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“A Power Plant Would Just Destroy Our Life”, Chhattisgarh Villagers Protest Adani’s Move

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PTI (inputs by Abhishek Jha): The Adani Group’s 600-MW power plant in Surguja district of Chhattisgarh has hit a roadblock after residents of nearly ten villages, whose land will have to be surrendered for the thermal plant, decided to oppose the project and brought about a deferment of the public hearing on the same.

Surguja district is a Scheduled Area in Chattisgarh. The President of India declares an area as Scheduled Area based on the tribal population living in the area, the “under-developed nature of the area”, and “marked disparity in economic standard of the people”.  The land acquisition Act of 2013 requires the prior consent of Gram Sabha for acquiring land in Scheduled Areas and provides for resettlement and rehabilitation, with specific safeguards for STs.

The Adani Group is setting up a 4×150 MW plant, Surguja Power, which is a 100 percent subsidiary of Adani Mining, near the Parsa East and Kete Basan coal blocks (which have around 10 million tonnes of coal reserves) in Udaypur block of Surguja.

The public hearing for setting up the power plant, earlier scheduled for December 30, has been postponed, and the district Collector has said no new date has been fixed for the same.

The plant would be using the coal washery rejects for its operations while the higher quality washed coal would be sent to Rajasthan. The project is slated to come up within the 47.5 ha of land in the premises of Parsa East and Kete Basan blocks.

Last week, a delegation of villagers had submitted a letter to Surguja Collector, seeking to cancel a public hearing for the plant, which was to be held on December 30. When asked about the issue, Collector Ritu Sain said the public hearing has been postponed “due to different reasons, and just not because of villagers”.

The villages, having a population of around 10,000, are predominantly inhabited by the Gond tribe, whose principal occupation is paddy cultivation and collecting non-timber forest produce.

“The plant, if set up, would have a severe impact on the biodiversity of the region. Low-quality coal would be used in the power plant, which would release a high ash content of about 60per cent as its by-product, which would adversely affect the people, apart from forests and the Hasdeo Bango Dam”, Parsa village sarpanch Bharam Sai Nareti alleged.

The washed coal produced from Parsa East and Kete Basan blocks would be sent to Rajasthan for captive consumption by power companies there while the Surguja plant would utilise the rejected coal.

Equally worried about the project, Salhi village sarpanch Raniyabai said, “We are already bearing the brunt of open-cast coal mining in the region, which was once a peaceful green zone. Setting up a power plant would just destroy our life.”

Environmentalist and Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan convenor Alok Shukla said the project would create health complications and “destroy” agriculture, as the plant is expected to release 26 lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide and other toxic gases.

“The environment ministry’s clearance to the coal blocks explicitly says the location of the plant would be finalised in consultation with the villagers living in the vicinity, but the company has on its own decided the plant’s location in violation of the ministry’s order,” Shukla alleged.

Parsa East and Kete Basan coal blocks are located on the Hasdeo-Arand coalfield, spread over an area of 1,878 sq km in Korba, Surguja and Surajpur districts of north Chhattisgarh. Of this, 1,502 sq km are forests, rich in biodiversity. The coalfield has total estimated reserves of 5.2 billion tonnes.

Minutes of a meeting held in 2013 of the Expert Appraisal Committee on Environmental Impact Assessment of Thermal Power and Coal Mine Projects show that near the proposed plant in Parsa in Surguja, although “there are no National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Heritage sites, tiger/Biosphere reserves etc. within 10 km of the site”, the  Hasdeo Arand Reserve Forests is only 2 km away from the project site. The minutes also note that about the project will create “50 Land oustees”.

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