AP: Villagers continue protest against power plant

The relay hunger strike by the villagers demanding scrapping of the project entered its 564th day on Wednesday.

Hyderabad: A year after three villagers died in police firing on a group opposing an upcoming thermal power project, the struggle by people of Kakrapalli in Andhra Pradesh`s Srikakulam district is still on.

The relay hunger strike by the villagers demanding scrapping of the project entered its 564th day on Wednesday while protestors also unveiled a memorial as a mark of tribute to those who died in the police firing Feb 28 last year.

"We will not settle for anything less than scrapping of the project as it is not only poses a threat to the ecology but also endangers the livelihood of fishermen and farmers," M. Narsingh Rao, a member of the Navalapadu thermal power Vytherka Porata Samithi, which is spearheading the anti-project protest, told over phone from the
north coastal Andhra region.

While waging a legal battle, the Samithi is continuing with the protest. Hundreds attended a meeting it organised Tuesday to pay tributes to those who died in police firing.

The East Coast Energy Pvt. Ltd (ECEPL) is building a 2,640 MW thermal power plant at a cost of Rs.12,000 crore in the swamp, barely 2.5 km from the Bay of Bengal.

Former bureaucrat and activist E.A.S. Sarma Wednesday wrote to union Minister of State for Environment Jayanthi Natarajan, urging her to stop the project coming up on the wetland by cancelling the environmental clearance.

The former IAS officer, who served as secretary, finance and power in the government of India, said the wetland was illegally allotted to ECEPL. He said the project should not have been cleared by the ministry`s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for thermal projects.

Sarma said the construction activity resulted in depriving hundreds of traditional fishermen of their livelihoods, flooded thousands of adjacent agricultural lands and adversely affected small traditional salt farmers.

"The newly constituted EAC had listened to the company`s version without giving an opportunity to the villagers to represent their case. This is patently illegal and undemocratic. Even at this stage, it will be appropriate for MOEF to invite the villagers to give their version," he wrote.

Sarma also demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe against "promoters of ECEPL and the project clearances obtained by them by deceit".

Fishermen claim that the project coming upon on 3,333 acres of land has already affected their livelihood. The farmers face inundation of their 30,000 acre farmland in 59 villages as the project has obstructed the natural flow of water to the sea.

At about three kilometres from the project site, Telineelapuram, the breeding place for migratory birds including those from Siberian, Africa, adds to the rich ecology of the swamp.


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