Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hankon Thermal Power Plant - 5 - Fiery like the Kali - Article by Arun in Indian Express

Article Source

Time: Around dusk

Place: Hanakon in Uttara Kannada district

The plot: Jyothi Maruti Savant and Sunitha Suresh Naik are chatting. Hanakon gram panchayat secretary Syed Adam asks the two housewives to work at the site in their sleepy little village for clearing “unauthorised structures” constructed by a Hyderabad-based company that is launching an energy project. Next morning, Jyothi and Sunitha are among the 50-odd men and women who have gathered at the place where Ind-Barath Power (Karwar) Limited is setting up a 450-MW coal-based power plant. But Syed is nowhere to be seen. As whispers of Syed having taken ill spread, Jyothi and Sunitha decide to return home.

All of a sudden, they are battling the blows that the police are raining on them. Everybody starts running, screaming for help. Police round up the villagers, thrash them and bundle them up inside a van. Villagers are picked up at random and produced at the magistrate’s house around 3 am. Jyothi is angry and wants to tell the magistrate in no uncertain terms what she had gone through. But she is not allo wed to get off the van. Both the women, along with several others, are taken to the district prison in Bellary, 400 km away.

The charge: Attempting to sabotage the site of a proposed private thermal power plant.

Footnote: After the two are released from prison on August 2, Hanakon readies itself to become the Nandigram of Karnataka.

This drama in Hanakon is just one of the many theatres of the absurd playing out in the state. In the mining town of Bellary, villagers are performing the painful urulu seve (rolling bare-chested) on the road — for about 15 km and blocking traffic almost every other day. They say that agricultural land is being taken over for a greenfield airport — which will perhaps serve only the high and mighty of the area — by notifying it as barren land. In Uttara Kannada’s Tadadi, the government had to bow to public pressure and convert the proposed coal-based power plant into a gas-based one. The proposed hydel project in Gundiya earned the wrath of Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh when chief minister B S Yeddyurappa laid the foundation stone even before receiving the mandatory clearances. The list is endless.

Karnataka’s hunger for power

One doesn’t have to look too far to see why the state government is running at breakneck speed to sanction power projects. Karnataka’s unrestricted power demand is 10,500 MW while it generates only around 6,000 MW. The deficit is being managed through load-shedding. But with its inability to bridge the gap soon, the first Bharatiya Janata Party government south of the Vindhyas faces the prospect of losing power in the next elections.

Why Hanakon matters

With a population of just around 1,400 (1,284 according to 2001 census), Hanakon, on the northern bank of the estuary of the Kali River, has managed to stand up to the giants.

And the blanket of protests is getting stitched up with help from the nearby villages as Kali is their lifeline and a rise in the river’s temperature will have a devastating effect. Fisherfolk of the Gabit community have also joined in. Recently, they returned the palanquins donated by their MLA and fisheries minister Anand Asnotikar to the local deity for his ambiguous stand on the issue. During the 2008 elections, Asnotikar had assured fishermen of protection of their interests. “But he failed to do so. It became inevitable for us to return the palanquins,” says Uday Poshe, the leader of the fishermen.

Balakrishna Pai, an advocate leading the protests and exploring legal options, sounds a more defiant note. “If the authorities do not stall the project,’’ he says, ‘‘we will launch an agitation on the lines of the people’s protest against the Nano project in Nandigram. We are ready even for bloodshed.”

What is at stake?

The project is proposed to be located a few metres from the Kali estuary. The state’s forest department has identified 49 mangrove species, 93 herbs in the vicinity apart from a floristic composition of 133 species of trees, shrubs, creepers and climbers in the adjoining forest (most have medicinal value) which will be affected. Bisons, spotted deer, porcupines, and various birds and reptiles are at threat as the proposed project lies within 5 km of the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa, and less than 12 km from the Dandeli-Anashi Tiger Reserve. The project is expected to consume 3,200 tonnes of coal each day generating not less than 800 tonnes of fly ash.

