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Existing 4,000 MW power plant bad enough, and impacting health and livelihood, say residents

Tata Power Company Ltd, which runs a 4,000 MW ultra mega power project at Mundra in Kuchchh district of Gujarat, has plans to add another 1,600 MW capacity to the existing project. The public hearing for this expansion project was held on August 27. Fifteen villages which fall in the affected area of the proposed expansion attended the public hearing organized by the regional office of Gujarat Pollution Control Board and presided over by the district collector. The hearing lasted for more than eight hours.

Most residents opposed the project, saying the existing power plant is itself causing them a lot of trouble. Emissions from the plant are affecting one and all.

“When a resident of Navinal asked how far the stack emissions of the power plant would travel and where it would get deposited, the company had no answers,” says Bharath Patel of the local fisherworkers’ organization, Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (MASS). “Air pollution is taking a heavy toll on the people. Dust from the power plant gets deposited on the fields. Agricultural production has drastically gone down in the nearby villages. Besides this, asthma and other respiratory diseases are increasing in the area,” says Patel.

Fishers in the region are equally worried about their livelihood. “Before the power plant came up, there used to be lot of fish in the area. Now with the thermal power plant’s discharge, the fish catch has dropped. Because of the plant’s intake channel, our travel distance into the sea has been extended by an extra 70km.” says Harun Kara, a fisher from Tunda, a project affected village between the Tata Mundra and Adani power plants and suffers the worst from the pollution.

After expansion, the power plant would require about 47,390 cubic metre of water each hour. The water for the power project is presently being taken from the sea through a common water intake channel shared with the Adani thermal power plant nearby.

People also expressed their dissatisfaction over the grab of gauchar (grazing) land in the area by the companies, and their false promises of giving back the grabbed land.

“We raised the matter of livelihood during the hearing but the company had no answers to those. They kept repeating industrialisation would lead to development, ” adds Kara.

Project under World Bank scrutiny

The power plant, incidentally, is under World Bank scanner. The project was given a US $450 million loan by the World Bank. In July 2011, the bank received complaints from the local community, saying there is deterioration of water quality and fish populations, blocked access to fishing and drying sites, forced displacement of fishers, community health impacts due to air emissions, and destruction of natural habitats, particularly mangroves, because the project. Coalition Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) of World Bank is now reassessing the funding received by Tata to develop the project.

“The World Bank report is still pending and we are hopeful of receiving the report this September,” says Patel (See ‘IFC’s green claims ring hollow’ [2].

“Adanis and Tatas have already destroyed the area. Any further expansion in the area would need careful decision after a cumulative impact assessment and carrying capacity study in the area. And these studies should be done by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF),” says Debi Goenka of Conservation Action Trust, a Mumbai based Environmental NGO. MoEF should examine such projects in their entirety, rather than granting piecemeal clearances for each component, he adds.




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