Farmers unhappy with public hearing on Dholera SIR

Ahmedabad Collector and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) on Friday conducted public hearing for the proposed Dholera Special Investment Region (DSIR) at Dholera that was attended by the DSIR Authority officials, revenue officials and around 2,000 villagers affected by the project. While Ahmedabad Collector claimed that the hearing went off peacefully and got over around 2 pm, protesting farmers claimed that the Collector had abruptly called the hearing off after the government officials did not have answers to the issues raised by villagers.

The proposed DSIR, spread over an area of 920 square kilometre, is expected to affect 22 villages in the region. Local villagers, mainly farmers, have been protesting against the project on several grounds. The protesting farmers are being supported by veterans like former Finance Minister of Gujarat Sanat Mehta, who has earlier supported agitations against government-supported projects like Nirma's cement plant in Mahuva of Bhavnagar district and the proposed Mandal-Becharaji Special Investment Region (MBSIR).

The public hearing was scheduled at Panjrapol of Dholera between 11 am and 5 pm. Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), a group of farmers and civil rights activists, which is spearheading the protest, said it was attended by more than 2,000 affected villagers.

Sagar Rabari, one of the members of JAAG who attended the public hearing, said that the project was based on maps which were 100-year old and the residential zone in the map of the project is actually submerged in sea. "People raised several issues on the project for which the government officials did not have any answer. Eventually, the hearing was abruptly announced as concluded at 2 pm by the Collector," Sagar said.

Ramdevsinh Chudasama, one of the residents of Dholera, said, "We had raised several issues before the Collector. And at around 2 pm, he stopped the hearing and told us that he was staying it indefinitely." However, Ahmedabad Collector Roopwant Singh said that there was no question of staying the public hearing. "The hearing went off quite peacefully and we concluded it at 2 pm. The villagers also participated in it." Chief Executive Officer of DSIR Authority, K D Chandanani, also said that the hearing was not stayed. Chudasama countered this and said, "If the hearing was scheduled between 11 am and 5 pm, why was it concluded at 2 pm?" After conclusion of the public hearing, the Collector and GPCB authorities will prepare a report and send it to the Union Ministry of Environment & Forest for its approval for the project.

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