Has Mangalore lost something in the recent denotification of about 2,000 acres of land to be acquired for the second phase of Mangalore Special Economic Zone (MSEZ)? The lands were denotified following a public outcry backed by some elected representatives and spiritual leaders.
The opinions of proponents and opponents of the project are sharply divided. The proponents of the project says the MSEZ when fully operational will create 15,000 to 1.25 lakh jobs directly and propel the growth of the region. The opponents say job creation is a myth used to promote the project which, in fact, would cost Mangaloreans dearly by straining the natural resources such as water and destroying the native Tulu culture.
MSEZ Limited Board of Directors member and former Kanara Chamber of Commerce (KCCI) president Srinivas Kamath says competitive Mangaloreans can get some 25,000 to 30,000 jobs in MSEZ. That is if the proposed pharmaceutical, garment, and automobile units came up in the expanded project.
Exports from SEZ can touch Rs. 13,500 crore a year when fully operational. The potential of phase I – mainly the expansion of the Mangalore Refineries and Petrochemicals Ltd. – can hardly be harnessed unless the phase II materialised, he says. He says the project could still come through. He says owners of about 1,000 acres of land were still willing to give their lands.
Immediate past president G.G. Mohandas Prabhu says the project can result in annual business of over Rs. 10,000 crore for the ancillary units outside SEZ and the service industries such as hotels, transport, and tourism sector. The project is expected to act as the “growth engine” for the districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, he says. “Every sector will benefit,” he says. With ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes) doing “great job,” 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the jobs in MSEZ can go to local candidates. MSEZL public relations officer Ramachandra Bhandarkar, quoting a “reputed financial organisation”, says the SEZ can generate 1.3 lakh jobs directly and 1.9 lakh indirect jobs.
Guruvayanakere-based Nagarika Seva Trust president Somanath Nayak says the promised number of jobs will not be created in projects such as the thermal power plant near Udupi and says companies play the employment card to project the proposals as being socially acceptable.
He says Mangalore will lose nothing if the MSEZ phase did not materialise. Instead, it will augur well for the region because studies have shown that the coastal area with Western Ghats is not suitable for large-scale industrialisation as they will be a strain on the natural resources, which need to be protected.
Mr. Nayak says energy expert D.K. Subramanian of Indian Institute of Science, who prepared the framework for a study of the region to see whether resources here can sustain more industries, has recommended proper, planned development ensuring preservation of the natural resources.
He says three more official reports too have stressed on the sustainable development of the region and the latest is a two-year-old report of the Environment Department, titled, Parisara Paristhithi, which too was against large-scale industries in the region.
Mr. Nayak and Natesh Ullal, activist representing the farmers fighting against the MSEZ, see the MSEZ as a part of the larger plan of the governments to establish a petrochemical hub acquiring 75,000 acres of the region. This scale of land acquisition will destroy the Tulu culture which has no other geographical location to blossom, Mr. Ullal says. The de-notification should be seen as an opportunity to develop a sustainable development alternative, he says. It has to be truly inclusive and transparent.