Reliance told tribunal about showing green zone as industrial
TWELVE villages in Raigad district of Maharashtra are awaiting the judgement of the National Environment Appellate Authority to be announced in December. Raigad-based farmers' organizations had challenged the environmental clearance issued by the environment and forests ministry to the proposed 4,000-mega watt power project by the Maharashtra Energy Generation, a subsidiary of Reliance Power, in Shahpur village in Alibaug taluka.
The farmers challenged the clearance on the grounds that the company had misrepresented land it wanted as industrial to get the clearance. "We own some of the most fertile tracts of land in the area where we grow best quality rice and do fish farming. How can the government give away our land to a private company for setting up a power plant?" asked Mahadev Thale, a 55-year-old farmer of Sutarpada village in Alibaug taluka.
In 2006, the Maharashtra government signed an agreement with Reliance Power to set up the plant, for which the company needed more than 2,000 hectares. The company approached the ministry for land transfer, claiming it did not require any change of land use. The project was accorded environmental clearance in November 2007.
"The company lied to the ministry. The land falls under green zone of the Mumbai Metropolitan regional plan and is not notified for industrial purpose. The ministry must cancel the clearance granted and dismiss the project," said Rajan Bhagat, member of Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti, one of the petitioners.
Over 1,200 families cultivate the land in an eco-friendly manner. The water from the sea fills their fields, in which fish breeding and paddy cultivation go together. "If this land is given away to a power project, the fish breeding site would be wiped out," warned Bhagat.
"The company accepted its mistake during hearing and termed it a typographical error. This is not acceptable. Just by calling it a typo error, the company should not be allowed to go scot free," said Ritwick Dutta, a Delhi-based advocate representing the Samiti. On August 11 this year, the state government issued a public notice to change the area from the present green zone-II to industrial zone, which the farmers have been opposing, Dutta claimed.
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