Human rights activist Ravindranath Shanbhag says anti-people projects come up because of corruption and lack of foresight

The proposed 4,000-MW ultra mega power project at Niddodi will not only destroy the cultural fabric of the region, but will also irreversibly impact Western Ghats, speakers at a discussion forum said here on Saturday.

From environmental problems, to the destruction of the Western Ghats – which cradles the major rivers in the State – to heavy metal poisoning of officials, human rights activist Ravindranath Shanbhag said projects like these come up because of corruption and lack of foresight.

“They claim to have done environmental impact assessment surveys, but in reality do not do it comprehensively. They bribe locals, media personnel and officials to split agitations, or to declare the area as barren,” he said at the discussion organised by the International Federation of Karnataka Christian Associations.

Learning from past experience — especially the largely unsuccessful agitations against Udupi Power Corporation Limited (UPCL) and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical Limited (MRPL) — he asked the opponents of Niddodi thermal project to equip themselves with surveys of potential hazards, file “at least eight” petitions in the High Court, as well as keep a strict eye on the rehabilitation of the displaced.

“They said they will dispose fly ash by making it into cement. UPCL has not managed them, and instead, they leak into the ground, causing environmental problems. Can you imagine if a project four times this is set up right next to it,” asked Dr. Shanbhag.

However, expressing a steadfast determination, Kiran Manjanbail, convenor of the Mathrubhoomi Samrakshana Samiti, which is spearheading the protests, said: “We have seen how the villagers around Nandikur are suffering because of UPCL. We will not give up our struggle.”

The hoblis of Moodbidri, Mulki and Gurupura will be irreversibly affected by the project, he said, and expounded the economic impact on villagers, who depend largely on agriculture and how they will be displaced by the project. Also, he said the Western Ghats and the River Nandini will be affected by the setting up the potentially polluting project on fertile agricultural land.

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