Unbridled coal mining biggest threat to tigers: Greenpeace

Coal mining is the biggest threat to India's wildlife, including tigers, global environmental watchdog Greenpeace has warned, seeking an immediate moratorium on new coal projects till environmental issues are sorted out.

Tiger conservation is a major issue in India, which sees the increasingly scarce animal as a sort of national mascot. But so is the issue of increasing coal production, given the massive shortage of electricity, with many power plants idle or functioning below capacity due to the paucity of the fuel.

India is home to more than half of the world's tigers, with just 1,706 now living in the wild according to official figures, compared to 100,000 at the turn of the 20th century.

India has witnessed an unprecedented increase in new coal mines and coal-run power plants in the past five years, placing the lives of many endangered animals at risk, a Greenpeace report released late on Wednesday said.

"From 2007 to 2011, the area leased for coal mining and coal production capacity have nearlry doubled compared to pre-2007 levels," Greenpeace campaigner Ashish Fernandes told reporters in Bhubaneshwar.

Calling the situation ''stark'', Greenpeace says coal mining has already started affecting tigers in many areas such as Chandrapur in Maharashtra.