Maharashtra- Protest brewing in Red zone as another project proposed in the tribal land


Gatta (Gadchiroli), May 18, 2013

 

PAVAN DAHAT, The Hindu

  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat

Suklal Baldir Topo, a Tribal of Jhajawandi village in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district, is a concerned man these days.

Suklal is concerned about the proposed JSW ISPAT Iron Ore Mining project in Damkodvadavi hills, hardly a few kilometers from his village.

“I have seen my son grow up here and then his sons and daughters. Where would we go if this project comes here” asks Suklal.

Almost all the villagers of 17 villages in Gatta and Gardewada Gram Panchayats in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district share Suklal’s concern.

The JSW ISPAT Steel Limited has proposed an iron ore mining unit over 751.04 hectares of land on Damkodvadavi hills to produce 5.5 MTPA (Maximum Rated Capacity) of Iron Ore for which crushing and screening plant (3 x 250 TPH) will be installed in the mine lease area.

The JSW has been given mining lease for a period of 20 years. The produce of this unit will be used to meet the iron ore requirements of JSW Steel plant in Dolvi, Maharashtra.

A public hearing related to the environment impact of this iron ore mine project was held in Allapalli town on May 8 in the absence of the villagers from all 17 villages.

The Public hearing took place despite the Gatta Gram Sabha passing a resolution against the proposed project on May 1.

“The company or the government officials did not make available any information about the effects of this project directly or indirectly to all 17 villages in Madia language. The company carried out study of the area from the census document of 2001.But the proposed project requires approval of the concerned villages Gram Sabhas which was never taken. Forest is the mainstay of Adivasis living near the proposed project site and mining will badly damage water, soil, forest and air resulting in danger to our lives. Which measures will the company take to prevent this damage? The project will endanger the lives of birds and animals in this area and destruction of forest will result in the imbalance of environment. This area does not have skilled people to be given employment in this project. We don’t trust the company and the government to keep their promises. This Gram Sabha passes a resolution that we oppose the proposed public hearing of the project and the government should not give permission for this project and if it has given the permission, then it should be cancelled ” reads the resolution passed by Gatta Gram Sabha, a copy of which is available with The Hindu.

Etapalli and Gatta are known to be Naxal zone and the Naxal’s writ runs large in the area after Gatta village.

The public hearing of the project was conducted 70 km away in Allapalli town for “security reasons”, according to Gadchiroli District Collector Abhishek Krishna.

But Mr. Krishna refused to comment when asked how the project will be put up if even a public hearing has to be conducted 70 km away.

“The District administration’s job was to help the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in conducting the public hearing and to send the proceedings to the government. The government will decide on the next course of action” said the Collector.

Hardly anyone in these villages knew about the proposed project until May 1, says Ravi Atram of Gatta village.

“There is something that this government is trying to hide. The advertisement of the public hearing was published in one English and one Marathi newspaper which hardly come to these interior areas” says activist Anand Dahagavkar.

“But the district authorities ignored the pleas of activists to postpone the public hearing in the absence of project affected people” said Amol Marakwar, the Zilla Parishad member of Gadchiroli who was present in the public hearing.

“The tribals depend on forest for their livelihood and this project, if granted permission, will destroy the tribal culture and life here. Everyone knows how much pollution an iron ore mine project causes” added Mr. Marakwar.

The Naxals have also jumped into the bandwagon and have made their opposition to the project clear.

According to some reliable sources, three days before the public hearing in Allapalli, the Naxals called a meeting of all the project affected villages and assured them the “CPI(Maoist)’s complete support against the Jindal project”.

Almost all the affected villages visited by this reporter in this area, do not want this project to come.

“We are happy with our life now. We will not leave this place even if they offer us Rs. 10 lakhs” says Madi Danu Hido of Kowanvarsi village.

According to activists, the JSW and the government have not said anything about the number villagers to be rehabilitated due to this project.

Rajan Malani of the JSW Ispat said “No village will be relocated. Everything is at an initial stage now. Just a public hearing has happened. And the public hearing was the administration’s lookout. They could have taken it in Nagpur. Our company is very strict about its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and we will do everything that can be done to help all these villages”.

“Mining does not cause much pollution. Our company and the government is very strict regarding this and all the environmental regulations will be followed strictly. And as far as security is concerned, again it’s administration’s responsibility. The government’s help will be taken for security” added Mr. Malani.

