Power play

There is growing opposition to the setting up of a power plant in Madhya Pradesh

Published: Friday 15 October 1999

the proposed 3,000 megawatt capacity coal-based power plant of the National Thermal Power Corporation ( ntpc ) at Sipat in Bilaspur, Madhya Pradesh, has run into a controversy. At the heart of the matter is the environmental clearance given by the Union ministry of environment and forests ( mef ), despite protests from villagers who might be affected by the project. The villagers allege that the ministry has ignored its own regulations while approving the project.

The total land acquired for this project is 1,701 hectares (ha), of which more than 70 per cent is prime agricultural land, 23 percent is classified as forested area and the remaining is public utility land. "Such projects are usually located in waste or barren land," says Anand Mishra of Paryavaran Sanrakshan Manch ( psm ), an organisation opposing this project.

The proposed site is only 6-7 km from the notified limit of Bilaspur, when environmental guidelines do not permit any project within 25 km of any settlement. "The Environmental Impact Assessment ( eia) consists of misleading and false data," alleges Mishra. For example, satellite photographs, used to prevent the allotment of prime agricultural land for the project, were shot in February, which is not the cropping season of the Bilaspur-Chhattisgarh area. "The main season for cropping is between July and October," says Sudheer Khandelwal of psm .

The report says that ntpc will offer compensation and rehabilitation to prevent any tension while acquiring land from the people. But the representatives of the farmers have already disapproved the suggestion and have said that they will not give up their land. The eia report says that the sulphur content supplied to the plant should not exceed 0.24 per cent. But the coal that will be supplied from the Korba coal fields has a sulphur content of 0.5-0.8 per cent. "A notification by the mef has made public hearing mandatory for all projects listed in Schedule I of the eia notification that includes thermal power plants," says Udhav Motwani, an activist campaigning against the project. "But no 'public hearing' has been done," he adds.

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