Friday, March 4, 2011

Farmers and fishermen rise against thermal power plant in AP


Movement against the power plant takes a violent turn
In the ongoing protest against a controversial thermal power plant in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, three people were killed and scores injured on February 28, a day when Budget was being presented in Parliament and roadmap being drawn for the next 12 months. Police claimed that it opened fire to quell violent protests against a proposed power plant.

The rampaging mobs, who have been protesting against the plant for quite some time, apparently set afire a police vehicle and fought pitched battle with the police in the village, about two km from Kakarapally, where East Coast Energy Pvt. Limited (ECEPL) is setting up a 2,640 MW coal-based thermal power plant at a cost of Rs 12,000 crore.

The situation in Vadditandra and surrounding villages is said to be highly tense. Earlier At least 25 protesters were injured in the clashes with police on February 25. Villagers, including fishermen, are trying to stop the work which resumed last week after a disruption of over six months, saying that the power plant would damage the ecology of the area and affect their livelihood.

Two persons were killed and several others were injured July 14 last year when police opened fire on people protesting against a similar power project by Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC) at Sompeta in the same district.

Members of National Alliance of People's Movements, Andhra Pradesh chapter has sought the intervention of the State Human Rights Commission to stop mass arrests of people for staging peaceful protests against the construction the thermal power plant in Srikakulam.

The thermal power plant is an undertaking of East Coast Energy Private Limited in Naupada wetland at Kakrapalli village of Srikakulam district. The farmers have been demanding a halt to the construction of the power plant since August 2010 by using peaceful methods like relay hunger strike, as they fear that the project would deprive thousands of local fishermen and farmers of their livelihood.

After the firing, sitting on the debris of their houses, women and children were seen crying while some others tried to salvage whatever they could from their damaged houses. Villagers alleged that their houses caught fire when police hurled smoke bombs. Police claimed that they had to use force when the protesters attacked the power plant at Kakarapally village. The villagers resisted police attempts to disperse them and tried to chase them in the open ground.

East Coast Energy (ECEPL) is setting up a 2,640 MW coal-based thermal power plant at a cost of Rs 12,000 crore at Kakarapally, but the local community is opposing the project on the ground that it is coming up on a wetland and will endanger their livelihood. The villagers, including fishermen, are trying to stop the construction work which resumed last week after a disruption of over six months.

ECEPL said it was pained over the incidents. “We are deeply pained at the unfortunate incidents that happened today (Monday) in Srikakulam. The company is committed to the sustainable development and is working wholeheartedly with the state government to restore normalcy in the area,” said a statement from the company. According to the statement, the project received all mandatory and regulatory clearances. The use of super-critical technology results in reduced coal consumption and emission of green house gases besides giving higher net plant efficiency, it claimed. The first two units (2x660 MW) under Phase I are scheduled to be commissioned in mid-2013 and other units thereafter.

Again the question of development versus displacement is being played out in Srikakulam district. Local people again asking why their interests – economic, social, environmental and livelihood concerns were overlooked when the decision was taken to set up the plant.

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