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Residents of Gujarat village protest against windmills being set up on forestland

Villagers of Sangnara in Kutch protesting against setting up of windmills in their area   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sangnara, a small village in Kutch, has been trying to save its forests from wind energy companies for the past two years as windmills were being installed on forestland, depriving people of greenery and natural resources.

Kutch has been designated as an important wind energy exploitation zone, and in the past few years thousands of windmills have been put up by energy companies, leading to local conflicts in villages because the structures are eating up common forest and grazing lands critical for villagers.

In Sangnara, local communities raised their voice when they realised that their forestland rich in wildlife and local flora and fauna was being destroyed to pave the way for setting up giant wind turbines to generate clean energy in the region.

The Sangnara forest is part of a sacred grove that five villages consider a place of worship. This is a 500 sq km virgin tropical thorn forest, perhaps the best in Gujarat, with a huge diversity of endangered flora and fauna including Chinkara, Wolf, Caracal, Ratel, Hyena, Desert Cat, Indian Fox, Spiny Tailed Lizard, Desert Monitor, White Naped-Tit, vultures and more. The communities have maintained and protected this forest for the past 500 years.

The first wind energy turbine was set up in the forest five years ago by renewable energy company Suzlon, destroying hundreds of trees and flattening hills to create access for the machinery, fans and transmission cables. Birds and wildlife deserted the area, disturbed by the noise of fans and machinery.

Subsequently, more than 40 more windmills were approved by the local administration despite strong resistance from the village panchayat. The panchayat approached the Collector, informing him of the rich forest on revenue land.

However, when the administration did not heed their repeated pleas against allowing more turbines in the area, the villagers approached the National Green Tribunal, where their petition has been admitted.

Recently, the villagers saw a renewed attempt by Suzlon to put up two more windmills in the area, prompting communities to launch an agitation against the clean energy projects.

The local residents, including women and youth, have been stopping company vehicles from entering the forest. However, the companies resorted to heavy police protection to deforest and continue their operations to protect and install turbines after levelling the areas allotted to them by the administration.

On Friday, hundreds of people from the village held a protest march against setting up of green energy projects.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 6:02:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/residents-of-gujarat-village-protest-against-windmills-being-set-up-on-forestland/article35781540.ece

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