How long will the ‘development’ be at the cost of Adivasi lives? : the case of Bhadradri Power Plant
Politicians often in their hefty speeches say that the human survival is only possible when we save our environment. However these values do not reflect in their actions when they come in to power. Over the years, number of forests and forest cover in India has decreased unprecedentedly since independence. The big industries and multi national companies are extracting valuable resources of forest without obtaining the consent and approval from the Adivasis, who have been dependent on the forest for their subsistence and livelihood since ages.
Adivasis who resist this exploitation are are unlawfully shot down by forces, branding them as extremists. The lives of Adivasis are worsening in the newly formed Telangana State instead of getting better. Telangana government started establishing Bhdradri Power Plant in Pinapaka, Manuguru Mandals of Khammam district. The region comes under 5th scheduled. The project is located on the banks of Godavari river.
The 1080 MW Bhadradri Thermal Project will come in Khammam district. The plant faced opposition from people and civil rights group, as a result Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoEF) initially canceled it. A case was filed before National Green Tribunal, which rejected the proposal but later Genco pushed the project to EAC for reconsideration and after TS government filed a review petition, ultimately NGT lifted the stay and asked MoEF to make a decision leading to environmental clearance in February this year.
Coastal regulation 1991 prohibits the disposal and dumping of fly ash and other hazardous waste that comes from the thermal power centers in the coastal areas. So far there is no information to the local people by the authorities about the disposal of the waste. Not only in this region, but wherever a new project starts it should consult the local people and take their opinion, so that it would help them knowing the problems and effects of the project. Supreme court, in its 1994 judgment made it mandatory to take the consent of Adivasis for the developmental activities in Adivasi areas (Scheduled Areas). This consent should not be obtained by unlawful coercion or extortion but by explaining them about the benefits and assuring the compensation to them as demanded.
Adivasis hold the right to reject the project proposal on all grounds if they are hazardous and threat to their health. The companies are trying to get the public consent through unlawful means such as corruption, proposing early packages. Hence violating Supreme Court judgment, PESA 1996, and 1/70 Act. The officials are making arrangements to snatch away the land from Adivasis by providing false reports and surveys and get their consent in a superficially organised events.
The critical technology is going to be used in the Bhadradri plant which is rejected by environmentalist worldwide. As a result of this, pollution in these Adivasi areas will increase multiple times and will lead to degradation of Adivasis lives and health. As per article 21, 48a, 51 a, Constitution provides every citizen, the right to live in pollution free environment. The Adivasi people have been rejecting the proposed project since the beginning as they find it as a potential threat to their rights and life. Super critical or ultra super critical technology must be used in the construction of power plant.
Environment and health of Adivasis can only be saved when proper technology is used in such projects. As much as 90 % of coal mines, and 80% of other minerals are located in the scheduled areas, that are home to Adivasi communities. It is the responsibility of state to bring in balance between the demands of Adivasis, development and welfare in the extraction as well as usage of mines and minerals. The government and other private actors should put an end to this destruction of forests in the disguise of development as it may result in digging our own graves.
Note: The article has been translated from Telugu to English by Sailu Karre and Joshi Babu Palli.