A thousand-strong public had gathered here at Keelaperumpallam village to express opposition to the proposed 2x500 MW coal-based thermal power plant at a public hearing on Wednesday. The project implemented by M/s P.E.L Power Limited proposes to use imported coal for its operations.

According to Jesurathinam, Convenor, Coastal Action Network, Environment Impact Assessment Report does not specify the cost-benefit analysis. The economic value of environmental costs incurred ought to have been expressed in the EIA, she said. "The MOEF has expressed a moratorium on projects along the coasts up to October 31, until a complete study is done. M.S.Swaminathan committee has expressed similar reservations on coastal projects," Ms.Jesurathinam said. She placed on record her reservations on the public hearing under such circumstances.

About 1083 acres were acquired for the project through middle men under the garb of using it for agriculture, alleged S. Sundarajan, All India Front for Dalit Liberation.

The thermal plant that envisaged drainage of 2 lakh gallons of hot water into the sea, along with environmental pollution in the form of fly ash etc. would jeopardize the livelihood of fisherfolk and agriculturists, people said. Besides, sea shores as the only space for fisherfolk to dry their catch would be cordoned off.

A spokesperson from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), intervened to clarify that recommendations were made for electrostatic precipitation and ash pond to ensure no untreated water or fly ash leaves the premises of the power station.

However, speakers referred to the written assurances made during the setting up of the Pillaiperambanallur Power Plant at Tharangambadi. N. Paul Raj, Tharangambadi wanted to know how many people were able to claim compensation from PPL for the losses incurred in the form of depleted marine resources, cordoned off space, damaged nets etc, ever since the plant went into operation.

These power plants on coasts meant cultural depletion for fisherfolk as their culture was intertwined with the scent and the soil of the coast, said Dhanalakshmi, Vanagiri.

Most speakers demolished, what they termed ‘myth of employment’ by these projects.

However, heavy downpour interrupted the hearing and it was declared to have been concluded, when Collector C. Munianathan announced their reservations would be sent to the government.

The few, who spoke for the project, stated that power plant holds the promise of ‘turning the region into a mini-Singapore’.

The public hearing was heavily guarded with about 200 police personnel stationed and every vehicle checked at the barricades along the road leading to the venue. People had gathered primarily from villages of Vanagiri, Keelaperumpallam, Poompuhar, Tharangambadi and Sinangudi. An earlier public hearing in August was postponed amid opposition and chaos at the scheduled location.

A.Annadurai, District Revenue Officer, M. Paneerselvam, Assistant Environmental Engineer and District Officer, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, were present.