But Mr. Malani refused to comment on the resolution passed by Gatta Gram Sabha against the project.

The local MLA Deepak Atram who staged a token protest in Etapalli in protest of public hearing taking place in Allapalli says, “Whether we want it or not this project will come because the Jindal group is a strong group and they have government with them. They will put up CRPF camps if they decide to go ahead with the project”.

Mr. Atram does not have objection to the project but he expressed his displeasure over the way it is being brought.

“It will provide job opportunities to the educated youth of our region” says the MLA but has no answer when asked about the possible destruction of Tribal livelihood dependent on forest in this area.

But Mr. Atram as well as activists working in this area, are concerned about the possibility of an intensified conflict between the Naxals and security forces if the government remains adamant on bringing the project here “because the project’s proposed location is almost a Liberated Zone”.

 

Public hearing sans public for Jindal plant in Gadchiroli


Author(s):
Aparna Pallavi
Issue Date:
2013-5-13

Affected people stage boycott, administration carries on nevertheless

Additional collector  
Sanjay Dhivre, who chaired the public hearing, argues with activists  
protesting that the hearing was illegal (photos by Aparna Pallavi)Additional collector Sanjay Dhivre, who chaired the public hearing, argues with activists who were protesting that the hearing was illegal (Photos by Aparna Pallavi)

Despite a boycott staged by 17 villages affected by a proposed iron mine project, a public hearing for it was held at Alapalli in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district on May 8.

Additional collector Sanjay Dhivre, who chaired the hearing, and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) regional officer Nilkanth Nigul, who was part of the panel, ignored repeated pleas of activists and public to cancel the proceedings in view of the absence of the affected people and various illegalities committed by the Jindal group company and the administration in holding the hearing. They also pointed out that the panel of the public hearing was incomplete as per regulations since the sarpanch and gram sevaks of the two affected gram panchayats (Gardewada and Gatta) were not included on the panel.

Activist Harshali Poddar brought to the panel’s attention a gram sabha resolution drawn up by the residents of village Damkondwahi in the Gatta gram panchayat where the project by JSW Ispat Steel Limited has been proposed. The resolution, drawn on May 1, this year stated clearly the residents were against the project and directed the administration not to grant permission to the project. The resolution was submitted to the Etapalli tehsildar on the same day for appropriate action, but no cognisance was taken, she pointed out.

Activists and residents of Dhanora and Sironcha tehsils in the district who were attending the hearing in solidarity with the project-affected people raised slogans demanding the cancellation of the hearing. However, instead of taking cognizance of the grievances, Dhivre called the police to force the activists into silence.

Harsha Poddar and her colleague Anand are forced into silence by police  
personnel Harsha Poddar and her colleague Anand are forced into silence by police personnel

During the rest of the hearing, which lasted about three hours, repeated arguments broke out between Dhivre and the activists, resulting in several rounds of police intervention, and the speakers were forced to speak while being surrounded by police personnel.

EIA lies, procedural violations

During the hearing, Poddar and Anand from the Bharat Jan Andolan pointed out that MPCB had not displayed the notice of the public hearing at the Gadrewada and Gatta panchayat offices, and that only a single copy of the executive summary of the environment impact assessment (EIA) had been made available. What is more, JSW steel had not even submitted a Marathi EIA, as required by regulations. They also trashed the claims of MPCB of having issued public notices in a local English and Marathi newspaper, saying the affected people were highly vulnerable Madia tribals whose literacy rate was extremely low and no newspaper was available in the project area.

Poddar pointed out that the EIA itself contained many lacunae. For instance, while the June 26, 2009 notification of the Ministry of Environment and Forests mentioned allotting 995 hectares (ha) to the project, the EIA mentioned an additional 213 ha of which no account was given.

The EIA also did not provide the mandatory methodology and study details used to arrive at conclusions regarding various environmental aspects like flora and fauna, drainage patterns and so on. Several groups objected to the hearing being held at Allapalli, 80 km away from the project area, and demanded it be cancelled and rescheduled to be held where the affected people could attend. Others raised objections regarding the fact that the mine was not accompanied by industry which could generate local employment.

Anand exhibits evidence showing people in Gatta and Gadrewala had no  
notice of the public hearing   Anand exhibits evidence showing people in Gatta and Gadrewala had no notice of the public hearing

Irfan Khan, a resident of Etapalli tehsil where the project area is located, said the project should not be justified on grounds of corporate responsibility promises made by the Jindal group, “Government should organise for education and welfare on its own, not depend on corporate,” he said.

