MEIL is building a 50 MW solar thermal power plant near Chittur village of the Peddavaduguru mandal in Anantapur dist.

The police on Wednesday arrested 31 farmers who were part of the protest against Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Pvt Limited (MEIL)’s solar thermal power plant coming up in the Anantapur district, drawing water from the Penna river bed.

MEIL is building a 50 MW solar thermal power plant near Chittur village of the Peddavaduguru mandal in the district on 500 acres. The company claims that the government had permitted it to draw 0.01 tmcft of water from the Penna river during the four rainy months in a year. Thus, the company installed two pumps to draw water and constructed structures on the river bed for the same.

Farmers in the surrounding villages started protesting against drawal of ground water, alleging that their borewells would dry up and some had already dried up. However, MEIL maintains that it was yet to draw any water from the river bed and hence there was no linkage with the dried up wells.

Meanwhile, farmers decided to demolish the structures on the river bed on May 10 this year in protest against the solar power plant, in spite of imposition of Section 144. They damaged a portion of the structure while the police also allege that they were obstructed in their line of duty. Consequently, cases were booked against 48 farmers.

While 31 farmers courted arrest today, the rest might be arrested tomorrow. The arrested farmers were sent to the Gooty court and were the sent to the district jail for remand.

Since the plant is a solar thermal power plant, which uses thermal radiation component for the heat, it also requires water to convert the heat into energy, just like in any other thermal power plant.

Had the project been a solar photo-voltaic cells to produce energy, farmers might not have had a problem. But, with the current project requiring water, farmers in the drought-prone Anantapur district are agitated.