As many as seven projects, including those of Genco and Reliance have chosen locations close to the port for easy transportation of coal. Since they are not aware of the possible threat to the environment, locals who have been assured jobs in the projects, offered no resistance during public hearings for each project.
In fact, government officials played a major role in keeping locals in good humour, citing future benefits because of industrialisation. However things started changing after Left parties and the Jana Vignana Vedika enlightened locals on future hazards. Moreover, the ongoing agitation in neighbouring Prakasam district against Genco’s proposed power project also led people to rethink about the power projects.
Locals as well as people’s forums like the Jana Vignana Vedika vehemently opposed, probably for the first time, a power project proposed by Nelcast at Painapuram near Krishnapatnam during a public hearing recently. District authorities countered their arguments, pointing to employment opportunities and care being taken to prevent pollution. Notwithstanding this, locals have started forming environmental committees in villages where the power projects are coming up now.
The JVV functionary, Dr Vijayakumar, claims that seven coal-based projects in the vicinity of a few square kilometres will certainly cause serious health hazards for people living in 10 to 15 km radius. He maintained that even people living in Nellore town will not be safe since Nellore is also within an aerial distance of 15 km.
“We have been demanding that officials sum up the total effect from emissions from the thermal plants as well as the port. For reasons best known to them, they are not disclosing this. All projects including the port are supposed to raise greenbelts to reduce pollution but no one has taken any steps so far. A broad-based assessment is necessary to protect the environment,” Dr Vijayakumar asserted.
Meanwhile, the environment engineer of the Pollution Control Board, Mr E. Satyanarayana said that they were going to insist that all power projects opt for maximum chimney height to prevent air pollution in surrounding areas.
He said that there are prescribed norms to prevent ash pollution and they would not allow any deviation in the interest of the environment as well as public. He said that data related to emission from chimney levels is stored in computers and will be analysed regularly to maintain permissible levels.