Chhattisgarh's Industrial Jungle
Chhattisgarh is set to become the largest producer of thermal power, cement and sponge iron. The push is on to install 77 per cent of India's current thermal power capacity, 51 per cent of the …
The rich green fields of Darramuda village in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh were almost peaceful. A JCB backhoe loader whirred on as it dug in and pulled out lumps of wet brown earth.
The crane inched along carving a neat road on the fertile fields. The people of Darramuda, in Kharsia tehsil of Chhattisgarh, believe this is the road to their doom. For SKS Ispat and Power it is the road to their thermal power plant.
An upcoming steel and power player, the company had proposed a 1,200 MW power plant in Darramuda. The villagers did not want their land to go to the company; they were against acquisition. On May 13, when three company officials came to the village to negotiate land prices, the residents held them captive for hours. They stripped their shirts, blackened the faces and made them do sit-ups wearing a garland of shoes.
A large posse of police reached the village when they learnt of the incident and used tear gas and lathi charge to disperse residents. In the stampede, 70- year-old Padum Ram was run over by the sub-divisional district magistrate's car. "The police left me bleeding. It did not arrange for any medical care," he told Down To Earth. The next day, 17 residents of the village were arrested. His brother is among those in prison.
The villagers allege they were threatened to sell land in lieu of the imprisoned villagers. "We made several efforts to save our village but in the end we had to settle with the company. They wouldn't release the detained otherwise," Padum informed. The power plant's public hearing was held amid tight security of about 1,500 policemen on May 17. The hearing is the procedural step towards environmental clearance where the affected people give their verdict on the project. In this case the verdict was a trade-off for the prisoners. "We could have saved our village if only someone had listened to us. Eleven of us went to Raipur to meet the chief minister of Chhattisgarh. We were made to wait the entire day, but no one heard us," Ram Nath, an aggrieved resident, said.
The acquisition will affect about 300 households in the village.
There are many Darramudas brewing in Chhattisgarh today as its rapid pace of industrialisation gobbles up more and more villages.
Chhattisgarh is industrialising fast: within 10 years of its creation, the state has 200 large industrial units and scores of small ones. More than 700 are on their way. A handful of units existed when this largely agricultural state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000. Known as central India's rice bowl, Chhattisgarh is speeding towards industrialisation.
The state has 10,300 MW of coalbased power capacity, including the captive 2,063 MW that industry consumes. This is about 12 per cent of India's current coal-based power capacity. To this, it will add 56,000 MW, which is 65 per cent of the country's coal-based installed capacity, as per the Central Electricity Authority. Nearly two-thirds of this capacity are planned in Raigarh (37 per cent) and Janjgir- Champa (34 per cent).
The state's sponge iron capacity of eight million tonnes per annum (mtpa) is 27 per cent of India's and is second only to Orissa. But Chhattisgarh will soon surpass its neighbour as it has big plans for sponge iron. Chhattisgarh's planned capacity will equal India's current total capacity.
Chhattisgarh also has 13.8 mtpa cement capacity, contributing six per cent to the country's. The state's sights are set on becoming the cement capital of India by adding 100 mtpa to its cement capacity, 51 per cent of the country's present installed capacity.
Most of the rural population, including 32 per cent tribals, live on agriculture and non-timber forest produce. As the state rushes to industrialise, it is diverting to industry, land and foressts that sustain this population.
Between 1999 and 2007 Chhattisgarh lost 82,300 hectare (ha) of its forests that covered 41.3 per cent of its area, according to the Forest Survey of India .
Mining: free for all?