And that makes the threat of acid rain in this bio-reserve a distant reality. Since only 65 per cent of the heat is used for power generation the remaining 35 per cent heat will be discharged in the Kali, and that will affect the aqua-fauna in the estuary. This is where the sea fish come to breed in the mangroves.

Which begs the question: All this for 450 MW of power? And the government is not even sure if it will come to Karnataka. And even if it does, at what price?

Lack of transparency

In Bellary, the government pulled the wool over the villagers’ eyes. In Hanakon, however, it was ignorance that did the villagers in. Since most of the area is at a level lower than the high-tide level of the Arabian Sea, saline water gets into the paddy fields every month.

The Khar Land Bund constructed along the banks of the Kali adjoining the village is unable to stop the backwater getting into the paddy fields. Many families found a better calling in Goa and their land turned fallow after they migrated. Villagers allege that the power company has exploited this situation.

In 2006, during the annual fair at the Sateri Devi temple, somebody said a pharmaceutical company was planning to set up shop in Hanakon. Soon enough, agents of the company started buying land at a very attractive price of Rs 2.6 lakh per acre and acquired around 100 acres. Villagers claim they did not know that a thermal plant was coming up even when Ind-Barath obtained an NoC on October 4, 2006, from the Hanakon Gram Panchayat to set up a plant with installed capacity of 140MW. By June last year, panic set in when they got to know what was happening. The Hanakon Ushna Sthavara Virodhi Horata Samithi (a committee to fight against thermal power project) was set up and the villagers decided to oppose the project after a public hearing in October. Accordingly, the Hanakon Gram Panchayat withdrew its NoC.

Protests and the aftermath

After the handful of protesters managed to turn the issue into a big controversy, the district administration asked the company not to take up any work on the spot without getting clearance from the Karnataka Pollution ControlBoard. The National Environment Appellate Authority in New Delhi, based on an

appeal made by the people of Hanakon, ord ered a status quo. The Forest Department closed the cul de sac, the only pathway to app roach the project site from the Londa- Sadashivagad State Highway (locally called as Karwar-Kadra Road) by fencing it.

In the meanwhile, a committee of the Union ministry of environment and forests headed by the Chief Conservator of Forests of the regional office in Bangalore K S Reddy recommended that the Centre order a comprehensive impact assessment study of the site. It found more than 20 lacunae in the Impact Assessment Report prepared by the power company.

Meanwhile, Jyothi and Sunitha — and several other villagers of Hanakon — are awaiting the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission chairman’s report after the local police enquiry gave a clean chit to the officials.

Hanakon villagers have won a few battles but if they manage to win the war against the misplaced priorities and the might of the corporations, they will end up showing the way to protesters in Bellary, Hassan, Gulbarga, Raichur, Bijapur and countless other areas in Karnataka. In the end, it will prove that the “individual does matter”.

The backbone of the protests

He is better known as “Green Swamiji”.

Gangadharendra Saraswathi Swamy of Sonda Swarnavalli Mutt, earned the sobriquet for his fight against activities detrimental to the environment in Karnataka in general and Uttara Kannada district in particular. He has been a source of inspiration to villagers to protest against the thermal power project. During his visit to the spot last October, he called upon the people to participate in large numbers in the public hearing that was held on the last day of that month.

Environmentalist Ananth Hegde Ashisara, who has attended several such public hearings, says he never saw so many people attend a public hearing like when he did that day after the Swamiji’s call.

Swamiji is worried about the greenhouse gases and the impact that the project will have on the local environment. He says that Uttara Kannada district does not need another project, over-burdened as it is with seven large reservoirs and hydropower projects, one atomic power project (at Kaiga), the Seabird naval base and mining activities in addition.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hankon Thermal Power Plant - 4 - Events 30th July 2009 onwards

Population Data for Hankon Village - Source

Total Population - 1,284

Male Population - 596

Female Population - 688

This village population consists of poor agriculturists and land-labourers, and most of

the village folk have migrated to Cities and towns seeking employment.

What happened in this small village on July 30th, 2009, in the backdrop of the Coal-based Thermal Power Plant, has left villagers and the local peace-loving citizens of Karwar shell-shocked....