Some 100 bogus speakers recruited by the company, comprising rural women from Gadchiroli who were not sure why they had been brought there, and company employees were not allowed to speak at the hearing by the activists.

Administration ‘unaware’ of procedural lapses

Talking to Down To Earth after the hearing, additional collector Dhivre made a surprising statement. Whether the hearing was legal or not was none of his business, he said. “I had been asked to chair the proceedings, and I have done that,” he said.

MPCB regional officer Nigul said he had received no objections regarding procedural violations since the public hearing notice was put up. “We cannot entertain objections at the last moment,” he said. He also denied knowledge of the gram sabha resolution opposing the project.

The brazen manner in which the hearing was conducted has led to widespread public discontent in the area. MLA Namdeo Usendi of Gadchiroli has issued an objection letter to the administration regarding the issue. Local MLA Deepak Atram, who had demanded that the protest be held at Etapalli, and held a protest during the hearing itself, has also extended support to the protest against the hearing. Vidarbha Environment Action Group, which was instrumental in forcing Wardha district administration to organise a repeat public hearing for Lanco Infratech’s coal fired power plant, is preparing to challenge the hearing in court, informed Sudhir Paliwal of the group.

 


Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/public-hearing-sans-public-jindal-plant-gadchiroli

 

Mumbai Residents protest Tata Power’s modernisation plans for Trombay plant


Akshay Deshmane
Issue Date:
2013-3-14

Modernisation will increase pollution, say residents

Residents and political parties of Chembur in Mumbai have rejected Tata Power’s plans to modernise Unit 6 of its Trombay Thermal Power Station, show recently released minutes of a public hearing held in January. The company plans to convert fuel of the unit 6 of the power plant from low sulphur heavy stock/ low sulphur fuel oil (LSHS/LSFO) to low sulphur imported coal. The residents say the modernisation would lead to extreme pollution.

The Tata Power Company-owned thermal power station at Trombay has an installed capacity of 1,580 MW with five units, two coal powered, one each using oil and gas, and one a combined cycle power plant. One unit is on standby.

The minutes of the meeting, which was forcefully suspended by political parties, were compiled by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). Seema Mahulkar, a Mahul village resident, says, “The modernisation project (has been) proposed by Tata Power due to economic constraints and to meet the power demand of Mumbai city is going to consume more coal and this will increase pollution in Chembur area. There is already effect of pollution on the health of people living in Mahul, Gawanpada, Ambapada, Trombay, Mandala and Mankhurd villages.”

Unanswered questions

Advocate Naina Pardeshi sought to highlight the violation of natural law of justice. “The environmental impact assessment (EIA) report is prepared by a Tata research institute. This is against natural justice. TCE Consulting Engineers is one of the shareholding institutes of Tata Group, which has prepared this report and thus cannot be impartial. Hence it is very essential to keep it aside,” she says, adding “Neither the present rate of electricity is given nor the details of the concession given to customers after the project is mentioned…cost of sulphur dioxide removal plant is in crores…this cost is not mentioned. Ash will be utilised for brick making and mixing in cement concrete. Where are such projects located nearby? Where will this ash be taken? What are the effects of ash if it is spilled during transportation?”

Resident Suprada Prakash Fatarfekar questioned the quality of regulation done by MPCB over pollution caused by existing industries in the vicinity. “What measures has MPCB taken for the abatement of pollution in Mahul and Ambapada villages? What measures has MPCB taken for the abetment of pollution due to HPCL and BPCL? First stop existing pollution due to these industries. I would like to tell you that vomiting and dizziness are old stories, now women are suffering from miscarriages. Who is responsible for this?” she asked.

Local member of Legislative Assembly Chandrakant Handore demands a fresh EIA report be prepared by “other well known organisations” like NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute).

Dirty fuel to replace cleaner fuels

In a separate note sent to the MPCB and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Debi Goenka, trustee of Conservation Action, has raised 62 queries about the EIA report prepared by the Tata Consulting Engineers and comments and suggestions on as many as 92 Terms of Reference finalised by the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF. The activist, who filed a case against a similar plan by the company in the Bombay High Court, said his essential allegation was against the company’s stated claim of “modernisation” itself. “Coal burning power plant technology is more than 100 years old. This does not seem to be a “modernisation” but a subterfuge to change from clean fuels such as gas and oil to a dirty fuel such as coal.”

