Every time the siren rings, residents of Madimogeru, in Shamboor, on the banks of Nethravati run to the nearest shelter they can find. Almost immediately, they say, the ground jumps up, and at times, small stones hurl up in the air. A quick scan is done of the house and the sighs go around when a new crack is spotted.
After a lull of nearly two years, residents — most of whom are either daily-wage workers or own marginal areca or coconut orchard — have restarted their protests against Greenko — London’s AIM-listed clean energy producer — which is executing the construction of a 10 MW mini-hydro electric generating unit there. Since 2009, the premises has operated two 24.75 MW hydroelectric generation units.
Lata Nagaveni, from whose verandah the power project can be seen, said the blasting had intensifies over the past two weeks, coinciding with the start of blasting for the run-off canal for the new generation unit.
Pointing at a wide crack on the front wall, she said: “This happened last week. We have protested in front of their premises, but they don’t seem to care,” said Ms. Nagaveni. She showed cracks at numerous other places — some from the blasting five years ago, and some from the recent activities — and she said they could not afford to fix them with the daily wages brought in by her husband.
Nearly 20 houses in the area, which comes under the Naricombu Gram Panchayat, complained of the intense vibration that led to cracks in their houses. Prashant Poojary, a farmer, believed the cracks in his four-year-old house were because of the blasting. “The blasting goes on the afternoon and mornings. The ground jumps up, and the vibration shakes the walls,” he said.
Nearby, the house of Chanappa Gowda bears a hole in the asbestos roof which he claimed was due to a flying rock from the blasting site.
“We’re not against blasting. But can’t they do it in small batches? Huge cracks have started to develop, and we don’t when the roof will collapse,” said Rekha Poojary, who rolls beedis for a living. Her house is barely 10 metres from the compound wall of the power project. She said they had taken loans of Rs. 1.5 lakh to fix the house since the last series of blasting around five years ago.
Residents said they would continue their protests on the project premises until the company compensate for any losses occurred during the blasting process.Company reaction
While saying that every blast will send out vibrations, Praveen Devayya, Deputy General Manager, Greenko, said the company had taken the utmost precaution while blasting.
“The surrounding houses are mud houses with bad workmanship. The cracks could have been there from before. In the immediate vicinity of the blasting site are our power houses and our office buildings, and we have not noticed any structural damage on them because of this,” he said.
The authorities at the plant said the protests could be “motivated” for financial benefit.