Emails obtained via a freedom of information (FOI) request by an environment group called ‘Lock the Gate’ have revealed that the Adani Group was asking the federal Environment Department of Australia to provide a list of persons from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Geoscience Australia involved in the review of the Carmichael project.
The Indian corporate giant, the Adani Group, has received the final nod for its controversial mining project in Australia only about a month ago. The Queensland government cleared the groundwater project despite protests by scientists, locals and environment activists.
The emails now obtained show that the firm was building pressure on the federal department, asking it to provide the list within five days.
The revelation comes at a crucial time as activists in Australia are gearing up for protests against the approval by the government. Many believe that the plan, which has been in the eye of the storm and is being criticised by groundwater scientists, will threaten a group of ancient desert springs that provide underground water to the endangered vegetation.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has defended the demand for the names of CSIRO scientists saying that the Adani group needed to make sure that the review was not being hijacked by anti-coal activists.
Reacting to this development, Ruchira Talukdar, activist and campaigner based in Australia said, "How the corporate operates in India is very different from their modus operandi in Australia. The way they have been demanding names of the scientists is not surprising. What is setting a dangerous precedent is the response of the Queensland government, which is brazenly flouting democratic processes."
Talukdar also feels that the Adani project in Australia is witnessing many firsts; their project was the first one to get cleared in Australia's history with 36 conditions.
The Adani Group has confirmed that it had written to the federal Environment Department on January 25. The Department said that Adani's request for the scientists' names was ultimately refused. However, on January 7, the department had temporarily agreed to Adani's request.
Amid these developments, the CSIRO Staff Association has stated that it is alarmed by such a request by the Indian firm. Sam Popovski, secretary of the association, said, "It was clear that Adani seemed to be suggesting bias or potential bias way before any of the scientific evidence was actually presented to the department. […] Our scientists just want to get on and do their best job… without their social media being tracked."
The association also stated that this is a deliberate strategy to pressure scientists by searching for personal information it could use to try to "discredit their work".
The ABC Network had revealed in February that Adani last year hired a law firm, AJ & Co, that had drafted a commercial proposal called ‘Taking the Gloves Off’, in which, it vowed to act as the company's "trained attack dog".
It proposed a "war" strategy, which suggested that Adani "not settle for government department's dragging out decisions — use the legal system to pressure decision makers". AJ & Co subsequently threatened with legal action against activists, moved to bankrupt an Indigenous opponent and applied for ABC journalists' expenses, phone records and emails under FOI.
Following these developments, mobilisations against the firm in Australia are picking up pace. Activists on the ground are also suggesting that the complicity of the government in supporting the project needs to be highlighted, as it is the first project to receive clearances in such a manner, blatantly flouting the set norms.
Also read: Adani Gets Permit for Carmichael Mining Project in Australia