Fact-finding team for halt to Tata Mundra power project

“Serious social and environmental violations,” says group

An independent fact-finding team has called for suspension of work related to the upcoming 4,000 MW Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) in Gujarat, citing “serious social and environmental violations”.

The team, led by former Chief Justice of Sikkim S.N. Bhargava, released a report –‘The Real Cost of Power’- and presented the findings from the ground. “The project has disproportionately high social, environmental, and economic costs. The company, the licensing agencies of the Government of Gujarat and India, and the national and international financial institutions have either ignored or wilfully neglected the social and environmental high costs and did little to mitigate them,” the report said.

The group has alleged that the social and environmental impact assessments are “misleading and erroneous” and excluded a large number of communities whose livelihood is being affected by the project.

Members of the fishing and pastoralist communities are being affected as access to fishing and grazing areas has been blocked or diverted, said former chairperson of the Commission for Women in Arunachal Pradesh Jarjum Ete, part of the fact finding team.

The report said the project has caused drastic reduction in fish catches, failed to thoroughly examine the health and environment impacts of fly-ash contamination, ignored the potential impacts of radioactivity from the coal ash and violated the environmental clearance by adopting a one-through cooling system.

“We realised the Government of Gujarat, which is otherwise known to be very progressive, has made no interventions for the education and health of the children belonging to these communities,” Ms. Ete said.

The 4,000 MW plant, being developed by Coastal Gujarat Power Limited, is being financed by a consortium of banks including the IFC ADB, Export-Import Bank of Korea, Korea Export Insurance Corporation and local financers.

The fact finding was carried out at the behest of the local communities that are likely to be impacted by the power project.

The team expressed concern over the impact the project will have on the people and the flora and fauna. It said fisher-folk in these settlements as well as in the villages had repeatedly sent complaints about not being consulted prior to the initiation of the project.

The team also included former Advisor to the Ministry of Earth Sciences Dr. Varadarajan Sampath, author and journalist Praful Bidwai and national convener of Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha Soumya Dutta. It has recommended computation and monetising of all social and environmental costs and their addition to the project cost.

Compensation recommended

It has also recommended compensating all local people for the loss of livelihood, creating a fund for the restoration of destroyed mangroves, deployment of all possible pollution control measures on a war footing to save this fragile zone from further damage and unconditional restoration of people's access to fishing and grazing grounds and salt-pans. “Put a moratorium on permission to any more industry/power plants in Mundra/Kutch; issue a show cause to the CGPL/Tata Mundra for multiple violations of clearance conditions, constitute independent expert committee(s) to thoroughly investigate all pollution, contamination and radioactivity hazard within a reasonable time frame,” the report further said.

Reacting to the allegations of the fact finding team, Tata Power in a statement issued here said: “The UMPP strictly abides by stipulated norms for its operations including environment, community engagement and ecological impact. The company is committed to its communities and environment in which it operates. The Mundra plant is fully compliant on all environmental and social norms and the same has been endorsed by MOEF and other statutory bodies.”

The statement claimed the plant is not generating more than twenty per cent of its capacity and there was an “ulterior motive” in “blaming a responsible corporate citizen like Tata-Mundra UMPP.”“The report itself admits there are several other operating units in the entire Kutch coastline, whereas a responsive organisation is being made the target, which is unfortunate and needs to be appropriately understood.,” the statement said.

“The statements made in this report have not been substantiated with the facts that were provided to this organisation by us during their recent visit to our facility at Mundra. There is already a process initiated by the same group with the CAO's office since July last year and a systematic engagement has been happening due to this,” it said.

Access to fishing and grazing areas has been blocked or diverted by project

Fact finding team carried out at the behest of local communities likely to be affected by project

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