Obtaining a mine lease or setting up a company in Chhattisgarh is easy. On June 2, 2004, Pushp Steel and Mines Limited was formed. The same day, with a capital of Rs 1 lakh, it applied for an iron ore mining lease in Chhattisgarh. The state government recommended to the Centre a prospecting licence for the company, allowing detailed exploration of minerals, and a year later a mining lease in its favour. The state government also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the company, in June 2005—six months after granting the prospecting licence, to set up a Rs 300- crore sponge iron plant in Durg. The Delhi High Court passed an order on July 20 this year and cancelled the lease. It asked the state to carry out a fresh round of applications. The petition was filed by the rival S K Sarawagi and Company. But the state mining secretary, S K Behar, is undeterred. He said, "Mining should be promoted; it brings in revenue."
This when the Union ministry of Mines speaks of two crucial prerequisites for a licence: the company's financial resources and mining experience. The Rs 1 lakh capital of Pushp Steel is a clear bypass; so is the lack of mining experience, it being a new company. This brings to light the carelessness with which the state is treating its resources.
The state government has signed 115 MoUs , based on which the companies will submit project proposals. The proposed investment of these MoUs is Rs 1,76,193 crore. Each of the MoUs is in turn a gamut of projects taking the total number to five times—543. Twelve MoUs have moved two stages—companies have submitted project proposals, based on which the Union environment ministry issued them terms of reference (TOR) for the environment impact assessment (EIA).
Adding up 76 projects that have been cleared, 138 projects in the process of being cleared and projects for which MoUs have been signed, the sum total comes to a mind-boggling 745. "Industrialisation has grown at a tremendous pace since the state was formed," said Devji Bhai Patel, MLA from Raipur who belongs to the BJP, the ruling party in the state. But the concentration of industrial units started taking place in 2002, the state industries secretary, P Ramesh Kumar, said. Some pockets were designated industrial estates, but not with much effect. "At the time no one could assess the impact of industrial concentration," he added.
According to the Reserve Bank of India, Chhattisgarh's revenue in 2008-09 was Rs 16,778 crore. As per the state's Directorate of Geology and Mining, Chhattisgarh earned Rs 1,237 crore as mineral revenue that year which was a minuscule 7.4 per cent of the state's total revenue. Coal contributed the maximum by raking in close to Rs 1,000 crore, followed by limestone (Rs 67 crore) and iron ore (Rs 61 crore). While these are the state earnings from minerals, the value of these minerals produced was close to Rs 10,457 crore for 2008-09. The revenue is a mere 12 per cent of the value of minerals.
But the question also is if the revenue, whatever the amount, will justify the enormous volume of resources it will exploit? The annual water requirement for these 745 projects is estimated at 3,000 million cubic metre (mcm); this could meet the domestic water requirement of about 274 million people, 13 times the population of Chhattisgarh. According to the directorate, 75,000 ha is under mining. Official records peg the land requirement for projects cleared and in pipeline at 65,000 ha.
Estimated land requirement for the MoUs is an additional 50,000 ha. The coal requirement for the 56,000 MW planned power capacity will be an astounding 311 million tonnes. The devastation of this enormous coal consumption and combustion cannot be envisaged as yet.
For example, power generation in the state alone will produce 133 million tonnes of flyash. It will generate more than one million tonne of suspended particulate matter (SPM) annually; three million tonnes each of oxides of sulphur and oxides of nitrogen will also be generated. The government is prepared. Are the people ready? Are they willing?
Where power kills
Located on the banks of the Mahanadi, a predominantely agricultural district, Janjgir-Champa is poised to become a industrial hub as several mega projects are planned there. Four thermal power plants have got clearance and 13 are under process. Two biomass-based thermal power plants are also planned.
The district's power capacity is restricted to a captive capacity of 121 MW. The 17 thermal power plants planned will take the district's capacity to 17,500 MW. The state has signed MoUs with 14 companies for 62 projects worth Rs 22,586 crore mainly for cement, sponge iron and steel plants. Twelve MoUs are for thermal power plants, mostly captive, bringing the planned capacity in the district to 19,000 MW.