Teargas shells lobbed to disperse agitating villagers in Karwar

Source - Sahil Online News Service, Thursday, 30 July 2009 - 18:06:38 IST

Police lobbed teargas shells to disperse Hanakona villagers who indulged in violence to protest the demolition of their huts near here today. The villagers had allegedly put up on land meant for Hanakona power plant. The trouble started when workers, on behalf of Ind Bharat Company, which had proposed to install the controversial Hanakona Power Plant, arrived in the morning and started demolishing the huts put up in the proposed plant premises. Additional forces were rushed to the spot and the demolition work was stopped. The situation was stated to be tense but under control.

Also Reported at Mangalorean.com and Daijiworld.com with Pictures....

Villagers Subdued... The Crowd was mostly made up of women....

Three police personnel sustained injuries when police resorted to lathicharge as a protest against thermal power plant turned violent in Hanakona village of the taluk on Thursday. Three buses have been damaged in the incident. More than 500 people took to streets demanding removal of the shed and materials stocked for construction of a thermal power plant by Ind Bharat Power Company. As the authorities concerned delayed to arrive at the spot, the protesters resorted to rasta roko. Efforts of the DySP Babu Kolekar to pacify the irate protesters went in vain.

The police have arrested 38 people in connection with the violence. Ind Bharat Power (Karwar) Company has allegedly constructed a shed and stocked materials for the work on the proposed Hanakona thermal power plant. The Gram Panchayat has issued three notices calling upon the company to clear the area and the company reportedly, did not comply with. Ultimately, the Gram Panchayat, with police assistance, attempted to demolish the shed constructed unauthorisedly and more than 50 labourers had also arrived for the job. However, the GP secretary Sayyad Sheikh was admitted to hospital on complaint of chest pain. The activists of anti-power plant committee who grew suspicious over the sudden hospitalisation, went to the hospital itself and asked the secretary on further course of action, who reportedly maintained silence. The activists then approached the Taluk Panchayat executive officer seeking action. He refused to act in the absence of any instruction. Enraged by the turn of events, the activists started a protest, accusing the officials of complicity. - Daijiworld.com

Hundreds of villagers had gathered to protest against the power plant in their village and to witness the shifting of the construction machinery, but were angered when the Panchayat Secretary Syed Sheikh, who was to oversee the process, did not turn up. Sheikh had reportedly got himself admitted to a hospital on grounds of ill health, police said. The villagers then asked the local MLA to join the demonstration but the MLA was not available as he was in Bangalore. This reportedly enraged the villagers who started pelting stones and set on fire a bus. The villagers said that they were protesting because government officials and people's representatives are hand-in-glove with the company. The thermal power project will also pollute the village and rob them of their livelihood too, they said. Source - Mangalorean.com

Villagers flee, FIR logded against protesters in Hankon

Karwar: Erie silence prevails at Hankon village, 15km from here, following Thursday's incident in which an agitation against the establishment of a thermal power project in the village turned violent leading to a clash between the villages tuned violent leading to a clash between the police and agitators. The villagers are afraid of coming out of their houses. Most of the villagers have fled fearing arrest. The police searched many houses on Thursday after the incident to apprehend the agitators. However, most of the agitators did not belong to the village, it is said. According to sources, an FIR has been filed against 200 people. The entire incident had been video graphed and the people who had participated in the agitation have been identified, it is stated. The police are looking out for them. The police have framed an FIR against some leaders, including advocates who allegedly provoked the innocent villagers. These leaders have moved the court for anticipatory bail, it is said.
According to Deputy Commissioner NS Chennappa Gowda, 47 people have been arrested in connection with the incident. They have been sent to Bellary jail. No more arrests have been made, he added. He admitted that the villagers were afraid to come out of their houses.
Police atrocity condemned
Committed on villagers agitating against the establishment of a thermal power project at Hankon on Thursday. False charges had been framed against the agitators. Forty-seven villagers arrested on Thursday had been shifted to Bellary jail. Women agitators were handled by male constables. This amounted to violation of human rights. They alleged that the government had been thrusting the project on the people without taking people into confidence. They regretted that District in charge Minster Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri and Fisheries Minister Anand Asnotikar did not come to Karwar to discuss the project had created. They said that the state government had failed to convince people about the necessity of the project. Source

Pictures of the Police Atrocities here :- Most of the pictures are from the local Daily - Karavali Munjavu, published from Karwar.

