West Bengal seeks to begin chemical hub work before polls, Trinamool opposes (Lead)

February 6th, 2009 - 11:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Feb 6 (IANS) Construction work at the Nayachar Island chemical hub project in West Bengal is likely to begin before the Lok Sabha polls, state Industry Minister Nirupam Sen said Friday. But the Trinamool Congress was quick to oppose the project, saying it would harm the coastal environment.”We have already sent a request to the central government seeking permission to start the project before the Lok Sabha elections. Now we are waiting for the final approval,” Sen told reporters here.

He said the proposal was at the final stage and likely to be passed in the cabinet meeting very shortly.

“There are some stringent norms for setting up a petrochemical project. But we are expecting that the final go-ahead will come from the cabinet committee within two weeks,” Sen added.

To be set up on Nayachar Island, a 12,500-acre plot on the Hooghly river, the chemical hub project got the green signal of a high-powered cabinet committee Feb 3.

The project is a joint venture company in which the state government holds 49 percent stake, with the controlling 51 percent held by a consortium comprising Indian developer Unitech, and two Indonesian firms - the Salim Group and Universal Success.

Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, however, alleged that the project would harm the coastal environment.

“We don’t support this chemical hub project at Nayachar in East Midnapore district as it would have a devastating impact on the coastal ecology as well as on people living in the region,” Banerjee said at a press conference here.

“We want a development hub in our state. We don’t want any chemical hub project that will contaminate our environment and the livelihood of common people,” she remarked.

Criticising the state’s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist’s (CPI-M) stand on the petrochemical hub project, Banerjee alleged that the party was only trying to fill up the party fund in the name of developing the chemical hub before the coming Lok Sabha election.

Senior Trinamool Congress leader and the party’s East Midnapore strongman Sisir Adhikari also opposed the initiative.

“If this industry creates 2,000 additional employment in the area, it will also take away the livelihood of 500,000-odd local fishermen,” Adhikari said.

He added that his party and the people of East Midnapore would protest against the project in the coming days.

Earlier, two major investments in the state - Tata Motors’ Nano factory in Singur and the proposed chemical hub project in Nandigram - were stalled following violent agitations by the Trinamool Congress.

Tatas withdrew their investment and shifted their small car project to Gujarat. The petrochemical hub in Nandigram, which was to be developed in collaboration with Indonesia’s Salim group, was shifted later to Nayachar due to the Trinamool-sponsored unrest.

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