Friday, October 15, 2010

Protests against Power Plants-Times of India

Protests against Power Plants-Times of India

NAGPUR: Vidarbha Bachao Samiti (VBS), a forum of intellectuals, social workers and professionals, on Friday vowed to wage a battle against 85 power plants and 33 coal-based industries proposed in Vidarbha that the Samiti says would jeopardize life of people in the region.

Some of these projects are in initiation stage while some have applied for terms of reference (TOR) and environment clearance with the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). The state forest department too has forwarded many proposals to National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) for study about their effect on forests.

VBS has claimed that the 85 coal-based power plants will generate 55,000 MW electricity. In turn, it will give dreaded diseases to people by discharging 4.67 lakh tones of flyash per day. Over 11.68 lakh tones coal will be burnt daily generating 17.52 lakh tonnes of carbandioxide (CO2). Besides, 33 other coal-based units, which include 21 steel, eight cement and four paper plants will also degrade environment.

All these projects will require 50,000 hectares of agricultural land. VBS feared decrease in cultivable land would lead to food shortages. The projects are expected to shrink 9.5 lakh hectare irrigated land capacity to 4 lakh hectares.

"It may be that in future there would be no water for irrigating additional land. People will not get water for drinking. Debt-ridden ryots, already committing suicide due to poor crop yield, will be left with no option but to sell their land to companies," warned Vivekanand Mathne, convenor of Andolan Samiti of Akhil Bharatiya Sarvodaya Mandal (ABSM).

"These projects will destroy rich forests and cut tiger corridors, thus escalating man-animal conflict. In the past three years (2007-09), 68 villagers have been killed in Vidarbha by tigers and leopards as the animals' habitat was destroyed. We need to stop these plants at any cost before it is too late," appealed environmentalist Seema Sahu.

"When 11,000 MW electricity is required to clear shortage of power in Maharashtra, for whom is 55,000 MW being produced," asked Prof Yogeshwar Dudhpachare of Green Planet, Chandrapur. Central India is being turned into a power generation hub for producing electricity for others, he said.

Sudhir Paliwal said Nagpur district would turn into a gas chamber within a few years with large number of coal-based plants coming up. At present, the district had six plants having total capacity of 2,019 MW. It will go upto 11,569 mw with 16 new power plants.

Similarly, Chandrapur, India's fourth most polluted city, is paying heavy price for being in the vicinity of 2,340 MW plant. Even though power surplus Vidarbha is combating multiple ill-effects of power plants, state run Mahagenco had proposed four more coal-based plants in the region.

The state government has already decided to make the region uninhabitable by signing MoUs for 49 coal-fired plants in the region having general capacity of 35,041 MW. These exclude power plants proposed by Mahagenco.

Economist Dr S V Khandewale stated Vidarbha was already suffering from a huge irrigation backlog. More power plants would mean dwindling irrigation potential. The region is largely energy producing, but consumes hardly 25% of power produced. "Power to western Maharashtra while pollution and irrigation backlog to Vidarbha is unacceptable," Khandewale said.

"Chandrapur is on the deathbed and new units will hasten the demise. Already, city is reeling under water crisis and due to excessive mining, cracks have appeared in the homes of residents," said Prof Suresh Chopne.

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