding for the plant and refuse to finance any expansion.
Kim has been outspoken in his support for a low carbon energy transition. He has publicly pledged to cut World Bank funding for dirty coal power, but at present the institution continues to support highly polluting power plants in many countries.
Fakir is working hard to ensure that the World Bank President lives up to his promise. He is leading one of many local activist groups across the globe, that are calling on financial institutions to ditch their support for coal power, in the face of serious environmental and economic damages. The groundswell of grassroots resistance to coal as a source of fuel has never been stronger.