Projects cleared and in pipeline will occupy 7,059 ha, as per official record. Estimated land requirement for projects under the MoUs is 6,000 ha. Take the case of Dabhra block. It has planned nine thermal power plants ; all within a radius of 10 km. But there is no effort to assess the total impact of these projects. The current system clears each project individually—there is no regard to the total resource need and environmental damage of the combined projects.
The water requirement of all the projects planned in Janjgir-Champa is pegged at about 700 mcm per year; water for the 17 thermal power plants is proposed to be drawn from the Mahanadi. These thermal power plants alone will withdraw 660 mcm of water. "We will not allow these proposed plants till they get the water clearance," state environment minister Rajesh Munat said. "A study to assess the water situation is important even though we have ample water," he added.
Uchpinda village in the block is seeing construction for a 1,400 MW facility by RKM Powergen, a Chennai-based power company. The village has 700 people. More than half the required land has been acquired from the villagers and most of it is agricultural land. On June 30, 2010, the managing director of RKM Powergen had plans to meet the people regarding the project. There was obvious tension in the air.
Pujeri Das, husband of Uchpinda's sarpanch, alleged that the company bought land at variable rates. The public hearing held in April 2008 was marred by violence; people burnt banners. The project was cleared in August that year. "We did not want a factory in our village. We are self-sufficient; we make chakki (manual flour grinder) and sillodha (grinder) out of stone. Why do we need a factory?" Das asked. The residents of Uchpinda and adjoining villages, Dhurkot, Bandhapali, Dhobnipali and Singhitarai, have filed a complaint with the chief minister dismissing the public hearing as invalid. They are still waiting for a response. Manohar Joshi of Dhobnipali village said, "We were against the project at the public hearing. No one from the company spoke of the project impact or benefits we will get."
In Dhurkot village in Dabhra, Bhushan Steel and Power's 1,000 MW thermal power plant is proposed. It needs 500 ha of land; none of it has been acquired. The public hearing was conducted in May, it now awaits clearance. The hearing was held about 35 km from the site; even then there was more than 70 per cent objection to the project. The villagers are determined not to allow the plant and say they will intensify the protest in case the project gets cleared. They persist that theirs is fertile land and factories are supposed to be on barren land. But is anybody listening?
Earlier renowned for its tussar silk, Raigarh is now a growing hub for the steel and power market. This is the district where the Jindal group has established its empire—the iron and steel plant, the thermal power plant, the industrial park and the coal mines. The company's coal-based sponge iron facility is the world's largest and lies just a few kilometres from Raigarh city.
With many more players queueing up to set up factories in Raigarh and 50 projects on their way, the district tops the charts. In addition, there are MoUs with 28 companies for 188 projects worth Rs 61,494 crore. And all this over and above existing industries; official estimates count 53 large-scale and 37 small-scale industrial plants—sponge iron plants, iron and steel plants and thermal power plants are the common projects. The district also has 195 mining projects, which are either in the mining or in the prospecting stage.
Raigarh's coal-based thermal power capacity is 1,420 MW, including a captive capacity of 390 MW. The district is planning to set up 16,155 MW of coalbased power capacity. Fourteen power projects are in the clearance or the TOR stages while for 30 power plants, MoUs have been signed. This will push up the planned power capacity in the district to over 20,000 MW, 23 per cent of India's present coal-based power capacity.
About 30,000 ha of land will be needed for the planned projects, requiring 980 mcm of water per year. Eleven of the 14 planned thermal power plants in Raigarh will withdraw water from the Mahanadi requiring 700 mcm. The district's main river Kelo does not have sufficient water to supply any of the industrial plants. When the projects which have just signed an MoU are added to the tally, the requirements will go up.
"Unfortunately, we have coal now, but 10 years later we will have only flyash," said A C Maloo, Raigarh regional officer of Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board (CECB), the state pollution control board. "Everyone makes power and takes away our coal to leave behind waste and pollution," he added. The Directorate of Geology and Mining estimates that half of Chhattisgarh's coal is in Raigarh. Sponge iron units are causing enough pollution and now, Maloo feared, Raigarh's future will be covered in toxic flyash, which the chimneys of coal-fired power plants will spout.
