The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of MoEF deferred the Environmental Clearance of 2 x 660 MW coal based thermal power plant of Welspun Energy Pvt Ltd in its 70th meeting held on 26th March, 2013. Several complaints to the authorities from local environmental groups has gone in past regarding the establishment of the power plant in Mirzapur, a district of Uttar Pradesh adjoining Varanasi and Sonebhadra.
Vindhya Bachao informed its concerns to the EAC through a Delhi based organisation ERC (EIA Resource and Response Centre) which has been working for accountability and transparency in the EIA process since a long time. The representation sent to MoEF before the 70th meeting of EAC for coal and thermal power plant mentioned that the project proponent wants to meet its water requirement from a nearby dam 'Upper Khajuri' which is very
important drinking water and irrigation purpose downstream and Wyndham fall, city's most famous tourist spot was also under threat due to the same. ERC also brought to the notice of EAC the presence of sloth bear and vultures in the region which comes under Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Based on all facts, complaints and representations sent to different government offices, EAC asked for additional information before granting environmental clearance as follows:
1. The project proponent not only failed to provide appropriate details of coal to be outsourced from but several contradictory and incomplete information was given regarding the source and transportation of coal. EAC demanded a report on the coal supplier and details of how the coal will be supplied from ports and railway stations. EAC also demanded detailed explanation over financial viability of using coal from Indonesia and also sought information of agreement between UP govt and the project proponent.
2. EAC questioned the project proponent on water availabilitybased on the agreement with CWC that no water will be drawn between January to May. It was recommended that Upper Khajuri dam (as mentioned by the project proponent to use for storing water from Ganges) be not used as it conflicts the interest of construction of the dam. On the project proponents comment that Upper Khajuri dam is unutilised, EAC clearly stated that the dam must have been built long ago for irrigation and drinking water needs and the project proponent shall submit details on conflict of interest of the dam.
3. EAC also found shortcomings in the public hearing report, responses made and the action plan. Committee found no concrete action plan is made and demanded a fresh action plan to be submitted which will include local people in the developmental process. The project proponent was asked to undertake a study of endemic diseases in the local area and include long term preventive health measures with help of local health centres.
4. On issue of wildlife, EAC stated that the region has fairly good population of Scheduled 1 animals and the project proponent should submit a conservation action plan vetted by office of Chief Wildlife Warden.
There has been much worry among the environment groups in Mirzapur regarding this project. Mirzapur based senior journalist and environment activist Mr. Shiva Kumar Upadhyaya expressed thanks to ERC India for raising the concerns to the Expert Appraisal Committee. However he points out that the committee did not mention name of any animal under Scheduled I in the minutes.
A farmer setting up irrigation pipe at Upper Khajuri Dam which Welspun Energy termed 'unutilized'.
Why Vindhya Bachao is against any power plant in that region?
1. Representing true vindhyan ecosystem, forests of Mirzapur are not only lesser known but very much ignored due to its rich sandstone reserve. A good number of wild animals used to occur here till recently but unfortunately the region was never considered for protected status. A good population of sloth bear still exists in the Marihan forest range, very close to which this thermal power plant is proposed.
2. Detailed studies on wildlife is not available for Mirzapur forest division till now though incidences of man-animal conflict is very prevalent in Mirzapur's Marihan range. Sloth bear attacks are very common and incidences of leopard attacks have reduced much showing the trend of extinction locally. Old persons in Marihan region still claims that tigers used to be noticed here until recent 5 to 6 years but now they are not seen by any one. 2 years ago, a group of vultures were noticed roosting in forests of Marihan which was reported in local newspapers as well.
4. Thermal Power plants are facing opposition worldwide for it is the single largest source of carbon emmission and global warming. Not only this, the fly ash and SOx affects health very much. Coal is also known to contain mercury, a potential fatal heavy metal known to cause large scale deaths when come in contact with water. Thermal pollution of water body is anticipated which could have damaged the Wyndham fall's pride very much and put the health of tourists and people depending on its water at risk.
5. This particular project was not required to be set up here when the neighbouring state Singrauli an Sonebhadra is sufficient enough for providing power needs. Welspun Energy was himself not sure about it's intention of setting up of its power plant here and not even prepared with the availability of coal and water.