Talking to reporters, Ganapati Tikkam said he was continuously tortured by three sub-inspectors on Friday night and was beaten with lathis and kicked by the police. He named the three sub-inspectors, an ASI and a constable for his condition.
He said he was produced before the DC and SP on Saturday night, but before that, the Chittakula police threatened him and asked him not to show his wounds or tell anything to the DC or SP, saying they would implicate his parents and family members in criminal cases and torture them. He said there was pressure by police on doctors to issue certificate saying that the injury was caused by falling on hard and rough surfaces and not due to torture. So, he went on a hunger strike to protest this manipulation. News Source - Times of India

Several organizations jointly staged protests to show their solidarity for victims of police atrocities who were protesting the construction at the proposed thermal project at Hanakon near here. The victims mostly women who had sustained injuries met the Deputy Commissioner Chennappa Gowda and narrated their horrifying experiences in the jail. They alleged that the policemen kicked them with boots and beat with canes. Advocate Dhanalakshmi Haladankar, one of the arrested women, said that the police kicked them and tore their clothes. Police had arrested 16 women and they were shifted to Bellary jail. They were later released on bail and arrived here on Sunday night. The DC has ordered medical checkup on them. News Source - Mangalorean.com

Nearly 1,000 people, a majority of them women, took out a procession in the town and held demonstration in front of the Deputy Commissioner's office here on Monday to protest against the alleged police atrocity on villagers of Hankon, including women on July 30. The committee also submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner urging him for an early action against the police officials responsible for the incident. The memorandum stated that the police were responsible for the violent incident at Hankon on July 30. It was alleged in the memorandum that the police themselves set many two-wheelers on fire on that day to implicate innocent people in the case. The police had videotaped the entire incident at Hankon except the one in which the vehicles were set ablaze. This clearly indicated that the police were involved in it, they alleged. The memorandum stated that the order for lathicharge and bursting of tear gas were issued in the absence of either the taluk or sub divisional magistrate. Further the police authorities deliberately recommended the court to lodge the arrested people inBellary jail citing security problems.

The police had arrested many innocent people, advocates and social workers although they were not present at Hankon on the day when the agitation was held.Source - Indian Express

Refuting superintendent of police Raman Gupta’s claim that there was no police atrocity on those agitating against the Hankon thermal power project on June 30, 16 women, who were arrested at Hankon following Thursday’s violent incidents in the village and released on bail on Sunday from Bellary jail, narrated their tales of woes before the deputy commissioner on Monday. All of them, mostly middleaged, said they were tortured mentally and physically by the police. Dhanalakshmi Haldankar, a lawyer, pointing to an injury on her thighs caused by the police assault, said police used vulgar language against her. She said the police kicked some women with their shoes, causing injuries on the knees, arms and the stomachs. The beating continued till they reached Chitakula police station from Hankon, she said. Sunita Suresh Naik, showing injuries on her shoulder and stomach, said police ignored her pleas to let her go to give medicines to her husband suffering from a heart ailment. Another woman Pragati Naik, who suffers from a kidney ailment said that though she had a tumour removed recently, police dragged out of her house at Hankon and took her into custody. Meghana Manoj Bandekar, who has a swelling on the legs and hands, said she was on her way home when the police picked her up. She said she was beaten with batons before being pushed to police van. Dhanalakshmi Haldankar warned that if the police officers responsible for the attack on women are not punished, a hunger strike would be launched in front of the deputy commissioner’s office. The deputy commissioner said a medical test of all the 16 women would be conducted in the district hospital and a report would be sent to the government. He said a report had been sent to the Human Rights’ Commission too. Source - Indian Express News

