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Coldplay's green plans wither

When Coldplay released their second hit album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, the band said that part of the environmental damage caused by its production would be offset by the planting of 10,000 mango trees in southern India.


Blame it on inappropriate funding and inefficient planning

When Coldplay released their second hit album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, the band said that part of the environmental damage caused by its production would be offset by the planting of 10,000 mango trees in southern India.

Five years after the album's release, however, many of Coldplay's good intentions have withered in the arid soil of Gudibanda, Karnataka state, where the saplings it sponsored were planted.

Improving livelihoods

The idea of saving the world while making music was proposed by Future Forests, a British company since renamed CarbonNeutral.

It declared that the scheme would soak up carbon dioxide emissions and help to improve the livelihoods of local farmers.

"You can dedicate more saplings in Coldplay's forest, a specially-selected section in Karnataka, India,'' its website said. For £17.50 (Dh117), fans could invest in the scheme and receive a certificate bearing the words "The Coldplay Forest".


Other musicians, including Dido, KT Tunstall and Feeder followed Coldplay's example.

CarbonNeutral meanwhile, gave the task of planting the trees to a group called Women for Sustainable Development (WSD), as part of a £33,000 (Dh221,000) contract. WSD is headed by Anandi Sharan Mieli, 44, born in Switzerland of Indian origin and a Cambridge graduate. She now claims that the scheme was doomed from the outset.

In the impoverished villages of Varlakonda, Lakshmisagara and Muddireddihalli, among the dozen that Ms Mieli said had received mango saplings, no one had heard of Coldplay.

Most of those who received saplings said they had not been given funding for labour, insecticide or spraying equipment to nurture them.

One woman, called Jayamma, was the only person out of 130 families in Lakshmisagara, to receive saplings from Ms Meili, according to Ashwattamma, a farmer's wife. She said: "No one else got any trees. Some of us were offered saplings but we don't have any water."

Dry and rocky

Jayamma managed to get 50 of her 150 trees to survive because she had a well on her land.

"I was promised Rs2,000 (Dh163.7) every year to take care of the plants and a bag of fertiliser. But I got only the saplings," she said.

In nearby Varlakonda, about 10 families were given approximately 1,400 saplings. Of these, just 600 survived. Another farmer who took 100 saplings, said: "She [Ms Meili] promised us that she'd arrange the water."

But villagers said a tanker came only twice. The land in Gudibanda is dry and rocky.

Farmers depend on rainfall but the monsoon has failed every year between 1995 and 2004, causing drought.

Inadequate funding

One of the few successes are the 300 mango trees owned by Narayanamma, 69 and her husband Venkatarayappa, 74.

They were apparently the only couple to receive Rs4,000 (Dh327) from Ms Meili. They also spent Rs30,000 (Dh2,454) on tankers and labourers. "We were promised money for maintenance every year but got nothing," said Narayanamma.

Sitting in her spacious house in Bangalore, Ms Meili said that she had distributed 8,000 saplings and acknowledged that 40 per cent had died.

The project had foundered, she said, because of inadequate funding. She accused Future Forests of having a "condescending" attitude.

"They do it for their interests, not really for reducing emissions. They do it because it's good money," she said.

Contractual responsibility

CarbonNeutral said that it did not fund the whole programme and that WSD had a contractual responsibility to provide irrigation and support to farmers.

Jonathan Shopley, the chief executive, conceded that while the project might still succeed; he said it had "struggled to reach its full potential".

Coldplay are supporting a similar project, which CarbonNeutral says is much more successful, in Chiapas, Mexico.

If the Karnataka project does not offset the carbon emissions that Coldplay specified, then CarbonNeutral will make good the amount from other projects.

Screening projects

Richard Tipper, director of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management, which monitored the project for CarbonNeutral, said that the Karnataka project had "experienced major problems" because WSD had not raised the necessary money to administer the project and because of the long drought.

A monitoring visit in 2003 had found that "WSD had been unable to make the anticipated progress with the project and had not delivered carbon payments to farmers".

He added that "practices for screening projects have developed considerably based on this experience".

Chris Latham, spokesman for Coldplay in Britain, declined to comment but a source close to the band said: "Coldplay signed up to the scheme in good faith with Future Forests and it's in their hands. There are loads of bands involved in this kind of thing. For a band on the road all the time, it would be difficult to monitor a forest."