Cricket legends Ian and Greg Chappell and other prominent Australians in an unusual move have written to Indian energy giant Adani to abandon its controversial coal mine projectin Queensland, warning it could damage bilateral ties and even hit sporting links.
The 21.7 billion dollar Carmichael coal mine project, one of the world's largest, to start construction this year after being given the green light by the federal and Queensland state governments.
The project involves dredging 1.1 million cubic metres of spoil near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which will then be disposed off on land.
The open letter addressed to Gautam Adani, the company's founder and chairman, cites public opposition, risks to miners' health, climate change and potential impact on the fragile Great Barrier Reef as reasons not to proceed.
"Cricket has a bit to do with the feeling between India and Australia," said Ian Chappell.
"The thought that this [mine] could affect the relationship, hopefully that'll get through."
The letter calls on Adani to invest in renewables instead, and concludes that it would be a "great shame" were the mine to "damage the image of India in Australia".
Besides the former Australian Test cricket captains, authors Richard Flanagan and Tim Winton, Telstra chair John Mullen and investment banker Mark Burrows have also signed the letter.
The letter is expected to be delivered to Adani's Gujarat headquarters by an Australian community delegation currently visiting India.
The letter said,"We are writing to respectfully ask you to abandon the Adani Group's proposal in Queensland's Galilee Basin...Pollution from burning coal was the single biggest driver of global warming, threatening life in Australia, India and all over the world."
"Last month The Lancet, one of the world's leading medical journals, published a report that described your company's Carmichael mine proposal as a public health disaster...This mine proposal does not have wide public support in Australia and does not have the support of the Traditional Owners of the land where the mine would be dug.
"There are concerns about the impact the mine will have on groundwater resources and on nearby farmers who rely on this water for their livelihoods," it noted.
"We urge you to think about global warming and public health and listen to the wishes of the people. It would be a great shame if this one project were to damage the image of India in Australia.
"We understand the Adani Group has not made a final investment decision on the Carmichael coal mine. We strongly urge you to decide to abandon this project.
"We the undersigned - and we believe all Australians - would support and welcome moves by your company to invest further in renewable energy in Australia," the open letter said.
(REOPENS FGN 6)
Meanwhile, Australian politicians today voiced their support for Adani's coal mine project in Queensland.
Dismissing the objection raised by Chappells, Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the Chappells should stick to commentating on cricket.
"I'm guessing they're not aware that there are 400 million Indians who don't have electricity, who are living in darkness, who are burning all sorts of fuels that are poisoning them and the atmosphere," Macfarlane said.
"What we want to do is make sure that not only do they get electricity, but that coal-fired electricity is generated with some of the cleanest coal in the world," he said.
Curtis Pitt of Australian Labor Party said the Chappells were entitled to their opinion, but were overlooking the job opportunities for regional Queensland.
"There's been a rigorous approval process with more than 200 conditions," Pitt said.
"When you start talking about a USD 21 billion-plus project, that is going to mean significant construction jobs and ongoing jobs," Pitt said.
Opposition treasury spokesman Scott Emerson of liberal national party said there was bipartisan support for the project.
"The Chappells - who were up here at various times in their careers - I would say to them get on board, get with the LNP's policies of backing Adani, backing this project," Emerson said.