Another incident of alleged police atrocity, Ganapati Tikkam, a functionary of BJP Fishermen Morcha, who was allegedly beaten up by the police at Chitakula police station near here, is convalescing in the district hospital now. According to Tikkam, he had gone to Chitakula police station on July 30 to offer bail security to BS Pai, a lawyer who was arrested in connection with the violent incident at Hankon the same day. He said that he was taken aback when the police began to beat him with lathis without any provocation. Then he was arrested and jailed. On Saturday, he was admitted to the district hospital by the jail authorities after he complained of severe pain in the leg. Tikkam alleged that he was handcuffed and locked in a room in the hospital. He said the next day police wanted to send him back to the jail by getting a discharge certificate from the duty doctor that Tikkam had recovered.However, a few BJP leaders, including Jagdish Birkodikar, taluk BJP president and secretary Nagaraj Joshi, insisted that he be kept in the hospital for further treatment. They sought blood and urine tests and x-ray before the hospital authorities certifying that Tikkam had no health problems. The x-ray revealed that Tikkam has a fracture in his leg.However, the police denied that they had manhandled Tikkam at the station. They said Tikkam might have fallen on some hard surface from a height and got injured. News Source - Indian Express

Sources at Uttara Kannada district administration said that DC Chennappa Gowda has submitted a detailed report on Hanakon violence and its aftermath to the government on Monday. In a separate report to the Home ministry and the State Human Rights Commission, the district administration has also sent a detailed account of the violence and the reasons behind it.
The report recommended disciplinary action against three police sub-inspectors, Manjunath Gowda of DCB Karwar, Channesh of rural police station of Karwar, and John D'Souza of Chittakula police station in Karwar, in connection with the "alleged" torture of BJP worker Ganapati Tikkam in police custody. The report also recommended action against Bhaskar Rai, inspector of Ankola police station, and Babu Kolekar, DSP of Karwar, the sources added. The officials face charges of violation of human rights and women's rights.
It is said that though Tikkam was sent to Karwar jail after the "alleged" torture, the DC was informed that he was shifted to Hindalga jail in Belgaum. Various organizations have demanded action against the police officials for the atrocities committed "allegedly" by them, the sources said.
The police had also sent a 17-year-old boy to
Bellary jail, instead of a remand home. Realizing their mistake, they also withdrew the cases filed against him.
Sixteen women, who were sent to
Bellary jail and given bail later, arrived here on Sunday night. Advocate B S Pai was also granted bail. Headquarter assistant to Uttara Kannada DC said he had directed district surgeon to issue medical certificates to the injured. Advocate Pai said they are waiting for medical report of all women to file complaints in Chittakula and Karwar town police stations against the police for "allegedly" torturing women. Different sections of IPC, ranging from attempt-to-murder and molestation to threat to life, would be filed against the guilty, he added. News Source - Times of India

Accused says Minister responsible for violence

Source - Hindu Online edition of India's National Newspaper Sunday, Aug 02, 2009

Madhav Nayak refuses bail saying there was threat to life

Karwar: The president of the Shanashakthi Vedike, Madhav Nayak, whose name appeared in the second FIR filed by the police relating to the Hanakon violence on July 30, surrendered in the court of the First Class Judicial Magistrate on Saturday. The court granted him bail but Mr. Nayak preferred to remain in jail alleging that he had threat to life from the Fisheries Minister Anand Asnotikar. Talking to the presspersons after he appeared in the court, Mr. Nayak alleged that Mr. Anand Asnotikar was responsible for the Hanakon violence. He said Mr. Asnotikar wanted to take revenge against the leaders who were opposing the proposed thermal power plant. Mr. Nayak said that he was not present in Karwar and was in Mundgod when the riots broke out in Hanakon. He had enough evidence to prove it. But he was implicated in ‘trumped up’ charges because he had opposed the private check-post set up by the followers of Mr. Asnotikar at Baleguli and export of sand to Maldives.

