EIA clearance hearing for proposed hermal plant witnesses strong protest

The public hearing for the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) clearance of OPG's proposed 300 MW thermal power plant was organised in Bhadreshwar on Friday amidst strong protest from over 2,000 people from the affected population.

Fishermen, salt-pan workers, pastoralists and farmers from Bhadreshwar, Luni, Hatdi, Pavdiara, Sangad and the neighbouring villages participated in a 2 km long rally prior to the hearing. Later they submitted a memorandum enlisting their demands to Gunvant Vaghela, Additional Collector, Kutch; and J D Kalyani, Regional Officer, Kutch, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), who were present at the hearing.

Bharat Patel from the Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (MASS), Kutch said: "The Randh Bhadreshwar Bander is home to 5,000 fishermen whose only means of livelihood will be affected if the power plant comes up."

Ibrahim Majliya, a fisherman added: "Though the company plans to install a desalination plant, the entire marine ecology will be endangered, as such promises never materialise. We will approach the judiciary if the government doesn't stop this proposal at once."

Kaushik Ayachi, the president of Bhadreshwar Salt Association, explained the impending effect on the salt manufacturing business.

He said: "Nearly 4,000 acres of salt pans in the area within a 10 km radius of the proposed power plant will become unsuitable for use, affecting at least 1,500 families of their traditional means of livelihood."

Bikha, another member of the association added: "The fly-ash generated will be between 10-28 tonnes, polluting the salt-pans in the area to such an extent that the salt thus produced will be non-consumable." On their part, the authorities declined to comment on the merit of the demands raised at the hearing.

Kalyani said: "Yes, there was massive opposition from the affected population at the hearing, but for the details, you will have to wait for the minutes to be uploaded on our website."

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