The Indian energy giant Adani has announced that it will begin work on a controversial coal mine project in Australia. At the start of this year, BBC Hindi's Vineet Khare visited the area and details of what he saw there.
The road to the Carmichael mine is a long and lonely ride in the desert: a paved road turns into a wide dirt road before reaching the remote piece of land that has thus divided Australia.
The $ 12.5 billion (£ 9.8 billion) Carmichael project coal site in the state of Queensland is about 400 km (248 miles) from the east coast. It is in the Mackay region, which hosts other mining projects.
The project has been delayed for six years due to a series of legal problems and reports that assess its environmental impact. It is owned by the Adani group, whose president, Gautam Adani, is considered close to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- The fierce debate on a monstrous coal mine
- Adani gives a "green light" to the project
The controversy over the project has seen Australian banks exclude funding and at the start of this month, the company said it had downsized production, cutting its three-quarter goals. On Thursday, the CEO Lucas Dow stated that the company itself would finance the project.
But, according to media reports, they are awaiting regulatory approval, without which construction can not begin.
As we travel to the mine, everyone along the way – from taxi drivers to restaurant owners and pedestrians – seems to have an opinion about the project.
Those who oppose it, including climate scientists, say that if the mines are opened, the world "best greets the commitment of the Paris Agreement to maintain the temperature rise to 2 ° C ".
But supporters say it is good for the economy and accuse the protesters of being "leftist activists deeply involved in the hell to feed lies".
A "secret" field
We decide to visit for the first time an "anti-Adani secret camp", located at an hour's drive and a narrow path along the main road.
The wooden gate is electronically locked "to keep away the pro-Adani elements". The two sides clashed in the past.
We enter a large open space dotted with trees. A couple of large sheds stand in the middle – one of them houses banners and posters carrying anti-Adani messages. Another has food prepared for almost two dozen "campers".
Two women wearing black T-shirts with the slogan "Adani – No, no" scribbled in red and yellow are inflected on a large banner of white cloth on which they are painting the words "Stop Adani!"
A makeshift residential accommodation is just a few meters away. Chargers, power outlets, and documents are downloaded to a table surrounded by men and women typing on laptops. A WiFi connection connects them to the world.
"This camp is a first line to stop Adani, it's a place to organize and plan direct actions," says one of the protesters, Scott Daynes.
"Science tells us that coal needs to stay in the ground, that's why we're here," he adds.
There is excitement that a journalist from India came to cover the story. "How much will these protests against Adani in Australia be covered by the Indian media?" a man asks.
"We hear that Mr. Adani is very influential and close to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Is that true?" another asks.
Both Mr. Adani and Mr. Modi come from the western state of Gujarat and their relationship dates back to when Modi was the prime minister of the state.
The fact that Modi used a plane chartered by the Adani group to fly to Delhi after being elected prime minister is still cited as an example of their proximity.
- Adani: the Indian group that buys coal mines in Australia
Back in 2003, Mr. Adani broke lines with industrial colleagues to form a separate business lobby group. This occurred after they had criticized Mr. Modi for the state of law and order in Gujarat after the 2002 uprisings that killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.
And when Mr. Modi was abandoned as a keynote speaker at the Wharton Business School after protests from student and faculty sections, the Adani group withdrew its sponsorship.
The increase in corporate fortunes since Modi became prime minister has been the subject of constant media and opposition focus in India.
And the fate of the Australian project is closely followed in India, in particular with the federal elections a few months away and the possibility of another five-year term for Mr. Modi.
A mysterious vehicle
Subsequently, we decide to visit the proposed site of the mine.
As we approach, we spot a vehicle that follows us, its headlights flashing through the dust raised by our pick-up jeep.
Wait while we stop to talk to some farmers who have left their land for a railway line of almost 400 km that will be used to transport coal once the mines are operational.
Activists fear that, once built, the railway line relaunches adjacent coal projects that are currently inactive due to the lack of transport options.
But farmers refuse to talk to us citing a confidentiality agreement.
The vehicle continues to follow us for almost an hour.
After reaching the site, the driver, a well-built man, films us while we wander around. He moves away when asked to reveal his identity.
The site itself is barren land, but those who oppose the mine say that activating it would mean destiny for the environment and ruin the beaches of Australia.
Critics have warned that the huge amounts of coal expected to be mined by the mine will threaten the fragile ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef, located nearby.
The environmentalist Lance Payne shows me boxes full of "dirty horrible" coal pebbles that he said he found on the beaches.
Mr. Payne fears that the dredging necessary to build the port will damage the coral reef, which behaves like a lagoon.
"What you throw into the ocean lagoon stays there," he says. "If a coal port overturns coal, it stays there".