Their crime: Attempting to raise awareness about the pollution caused by the toxic fumes of Kolaghat Thermal Power Station (KTPS).
They did this by scaling a 250-ft smokestack at the KTPS to paint the message 'SMOKING KILLS', last Thursday.
The six Greenpeace activists were arrested under the West Bengal Maintenance of Order Act.
According to Environment secretary M L Meena, the environment activists were arrested for breaching security at KTPS. "We cannot support environment activists for this," he was quoted.
The six arrested are: Brikesh Singh (27), Gene Hasmi (36), Sonali Bhattacharya (31), Saptarshi Dhar (23), Asena Pamei (26) and Gaurav (26). While Sonali and Saptarshi are based in Kolkata, others are from Bangalore.
Greenpeace spokesperson Vinuta Gopal maintains the activists had not committed any wrong. "We wanted to raise awareness and that's why we wrote the message on the chimney. "We did not have any intention to cause damage. We wanted to make people aware that burning coal for the production of thermal power triggers climate change. This process also leads to the generation of a huge amount of CO2," she says.
Gopal alleges that instead of trying to curb climate change, the state government was busy arresting the environment activists. She added that legal consultations were on so that the arrested activists could get necessary legal support. The activists will be produced in Tamluk court on Monday. According to the spokesperson, the activists could face jail for ten years or more.
Meanwhile advocate Subrata Mukherjee vouches that the activists have not committed an offence as they were only trying to raise awareness and trying to draw the government's attention to check pollution and protect life.
Coal is the dirtiest of conventional fossil fuels, producing about a third more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generated than oil and about double that of natural gas. Currently 67% of India's electricity is from coal-fired power plants. Additional plants, right now in the proposal stage, will lead to doubling of CO2 emissions from the power sector. This will push India to the third slot — behind US and China — in overall CO2 emissions.
"We are saying that coal fired power plants — the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide — will lead India down the path of devastating impacts of climate change," says Greenpeace India climate campaigner Soumyabrata Rahut. He points out that climate change would lead to erratic and intense monsoon patterns, affecting agriculture as well as sea-level rise and in the process , endanger millions of coastal residents.