Economy

Yet another Maharashtra power plant faces villagers' ire

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on October 31, 2011

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Close on the heels of protests against the Jaitapur nuclear project in Maharashtra's Ratnagiri district, trouble is brewing at the proposed 1,600-MW thermal coal power plant being set up by Hari Hareshwar Power Company Pvt Ltd (HHPC).

With an investment of Rs 8,500 crore, the plant is to come up at the Veshvi village, about 250 km from Jaitapur. In fact, villagers opposing this project are even threatening to join forces with villagers from Jaitapur to launch a bigger agitation in the coming days, said Dr Swami, a local physician from Veshvi village.

HHPC is a joint-venture between Genting Bhd group of Malaysia and Mumbai-based Etsinta Energy. The company wants to set up a power project based on imported coal for which it requires about 1,338 acres of land. Genting would be supplying, low sulphur and ash coal from its Indonesian mines.

Power companies are keenly eyeing the long coast of the Ratnagiri and neighbouring Sindhudurg district for setting up power plants, as the coast is easily navigable for transporting imported coal, besides the sea water can be used for running the plants. More than seven power projects on thermal coal have been announced in these two districts.

However, locals feel that their livelihood, which is based on mango, cashew and coconut plantations, will be destroyed by pollution from these plants.

The fishermen community has also joined local farmers as they feel that hot water released from the plant into the sea will kill fishes and their habitat.

Dr Swami said the panchayat of the five villages (in the vicinity of the project) has decided to oppose land acquisition for the plant due to environmental concerns. “Our yearly mango crop will get affected due to the soot from the plant. Local soil is made up of the porous Laterite stone, rainwater simply gets absorbed in the soil. Pollutants from the plant will contaminate our groundwater aquifers,” he said.

Another local villager Mr Fauzal Khishe said the plant will also affect the turtle nesting ground at Velas village, near the site.

However, Mr Arun Ramachandra, HHPC Founder and Director, told Business Line that a handful of people are opposing the project for their own interest. All State-level regulatory clearances have been received, though the final clearance from the Union Environment Ministry is awaited.

“The villagers fear the mango orchards would be enveloped with coal dust. To prevent such issues, all equipments including the barges, conveyers, and storage area would be well covered. All the fly ash from the plant would be collected and utilised for making of cement and ash bricks, tiles and paver blocks,” Mr Ramachandra said.

Further, HHPC would construct large cooling towers to cool the hot seawater (from the plant) to ambient sea temperature and then discharge it 2.5 km into the sea, so that no harm is caused to the marine life, he added.

>rahulw@thehindu.co.in

Published on October 31, 2011

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