'Assess power plant’s impact on mango belt'
Mumbai, April 28, 2007
As the first batch of Konkan’s famed Alphonso mangoes takes off for export to the United States amidst dissolving trade barriers, farmers from the region have got the Bombay High Court to address their fears on the impact of a proposed power plant in coastal Ratnagiri on their orchards.
Chief Justice Swatantra Kumar and Judge S Dharmadhikari on Thursday have ordered the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), the region’s leading agricultural university Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth and National Environmental Engineering Reasearch Institute, to assess the ecological impact of the 1200 megawatt plant by JSW Energy Ltd, formerly Jindal Thermal Power Company). The judges have asked the bodies to report the results to the court in two months.
The plant, along with five other proposed power projects along the Konkan, is expected to plug the state’s shortfall of 5500 MW. In mid-April, HT had first reported on how Konkan struggles to reconcile the need to address the state’s power shortages with the growing aspirations of its mango farmers and a viable agriculture.
The plant, which will burn 4.1 million tones of coal each year, is located in the heart of the state’s famed mango land, spread over 1,025 acres in Ratnagiri's Nandivde and Jaigad villages, 390 km south of Mumbai. A committee under the central Ministry of Environment and Forests is currently considering its environmental clearance.
But in the meantime, farmers and fishing settlements in the surrounding villages worrying about the impact of the fly ash emission and the potential climate change, galvanised into the Ratnagiri Zilla Jagruk Manch (Ratnagiri district awarness forum) and moved court.
The forum’s lawyer Advocate V Gangal said, “The judges accepted our argument that no proper assessment of the plant’s polluting impact had been done. The Environmental Impact Assessment report and public hearing process was faulty and local gram panchayats had not been provided with copies contrary to law.” But MPCB Director D Boralkar rejected the contention that his body had not carried out the process properly.
HT had also reported how the university in collaboration with JSEW would carry out a survey spread over three years to assess the impact of the plant on the area’s agriculture and fisheries. But Boralkar said that two months was adequate to carry out the study of this kind. “You leave it to us experts to implement the court’s order. The basic data of the power plant is already there in the existing EIA report.”
© Copyright 2007 Hindustan Times