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Farmers seek to switch off power project at Cheyyur

22nd August 2013

By Sruthisagar Yamunan
New Indian Express

KANCHEEPURAM/CHENNAI: The proposed 4,000 mega watt Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) to be set up near the Gangadevankuppam village of Kancheepuram has given rise to apprehension among the farming community in the area.

The project got a fillip in 2008 from the then DMK government.

"The moment the project was brought back, many VIPs, including partymen, started buying land here," alleges Shanmugam, a village leader, who claims that the villagers have been given no information regarding the project even though the Expert Appraisal Committee recommended clearance for the project to the Ministry of Environment. A public hearing held in 2010 for the plant was also hurriedly concluded without taking in their views, he says.

The region, in fact, looks abundant in natural resources, including the presence of lagoons, estuaries and a reserved forest. A complex system of water bodies, both natural and artificial, with as many as 80 lakes, dot the area around which the plant is supposed to come up. More importantly, the area is filled with sand dunes almost every few metres. The presence of mangroves also makes it an ecologically sensitive zone.

Fishermen in Panaiyur Periakuppam village, where the captive coal jetty for the plant would be situated, fear the project would completely destroy their livelihood. A port is expected to come up between the village and its neighbouring hamlet occupying shorefront of 650 metres, says environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman. The coal stockyard will hold 310,000 tonnes of coal and would be built on an 83-acre land.

The villagers have challenged the clearance given to the coal jetty in the National Green Tribunal and say they would do the same for the power project as well by the end of this week. Interestingly, the plant and coal jetty are proposed to be set up 6 km apart.

A report released by environmentalists and endorsed by prominent persons, including former Energy Secretary EAS Sarma, alleged that a number of false representations have been made in trying to get clearance for the project.

These included claims such as non-existence of any sensitive ecosystem, the plant's location on barren land and the stability of the shoreline. The report also alleged that the site where the plant is currently set to come up was never considered by the Central Electricity Authority as claimed by the project proponents.

Villagers in Cheyyur told Express that they have formed a committee at the panchayat level to campaign against the plant.

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