Yet Raigarh does not appear in the Central Pollution Control Board's (CPCB) list of most critically polluted areas in the country. The district has just two monitoring stations providing data on the ambient air quality. With such inadequate monitoring infrastructure, the pollution data is underplayed.
Owing to the large-scale pollution in the district with flyash dumped on roadsides, agricultural fields being rendered unproductive due to improper char disposal, people are already angry about the industrial rush in Raigarh.
A number of public hearings have witnessed protests and open conflict between residents and project proponents. In January 2008, at the public hearing for Jindal Gare coal mines at Khamaria block, there was lathi charge when people started protesting. In August the same year, after violent protest, the police resorted to lathi charge at Mahapalli village. This disrupted the public hearing being held for the expansion of the sponge iron facility of Indus Energy.
People shun public hearings and call them a sham. Raghuvir Pradhan of Ekta Parishad , an NGO working in Chhattisgarh, asserted, "Public hearings are a formality the state government carries out, no rules are followed, false reports are sent to the ministry. Even the video footage is tampered with."
In June 2009, in a hearing for an industrial estate at Lara, people were arrested following protests and lathi charge. In October 2009, at a public hearing for a thermal power plant of Visa Power, villagers burnt the tents a day before the scheduled hearing to register their protest. The Jindal power plant expansion at Tamnar witnessed protests like never before; the public hearing lasted 12 hours in May 2010.
As a result of the growing protests in the district, the number of police at the public hearings exceeds the number of people, admitted Raigarh Superintendent of Police, Rahul Sharma. "People in Raigarh believe if they disrupt a hearing, the project will not get clearance. Instead of expressing their concern and registering their opinion on the project, people tend to get aggressive and resort to violence," Maloo complained. Raghuvir explained that most of these protests happen because people don't want to give away their land at any cost.
Land for industries is acquired either through the government or through private negotiations with land owners. The government categorises agricultural land as single crop, double crop or barren. Compensation is determined depending on the category. After the government rates were revised in March, the compensation for doublecrop irrigated land went up from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh an acre (0.4 ha). The rate for single-crop un-irrigated land increased from Rs 75,000 to Rs 8 lakh an acre and barren land, which fetched Rs 50,000 compensation now receives Rs 6 lakh per acre.
But this is more often in theory than practice, said Dayal Chand Soni, resident of Dhurkot. "Land in our village has been falsely categorised, bringing the category down by a notch or two as the government plans to acquire it for the company."
Most of the project proponents prefer to deal directly with villagers since government procedure takes a long time and often leads to severe protests. Project proponents are known to use subterfuge and muscle-flexing.
"Company officials said, 'if you don't give us the land, we will acquire it through the government and you will get less'," said Das. This threat is fast becoming common. Another popular tactic is: acquiring the village common land first. This seldom meets with protest since the land does not belong to any individual. Once the common land is acquired in patches, companies acquire from those who are willing to sell. Then the company can acquire the remaining land using force or money.
Villagers allege this is the manner in which the Jindal group acquired land for its 1,000 MW power plant in Tamnar in Raigarh. "The company bought some land through personal negotiations, some it acquired through the government and the rest was encroached upon," Shankar Patnaik, Tamnar resident, said. People are not happy with the compensation they received. According to another resident, Satyam Patnaik, "The management's attitude towards land acquisition is not acceptable; we were not compensated properly either with money or in terms of employment promises."
Pointing at the Jindal power plant's cooling towers, Raghunath Choudhary of Saliabhata village, next to Tamnar, said the land where the cooling towers stand is his. "They acquired the surrounding land and encroached on mine when I refused to sell," he said. He has filed complaints with the gram sabha, the police, the collector, and finally, with the court. Choudhary is without land and without compensation even after the tehsildar's court, the local revenue officer's, ordered the land be restored to him. His petition in the Bilaspur High Court is awaiting judgement since 2007.