Officials from the MPCB’s Mumbai divisional office said the ball is now in the MoEF’s court as far as clearance for the conversion is concerned. Tata Power Company Limited did not respond to all queries and allegations despite a detailed email questionnaire sent by Down To Earth.

However, company officials pointed to its position on some of the allegations, articulated in a few of the public statements made by the company. On the question of using a Tata group company for preparing the EIA report, it said, “ The EIA for the proposed modernisation plan was conducted as per the Terms of Reference approved MoEF. The study was carried out by TATA Consulting Engineers Ltd, which is an independent agency approved and accredited by Quality Council of India (QCI) NABET for conducting such studies.”

In its previous statement concerning pollution control initiatives, the company claimed to have implemented the following measures:

  • At the Trombay Thermal Power Station, environment management is one of the key focus areas. This is ensured through emission controls, fuel controls, efficiency and heat rate improvement and stringent monitoring of ambient air quality.
  • In addition to using low sulphur high calorific value imported coal, additional flue gas desulfurization (FGD) and Electrostatic Precipitators (ESP) are also being installed to conform to presently prescribed stringent SO2 emissions norm and to prevent particulate matter from escaping into the environment.
  • The ash generated and collected by the ESP will be used in ready mix concrete (RMC) to make cement bricks by infrastructure companies.
  • The dust emission during coal handling and storage within the premises will be sustainably suppressed by using recycled water, while an enclosed unloading system (screw-type unloader) will be used to minimize dust emission during unloading of coal from barges.
  • Adequate green cover around the coal yard has been developed to control fugitive dust emission during the coal handling operations. Areas around coal stock yard and coal handling unit area is developed as a shelter belts with plantation of bamboos and other species.
  • Water spraying system is installed at coal yard as well as coal berth to further control fugitive coal dust.

 


Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/residents-protest-tata-power-s-modernisation-plans-trombay-plant

 

Green Tribunal rejects plea against Jaitapur Nuclear project


May 25, 2012 03:43 PM

The Tribunal dismissed the plea of Janahit Seva Samiti saying the petition was filed after a delay of 294 days

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has refused to entertain a petition challenging the environment clearance (EC) granted to 9,900MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park in Maharashtra‘s Ratnagiri district in West India on the ground that the plea was time barred, reports PTI.

The Tribunal dismissed the plea of Janahit Seva Samiti, an NGO,challenging the 26 November 2010 EC granted by Indian Ministry of
Environment and Forest (MoEF) to the project, saying the petition wasfiled after a delay of 294 days on 17 September 2011 and hence was”grossly barred by time”.

As per the NGT Act, a plea can be filed within 30 days of passing of an order sought to be challenged and the Tribunal, to its
satisfaction, can condone a further delay of 60 days.

“As stated earlier, this Tribunal being a statutory authority is bound by the provisions of the statute and cannot traverse beyond provisions of the NGT Act. Under Section-16 (relating to appellate jurisdiction of NGT) there is clear bar not to entertain appeal filed beyond 60 days,” a bench headed by Tribunal’s Acting Chairperson Justice AS Naidu said.

“Though this Tribunal is liberal in condoning the delay, as and when it finds sufficient reasons and is not super-technical, but then being
a statutory tribunal it cannot ignore the period stipulated in the statute.

“In view of the discussions made above, we are not inclined to condone the delay and dismiss this petition.

Consequently, the appeal also stands dismissed,” it added.

The plea was filed by Maharashtra-based NGO Janahit Seva Samiti contending that “project is likely to cause hazard to the environment
as well as ecology”.

The NGO had pleaded that the NGT Act came into force from 18 October 2010, but the Tribunal started functioning only from June 2011, and it (NGO) took all “effective and diligent steps to file the appeal as early as possible”.

The plea was “strongly opposed” by MoEF, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, contending that delay could not be condoned as they have “substantially gone ahead with the project”, incurred huge expenses and “any hindrance at this stage would cause great prejudice”.

The bench noted that as the Tribunal started functioning only from June 2011, the Supreme Court had in a judgement extended the period for filing an appeal by 60 days commencing from 30 May 2011 and “thus the last date for filing an appeal was extended till 30 July 2011”.

“The appellant (NGO) failed to avail the opportunity granted by the Supreme Court and did not file the appeal within extended period too.

“The appeal was filed only in the month of September 2011. Thus, the same is grossly barred by time,” the bench said.

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