Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Sambalpur, Sep 29:
The Super Thermal Power Plant (STPP) being set up by National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) at Lara on the Chhattisgarh-Odisha border will have a ‘devastating impact’ on the Mahanadi river, local ecology and people’s livelihoods in at least six gram panchayats in Jharsuguda district, leading water watchdog Water Initiatives Odisha has said.
“WIO, on hearing the problem from the locals, had conducted a fact finding visit to the affected areas and found that the NTPC Lara plant will have a devastating impact on the Mahanadi river, local ecology and local people’s livelihoods such as farming and fishery,” WIO convenor Ranjan Panda said. “95% of people in these villages depend on farms, forests and fishery,” he said.
“Since the MoEF did not conduct the mandatory public hearing in Odisha despite clear evidence that the plant will impact villagers, ecology and above all Mahanadi River in Odisha, we at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) along with the Sarpanch Sangha of Lakhanpur decided to organize an alternative public hearing,” informed Ranjan Panda, Convenor of WIO.
The alternative public hearing was attended by about a hundred people representing the 12 GPs of Jharsuguda district, including the ones which would be affected by the JSW power plant in Chhatisgarh. People poured out their grievances and said the plant would affect their livelihoods, pollute their water bodies and affect their livestock as they fall under the buffer zone of the plant.
Besides the pollution from the plant, the people expressed their apprehensions about the 400 acre Fly Ash Pond that will be located at a distance of just 1.5 kilometres from villages in Odisha. Pollution caused by the plant as well as its ash pond will impact the river Mahanadi and its tributary river Kelo badly. The Hirakud reservoir that is located about 10 kms from the plant site would also be affected, they said.
After hearing people’s grievances, eminent environmentalist from Mumbai Debi Goenka, who joined as the ‘’People’s Chief Judge’’ in the hearing, said, “By not conducting public hearing in Odisha, the NTPC Lara Plant has clearly and openly violated the EIA Notification 2006.” “The EIA report that has been shared has many other flaws and needs immediate scrutiny,” he said.
“There is also very likelihood of this project having devastating impacts on the Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary and hence this should be scrapped immediately,” he urged.
Attending the hearing as ‘’People’s Judge” Ranjit Patnaik, a noted wildlife expert from Bhubaneswar, said, “The EIA report’s credentials are suspect as the impact on ecology and wildlife does not seem to have been taken into consideration.” “This is a destructive project and must be cancelled,” urged Patnaik.
“We are now aware of the environmental laws and will knock on the doors of the National Green Tribunal or other legal mechanisms to see that the plant is cancelled,” said Sanjeet Pradhan, President of the Sarpanch Sangha Lakhanpur.
Dilip Padhi, Shyam Satpathy and Ajit Panda also spoke on the various adverse impacts of the plant and the need for scrapping the project.
The hearing concluded with a resolution to approach the relevant authorities and pressurize the Odisha government to take up the people’s case with seriousness. “We will now work together with the local people to see that NTPC’s illegality are exposed and the plant is scrapped”, informed Ranjan Panda, adding, “let NTPC support both Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments in developing solar energy instead of the polluting fossil fuel energy.”
NTPC, it may be noted, has already initiated construction of the Stage I (1600 MW) of its Super Thermal Power Plant (STPP) at Lara in Chhattisgarh. The Stage I consists of two units (800 MW each). The STPP will be of a total capacity of 4000 MW which will be completed in two stages. Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Govt. of India has already accorded Environmental Clearance for the project on 12thDecember 2012. The then Prime Minister of India laid the foundation stone for the construction to begin on 29th September 2013.
The people of these Panchayats have been opposing this plant ever since they came to know about it. They have petitioned the Chief Minister of Odisha, the local MLA, MP and all possible authorities, but to no avail.