Monday, August 27, 2012

Stop blind push for Coal Fired Power Plants in Odisha!

Dear All,

Even as the state of Odisha continues its destructive move of establishing more and more coal fired power plants, the local people have upped their agitation against these destructive demons.  

Today, about three thousand villagers joined in a protest rally at Birmaharajpur of Subarnapur district against the proposed KU Power Plant at Pitamahul.  These villagers are from the four proposed villages to be displaced as well as nearby villages who are going to be severely affected by pollution and water scarcity if at all this plant comes up.

This proposed plant of 1320 MW is coming up in an area which is a parched region faced with acute water shortage during the non-monsoon months of the year.  The farmers here have been demanding assured irrigation but their demands have fallen into deaf years of the government. So, they are opposing the proposed power plant which is a water guzzling plant and will not only suck up all available water in the area but also will pollute the remaining water in the already water starved Mahanadi river.  

The local people of this area seem to be having more knowledge about impacts of the coal fired power plants than the Pollution Control Board officials and other officials of the government who have turned to be agents of the company and aggressively pushing through a coal fired power plant in an area where the local environment and water can never sustain such a power plant.  This is why the people of the area had strongly opposed the first public hearing that was held for this plant on 21st May this year.  The villagers complain that the company's hired goons and even the police department has been harassing them since then.  The leaders of this democratic people's agitation have been booked under several false charges.  

Today, as the villagers reported from the rally, the police as well as MVI officials did all that they could to harass and block the people from coming to the rally.  All vehicles leading to Birmaharajpur were interrogated and people who were commuting in groups in vehicles were stopped on way.  As a result, many people had to walk several kilometers on a sunny and humid day to participate in the rally.  Despite of all this tricks however people's enthusiasm could not be sabotaged by the company sponsored administration, as the agitators reported.  

In fact the government is planning to go ahead with the plant despite local people's opposition.  So, they are planning another public hearing on 1st of September in Subalaya, that is 6 kilometers away from the proposed site, and in a different Gram Panchayat. This will make the task easier for the government to debar the real people from attending, as it happens in almost all the public hearings in this country.  

We at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) strongly oppose such a move by the government and urge upon it to not move ahead with such polluting plants in an undemocratic manner. We have the following questions to be asked to the government and the Pollution Control Board (OPCB) in this regard:

1.  Mahanadi is already a water starved river basin and the proposed plant site does not have sufficient water during the non-monsoon months, that is almost 8 to 10 months.  Can you make public the water balance analysis of Mahanadi at that place giving us detailed analysis of all the pressure (both present and upcoming) that Mahanadi has to bear due to all the power plants and other industries.  

2.  Can you justify the setting up of such a water guzzling plant in an area where you have not been able to provide assured irrigation to all farmers?  Further, can you also justify the plant in such an area where water scarcity is acute during the summer?  If you recall, this summer, the fire brigade could not get water to douse the fire which devastated two villages not very far from the proposed plant site.  

3.  There is a ruling of the National Green Tribunal that all upcoming power plants must undertake Radiation Impact Assessment besides the existing practice of Environment Impact Assessment.  Where is the same for this proposed power plant?  Don't you think you are violating the NGT order in going ahead with the public hearing without conducting a Radiation Impact Assessment?

4.  It is evident now that fly ash management has emerged as a major problem for all coal fired power plants of the state.  The recent incidences of Hindalco, Shyam Metalics, Bhusan and Vedanta are cases in point.  You are yet to come up with a solid policy with regard to fly ash which is starting to pollute the environment in a devastating way.  How can you go in for any further power plant while you have miserably failed to manage the pollution of the existing power plants?

We have been warning that investments and MoUs must not be the basis of establishing coal fired power plants.  There is an urgent need of undertaking a cumulative ecological impact assessment study of all the existing power plants before going in for further plants.  And we urge upon you to do this with reliable independent experts not involving your Pollution Control Board.  Evidences are already enough that the OPCB acts for interest of the industries and not of the state and its environment.

Odisha's ecology, water to be specific, cannot bear the burden of the 75000 MW that you plan to generate in the state.  Despite knowing this, the way the government is pushing through this plan, it makes us believe that the government is trying to fuel agitations such as the one that is now growing around the KU Power Plant site. Further, the government is all set to make Odisha a water starved and severely polluted state in a few years. 

We urge upon the government to immediately scrap the MoU with KU Power Plant as well as all other plants which are coming up in areas which cannot bear the burden of such plans and where the local people are opposing to such plants for genuine reasons.  

Finally, stop selling Mahanadi river to corporate bodies!

Thanks and regards,

Ranjan Panda

Water Initiatives Odisha: Fighting water woes, combating climate change... more than two decades now!

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Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two decades now.

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