This Article is From May 01, 2011

Fuelling dissent: Coal power plants

Ratnagiri: The Maharashtra Government has been aggressively marketing the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in Ratnagiri district. In the same area it is bringing in a huge line-up of coal-based power projects ignoring the pollution factor.

The village here has large-scale cashew, mango and coconut plantations. Not unusual for any village in this region. But this village is also under one of the proposed coal-based power projects. There are at least 15 such coal-based power projects on the anvil here, some of them barely a few kilometres apart.

It's no secret that coal-based projects extensively pollute water and land.

Its impact can be even more devastating, in a biodiversity hotspot famous for forests and horticultural produce.

Besides The JSW and Finolex Plants that are already operational there are others in the pipeline: Mahagenco Project, Dhopave; GMR Project, Bhopan;  Tiana Power Projects Pvt Ltd, Anjarle; NTPC, Munge; TATA, Dehrand.

"If every 15-20 km you put up a power plant, you may have an impact assessment for one, but what will be the cumulative impact assessment of all these coming up in this region? The government has no study on this," said Dr Vivek Bhide, Activist, Ratnagiri.

But the state government says that with the centre's moratorium on projects in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts these proposals are in abeyance. The government says it will take into consideration people's views before sanctioning projects.

"We need development but we are working to make sure it does not come at the cost of our environment," said Sachin Ahir, Minister of State, Environment.

The government's assurance aside, the dissent is growing as villagers near existing plants already face the ill-effects.

"You can maybe taste sea water, but not this well water. You can't even use it to wash your hands and feet. The skin develops an itch," said Vaman Gurav,  Villager, Kunbiwadi.

''You can see the impact on the mango plantations. The fly-ash has destroyed the flowering plantations," said Santosh Bole, Villager, Kunbiwadi.

Now the Jaitapur factor has given these smaller protests an added edge.