They say it’s a small price to pay for a new era of cheap energy to drive India’s growing economy. They say that it will fulfill the call 'Power for all' in India. They say that Tata Mundra would be the pioneer of low-cost energy for the country. Most of all it was supposed to be an energy-efficient, coal-based thermal power plant, so they say.
Let us put a face to this small price to pay claim, which includes:
Displacement of villagers, loss farmland & access to communal grazing land, and families from the 3 communities who have to give up their homes to give way to the location to where the mega plant was built. But the people behind the mega plant described these losses, as “marginal” considering the benefits that power plant will give the country. This is human rights violation. Forcibly evicting people from their homes in lieu of ‘something better’? Though the villagers were not ‘forcibly’ evicted, it is as if they were given any other choice.
The displacement of Waghers (a Muslim minority whose history on the coastline where the power plant was built dates back 200 years). Though they only live in makeshift houses, the area where they lived in is also where they conduct their means of living; traditional fishing.
The warm water discharged by the mega plant has driven fish away from the intertidal zone. It also destroys mangroves that act as a breeding ground for fish and a natural barrier against cyclones. This affects the economic state of the people from the villages around the mega plant. Before the mega plant came to be, in one day, the fisher folks used to catch three times as much fish, as soon as the mega plant operated the catch has lowered incredibly that they have to have the same catch for 7 days.
Ashes falling from the sky that settles on fish left out to dry, rendering them inedible.
There was a definite increase in the respiratory problems of people living in the area, the elderly are the worst affected. Children are also not exempted there is a 20% rise in severe respiratory diseases in the villages near Tata Mundra mega power plant. The coal dust and fly ash are putting the lives of people, animals and horticulture at risk.
Based on Ernst and Young, the estimated baseline CO2 emissions and reductions for the Project would be 30.796 million tons per year (baseline value) and 29.293 million tons per year, which would make it India’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The people around the area are stating that they are forced to adapt to the change in climate (no pun intended), in the morning and at night, steam coming from the outfall channel, the area around the mega plant is described as ‘always warm’, which is of course, not natural.
Lastly, Tata Mundra Power Plant has failed the assessment of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), various assessments had failed to adequately consider the Wagher people or the plant’s potential impact.
Then we ask, is it really a small price to pay? The struggle with Tata Mundra Mega Power Plant is not exclusively happening in Gujarat, India alone, this is a struggle experienced by almost all poor countries who see's the intervention of international financial institutions like ADB as a way towards development.
Photo credits to http://www.sierraclub.org/international/tata-mundra (Photo courtesy of Joe Athialy
Written by Jen Derillo. Jen is NGO Forum on ADB's Program Coordinator for Communications.