Demanding the scrapping of the “polluting” Sulphur and Coke units at the Mangalore Special Economic Zone (MSEZ), several villagers from Jokatte and surrounding areas staged a day-long block of the road leading to the industrial area here on Tuesday.
A huge line of loading trucks lined the roads leading to the entrance of the Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical Limited (MRPL) Phase III plant, where the protestors – gathering under the banners of the Jokatte Citizens’ Committee and Popular Front of India – had camped themselves. Though the plants are nearing completion – in fact, the Sulphur plant is awaiting approval for commissioning – villagers said they were intensifying their protests now as they had “gotten to know the nature of the plants only now”.
B.S. Sharief, former president of the Jokatte Gram Panchayat, estimated that around 2,000 households nearby were affected by the construction activities.
The residents demanded that the construction stop before the district administration or MRPL authorities start negotiations for them. The protestors claimed that the plant had received not approval from either environmental agencies or from the Jokatte Gram Panchayat.
The villagers said, “We have given a lot of our land to the companies coming up in MSEZ. The least they can do is ensure the villages next to theirs have basic amenities. Even under their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), MRPL has not done anything for Jokatte,” said Mr. Sharief.MRPL reaction
Senior officials of MRPL have said environmental laws “made it mandatory” to remove sulphur from diesel and other petroleum products. “There is nothing new in the sulphur plant at Phase III. We already have three such plants in Phase I and we have not received particular emission complaints about them…the sulphur is in solid form and can be handled with care,” he said.
The coke plant produces lumped coal that can be transported in covered trucks, he said. The company claimed nearly Rs. 1.52 crore has been spent on asphalting roads, Rs. 5 lakh for an anganwadi, and Rs. 5.2 lakh for scholarships and environmental campaigns at government schools in the area.