GMR power project hits roadblock in Chhattisgarh

February 8th, 2009 - 2:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Raipur, Feb 8 (IANS) A Rs.55 billion project has hit a roadblock in Chhattisgarh as about 150 farmers Sunday decided not to hand over their land to GMR Energy for its proposed 1,200 MW thermal power project.
“GMR Energy has tasked several agents or brokers in the village to persuade farmers to surrender their land. But the tactic has backfired as even the few farmers who were earlier willing to surrender their land are also upset with such tactics to acquire farm land,” said Ganguram Baghel, who is leading the farmers’ protest.

The farmers held a meeting at the Raikheda village in Raipur district and firmly opposed the land acquisition. They feel that their health problems would increase with the setting up of the power plant.

“At least 1,000 families of seven villages surrounding Raikheda are facing skin cancer and other health problems for over five years due to industrial pollution in nearby Siltara area. Now we will not allow GMR Energy to complete the project as the pollution will wipe out the entire area,” a farmer Angeshwar Naik said.

Naik, who presided over the farmers’ meet Sunday, said that government officials informed the farmers at a public hearing on Jan 15 that the plant will consume not less than 17,000 tonnes of coal per day.

The power company had last month announced that it needs 1,100-1,200 acres of land including the 550 acres for the main plant area at Raikheda, some 35 km from capital Raipur.

The Bangalore-based firm signed a deal with the Chhattisgarh government in June 2007 to set up the plant. It plans to complete the land acquisition within three to four months and begin the construction work by September.

GMR Energy officials said the company is purchasing land directly from about 250 farmers who own 60 percent of the total project area while remaining 40 percent belongs to the government.

In a similar objection raised by local farmers in the state, Tata Steel ran into land acquisition problems and faces farmers’ agitation over a proposed Rs.100 billion steel plant in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.

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