The battle for land is also a battle against hunger. "A massive amount of land has been given to industry already. This has increased food insecurity in the state," said Gautam Bandyopadhyay of Nadi-Ghati Morcha, an NGO working on land and water in Chhattisgarh. An astounding 10,200 ha of paddy area was diverted for industry and other uses in 2009-10, according to Devji Patel who reconfirmed the figure with the state land department. State environment minister Munat said if all MoUs are executed, land will become a worrisome matter for the state.
Agricultural land is just one part of the story.
Forests, no more
According to official estimates, about 13,000 ha of forestland has been diverted to industry since 2000. This includes projects granted forest clearance and those granted in-principle clearance. Of the land diverted, 97 per cent has been for mining. Bilaspur district is the most affected with 2,050 ha of forestland diversion mostly for coal mining. Raigarh comes second with about 1,000 ha of forestland dievrted for coal mining. Proposals for projects requiring diversion of another 13,000 ha of forestland are pending.
In addition, about 7,000 ha of forestland is up for grabs as prospecting for minerals has alread started there. There have been instances of industry bypassing laws and exploiting forestland. The Bharat Aluminium Company Limited (BALCO) in 2005, cut down thousands of trees and encroached on 405 ha for its expansion project. Similarly, when Essar Steel cut trees in Bastar to create a corridor for its project, no action was taken against the company except imposing a minor fine. The state ranks second in terms of forestland diverted for mining projects—accounting for 15 per cent of India's total forestland diverted for mining.
The mineral-rich districts in the state have more than 30 per cent of their area under forests. In Korba, 78 per cent of forestland has been affected due to mining activity, said a 2006 study by the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing in Dehradun. Of this, six per cent has been completely converted, where mining and associated industrial activities take place. Fifty-five per cent have become barren and wasteland as a result. And 17 per cent of forestland have become highly degraded forests.
In Korba, mining activity has affected forests beyond the lease area, the 2006 study found. Most of the villagers are traditional forest dwellers. They don't have documents to prove they own the land. When displaced from their centuries-old dwelling they are denied compensation and employment.
What do tribals get?
The state maintains no statistics on the number of tribals displaced by mining and industrial projects. But the perception is that this number is big. About 39 per cent of the state's population lives below the poverty line, as per the state's vision document for 2010. Of the seven key mining districts in the state, six figure in the Planning Commission's list of 150 most backward districts in the country; Dantewada and Bastar are among the top 10.
Mining companies give peanuts back to the community. South Eastern Coalfields Limited, a subsidiary of Coal India, spent about Rs 7.4 crore in 2009 on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the region while it made profits to the tune of Rs 2,117.2 crore. National Mineral Development Corporation, India's largest iron ore producing company, spent about Rs 85 crore on CSR when its profit was close to Rs 3,450 crore. The private sector is far worse compared to these public sector undertakings. To give an example, Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) spent a meagre Rs 12.2 crore on CSR in 2009-10 when its profit last year was Rs 1,537 crore.
The surge in industrialisation has evidently benefited a very small section depriving a majority of the population. It is depriving them of land, resources, and water. Mine no more is their plea.
Of the 118 proposed projects, for which data is available, 33 plan to withdraw water from the Mahanadi, Chhattisgarh's main river. The water requirement of projects withdrawing water from the river stands at 1,500 mcm per year. If the water requirement of projects withdrawing from its tributaries—Lilagarh, Hasdeo and Seonath—are added, the withdrawal jumps to 2,700 mcm.
