MORE FOREST LAND TO ADANI GROUP FOR ITS GONDIA PROJECT
After being sanctioned 148 hectares of forest land in Gondia for power plant in 2014, the group likely to get additional 141.99 ha in the same area for research centre.
Three years after the Centre set aside 148.59 hectares of forest land in Vidarbha’s Gondia district for the construction of a coal-based thermal power plant by the Adani Group, the Ahmedabadbased conglomerate is set to take over another 141.99 hectares of land in the same forest, this time courtesy both the Centre and the state government.
The group, led by industrialist Gautam Adani, has already received a stage-one clearance from the forest authorities, even as opposition parties and green activists are calling the move a systematic destruction of the forest which is less than 10 km from Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve, located 970 km from Mumbai. What remains now is a nod from the Centre.
Documents obtained by Mumbai Mirror revealed the Adani Group, which set up six units in the area in 2014, each having a capacity to generate 660 MW power, wants additional land for ash utilisation and to construct a research centre.
The reason for demanding additional land is significant, considering in November last year, Maharashtra became the first state in the country to adopt fly ash utilisation policy, wherein fly ash generated from thermal power plants will be used to make bricks, blocks, tiles, wall panels, cement, and other construction materials.
Documents accessed by Mirror said the state forest department officials didn’t raise any objections whatsoever to the Adani Group’s demand for additional land in the area, estimated worth Rs 8.88 crore. The forest officials, in fact, said in a note to the state government that the land demanded was located far from the vicinity of the Navegaon National Park.
A site inspection report prepared by deputy conservator of forests (Gondia) JS Jamgaonkar gave the project an all-clear, saying the land was “outside the buffer zone of Navegaon National Park and the notified eco-sensitive zone around the tiger reserve”.
The forest department note also included a remark by the Gondia district collector, who said all alternatives “had been explored”, and the forest land demanded was “barest minimum”. The note, signed by the principal chief conservator for forests, said the land acquisition by the Adani Group will result in industrial growth and employment for a hundred local residents directly and 250 residents indirectly.
Surprisingly, the principal chief conservator of forests, Shree Bhagwan, said he had not cleared any such note, and that he wasn’t even aware of such land transfer. “Maybe this file was cleared before I took over,” he said, even as a senior executive of the Adani Group said that the conglomerate has been directed to deposit the requisite money to take over the land.
A spokesperson from the Adani Power Maharashtra Limited said, “We applied for the diversion of 141.99 hectares of protected forest land and jungle in Kachewani and Mendipur villages for the development of ash utilisation promotion and research park. The proposal was recommended by the forest advisory committee. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has issued an in-principle approval for diversion with terms and conditions, and the deputy conservator of forests, Gondia has issued the compliance order.”
In 2014, the Adanis were allotted 148.59 hectares of land in the area (around 370 acres) after a six-year wait (‘Centre clears 370-acre forest land for Adani’s Gondia power project’, MM, October 23, 2014). The tract was identified by the conglomerate in 2008, but final clearances were granted only after Narendra Modi-led NDA came to power.
The estimated cost of construction of the fly ash utilisation plant and the research centre is around Rs 100 crore, and will result in cutting down more than 1,400 trees. The compensatory afforestation (planting of trees of making up for culled forestland) will be done at Sawarde in Ratnagiri district, which is a part of the Koyna Wildlife Reserve.
The land acquisition proposal drafted by senior Adani Group executive Vishwas Karanjgaonkar said the plot in question “did not support good vegetation, nor was any wildlife spotted there”. The proposal further said the plot was ideal for “pneumatic transfer of fly ash in an environment-friendly manner”.
Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said such land handovers suggested the government and the business houses were “trampling on environment laws”, while environmentalist Kishor Rithe from Satpuda Foundation said taking over Forest land should be the last resort. “I have sent two letters opposing the handover of the land,” Rithe said, adding, “If Gautam Adani is a responsible industrialist, why should he look at the forest land to dump waste?”
The green brigade said it was even more important to protect forests considering the region was already bearing the brunt of climate change. “One of the country’s most precious forest areas is sought to be destroyed in the name of development when precisely the opposite will result after Vidarbha’s water sources are damaged on account of deforestation and pollution,” said Bittu Sahgal, editor of Sanctuary Asia. “Such a move beggars belief at a time when coal mines the world over are shutting down because solar and wind energy are out-performing fossil fuel energy,” he said.
Bandu Dhotre, the honorary wildlife warden of the state, pointed out that tigers in Vidarbha were already facing a space crunch. “Industries should use private land instead of forest areas,” Dhotre said.
The march, among ther things, was to protest against the proposed construction of a zoo on around 150 to 200 acres of Aarey Milk Colony land. The tribal community members who took part in the protest allege that the government departments have not provided them basic amenities like water connections and electricity in some of the hamlets because of which they face a lot of problems.
The tribals were also opposing the ongoing survey where it is said that they will also the given resettlement and rehabilitation. The members of Shramajeevi Sanghatna also took part in the protest and supported the demands raised by the tribals from Aarey.
“We have been staying here since more than 100 years and we have documents to support our claim. The overwhelming response received to the morcha proves that our community members are opposed to the idea of doing our rehabilitation at some another place. We want the Tribal Welfare Department to do our survey and our views should also be taken into consideration before before taking any decision about our resettlement and rehabilitation.” said Ankhush Bhoir, one of the tribal community leaders.
he morcha that started at Picnic Point, close to the proposed Metro car shed site, ended at Aarey CEO’s office.
Prakash Bhoir, one of the tribal members, who was part of the morcha, said, “The illegal slums in Aarey get legal water connections as well as electricity connections but we despite having stayed here since ages and having all the proofs are deprived of basic facilities. The only problem in getting these immunities is because the CEO office does not give NOC and we want to request the government that the NOC should be given at the earliest so that we can get the benefits of electricity connection and water connection.”
source – mumbai