‘Struggle against the MTPP has to intensify before the government notifies land’

Lending his support to the villagers opposing the proposed 4,000 MW Mega Thermal Power Plant at Niddodi, MP Nalin Kumar Kateel said he would take up the matter in the next Lok Sabha session.

Visiting the tiny hamlet tucked between verdant green hillocks on the Dakshina Kannada-Udupi border on Monday, Mr. Kateel said, “Citizens have opposed this project. There has been no clarity about this project from either the Union or the State government… I will bring this up at the Question Hour during the session starting on August 5,” he said.

He said the recent budget announcement by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had made it clear that the project was being referred to the Central government and the matter had become “serious”. Though the project is only in the discussion stage, the MP believed the struggle has to intensify before the government notifies land for acquisition.

“There will be no politics on this. Both [Moodbidri MLA K. Abhayachandra] Jain and I will oppose this project, as it is the farmers who suffer. Projects such as this and MSEZ [Mangalore Special Economic Zone] support industrialists while farmers are displaced,” he said.

Anticipating the visit of the MP, several villagers from Niddodi and nearby villages of Yedapadavu, Nirude, Puttige, Kateel, Mucchuru, Padu Perar, Mudu Perar and Thenka Yedapadavu – all of whom believe their land will be directly affected – gathered to vent their ire.

The fear of losing land sees Girish D. Konchady, who owns land at some distance from Niddodi, turn up at the fear of losing land. The exact place or extent of the power plant is not announced and unsubstantiated figures such as 8,000 acres are floating around. “Niddodi is close by, and I fear losing my land,” he said.

For Chandraiah Gowda, who owns 18 acres at Niddodi, there is a genuine fear of displacement. “Even if we get compensation, where do we go? What do we do? I have been a farmer all my life,” he said.

He believed that his agricultural yield had reduced since Udupi Power Corporation Limited was set up in Nandikur nearby. “Vegetables dry up because of the smoke and chemicals that emanates from the plant,” he said.

Alphonce D’Souza, president of the Mathrubhoomi Samrakshana Samiti, believed that 4,400 acres identified in the area for the now-scrapped Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemical Investment Region (PCPIR) will instead be taken up by the power plant. “There is no information at all. Even RTI (Right to Information) queries were not answered. We’re living in uncertainty,” he said.

He recounted that on March 16, a group of Union and State officials were seen in the village. Taken by surprise, the villagers blocked their route, and it was only under pressure that they admitted to have come there for a survey, he said.

The villagers will stage a 12-hour hunger strike on Sunday against the project.

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