Say, the water withdrawal of the existing industries is 1,000 mcm, total withdrawal from the Mahanadi would go up to 3,700 mcm. Thermal power plants, known to guzzle water, would be withdrawing close to 1,500 mcm every year. The estimate is based on data of just a fragment of the projects planned. The dependable water availability in the Mahanadi (measured at Kasdol, Raipur; it lies upstream of Raipur) over the last 10 years is an average 1,528 mcm annually, according to state Water Resource Department. With industry set to withdraw 3,700 mcm, water budgeting in the state will clearly be highly deficit. Even industry won't be able to obtain water as proposed. This will lead to further groundwater exploitation, worsening the condition of the already depleting water table.
"There was a time when we would get water on digging a few feet. Now, with rampant exploitation, we are unable to get water even at 100 feet (30 m)," said Vidhan Mishra, former industries minister of Chhattisgarh. He explained the industries withdraw groundwater without the requisite permission. In order to withdraw to the maximum, companies use 10-inch (25 cm) bore pipes instead of the statutory 6-inch (15 cm) ones.
"During summers, it is common not to allow people to use river water. This is to ensure water availability for industries," Bandyopadhyay said. The water department estimates the available volume of water at Kasdol, has varied between 3,000 mcm and 10,000 mcm over the last 10 years. In 2002-03 the volume dipped to 1,528 mcm. "That was a drought year," said state water resource secretary C K Khaitan, and added: "We have ample water, what we lack is retention capacity." The government is building about 600 anicuts across rivers in the state that would store 400 mcm of water. But these will benefit industry not villagers, said Bandyopadhyay.
Health worker Shanti Bai of village Bonda Tikra also believes the government is focussed on industry's water needs. Her village is on the banks of the Kelo, a tributary of Mahanadi, in Raigarh. "Earlier the Kelo irrigated our farms, but after JSPL built an intake well and a check dam, we get very little water." Agriculture in the village is on the decline, she said; most of the villagers are now contract labourers.
In protest against JSPL's dam and well, people went on a hunger strike in 1998. Satyabhama, who spearheaded the strike, lost her life after fasting for seven days.
The check dam and the intake well still stand in the Kelo.
On an industrial roller-coaster, Chhattisgarh has not once stopped to take stock of the cumulative environmental impact of the many projects. On a spree to usher more and more, the government does not consider important an analysis of a project's incremental impact combined with the effects of other projects. The environment impact assessment (EIA) proponents submit are more often just a cursory review of the project's standalone environmental effects.
For Chhattisgarh, a study of its carrying capacity is imperative, said the professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, who has helped the Central ministry compile a Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI); he does not want to be named.
Take the case of Dabhra block in Janjgir-Champa, set to get nine thermal power plants within a radius of 10 km with capacity close to 9,000 MW. A thermal power plant on an average generates about 300 kg of flyash and 3 kg of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) per mega Watt hour of generation. This means these nine plants together would generate about 21 million tonnes of flyash every year. Also, there will be 0.2 million tonnes of SPM generated. At the time of granting clearance, therefore, the government needs to consider the combined impact of the existing projects in addition with the new one.
The impact is not limited to just pollution; resource allocation and utilisation also get affected. For example, a thermal power plant upstream of the Mahanadi, after withdrawing its requirement, will leave less water for another project further down. If 10 thermal power plants will withdraw water from the same river then the competitive users will have to bear the brunt. The result is a scramble for the natural resources available.
The state has to figure the impact of its pace and volume of industrialisation. "Carrying capacity studies are essential. CEPI was a mere screening tool for identifying areas that require detailed investigation," the professor said.
But who will initiate all this? "The state pollution control board is understaffed and weak. Its capacity is very poor; so officials handle too many things at the same time, which leads to negligence," Patel asserted. About 32 per cent of the sanctioned posts at CECB lie vacant. The fallout of all this is a number of instances that have come to light—of plants expanding a facility without clearance and poor inspection. Narasinga Rao, member secretary CECB agreed there is shortage of skilled manpower at the board and that a request to increase posts has been forwarded to the authorities concerned.
With many projects coming to the state, the government holds up a rosy future before the people of Chhattisgarh. Yet it has not been able to convince its 80 per cent rural population they will be a part of this future.
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