Meanwhile, police sources said they were watching the videos to identify the culprits who had indulged in violence on Thursday. Till Saturday, 129 people were named in the FIR. Of them 59 persons were arrested. The police said over 500 people would be taken into custody in connection with the violence. Eighteen people, including 16 women and a minor and advocate B.S. Pai were granted bail on Saturday. The women were granted the bail on humanitarian grounds because most of them had left their children behind in Karwar.

Excessive force - “Police brutality in Karwar is inexcusable.”
The protesters were reportedly kicked, beaten with canes. There were several elderly women, even toddlers among the injured. Opposition to the power plant at Hanakon has been building up for some time. Many locals are opposed to it as the project is likely to displace thousands of fisherfolk and their families. Environmentalists too are up in arms against the project as it is expected to destroy the biodiversity in the region. It is said that many of the local villagers are angry that neither project authorities nor elected representatives have been responsive to their grievances. The brutal response of the police to their protest demonstrations last week will have fuelled their anger further. The police have alleged that they used force because the protest was not peaceful. The demonstrators had pelted stones apparently. Still, beating up protesters, especially elderly women and children, as savagely as they did is not the way to deal with demonstrations. It is the duty of the police to control public disorder and violence. But in discharging this duty they need to be more circumspect. For one they need to bear in mind that peaceful demonstrations are a legitimate form of protest in a democracy. Besides, they cannot wield their batons, burst teargas shells or shoot into crowds at the first sight of a large, noisy crowd. The use of force has to be the last resort always. And even this cannot be excessive.
There is no doubt that the police action in Karwar was excessive. A full probe into why it happened is essential. Local villagers have alleged that the heavy-handed police response to the demonstration was prompted by vested interests. There have been several instances where mining companies and manufacturing units have used the local police to evict tribals and villagers from the land. In the process, largely peaceful protests quickly escalated into angry armed struggles. The protests in Karwar have their roots in genuine grievances which need to be addressed. Failure to do so will aggravate the situation. Source - Deccan Herald

This post will Continue......

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hankon Thermal Power Plant - 3 - Central panel finds Hankon report flawed

Central panel finds Hankon report flawed - Source - Indian Express News

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the basis of which the conditional environmental clearance for the 450-MW Hankon thermal power project project was granted is riddled with flaws, the report of a Central committee reveals. The threemember committee constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for a spot inspection of the site, has recommended a comprehensive impact assessment study before the final environmental clearance for the project is granted.

The conditional EIA was given on the basis of the report submitted to the MoEF by the Ind Bharat Power (Karwar) Ltd, a private company which is building the coal-based power plant.
The committee was constituted following large scale local protests against the plant on environmental grounds. The committee members include K S Reddy, chief conservator of forests, M M Kamath and B Sudhakara Reddy.

Key questions raised

◆ Cotegaon Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa, is located at at an aerial distance of 5 km from the project site. The Company’s EIA report says that there is no National Park/Wildlife Sanctuary within a 7-km periphery of the project site, as is mandated by law. Also, the location of any existing National Park/Wildlife Sanctuary within 10 km of the site should be specified on an officially endorsed map. This finds no mention in the EIA report. The proposed project site is only 10 km away from the boundary of Dandeli-Anashi Tiger Reserve, the committee observed.

◆ The company’s report says that there are no lakes/reservoirs/dams within a 7-km radius of the project site. The committee has found three minor irrigation tanks in the vicinity of the project site. Also, mountains and hills within the 7-km radius find no mention in the EIA report.

◆ The existence of a historical fort at Sadashivgad, which is at a distance of 5 km from the project site, has not been mentioned. Although there are a few houses within 500 metres of the project site, the company’s report answers ‘nil’ to a question regarding the number of houses in that specified area.

◆ According to the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, no cooling water discharge shall be permitted into estuaries or ecologically sensitive zones like mangroves. However, the discharge site of the project falls into this category.

◆ The company has failed to mention that forest land is required for the project. The committee says that the project needs forest land for the approach road and a large portion for power transmission by KPTCL.

So What next.....

Friday, September 11, 2009

Karwar Beach - International Coastal Cleanup

There is a four kms. long beach in Karwar city. It has become dirty due to throwing of waste plastic and other non organic material. So also the Sea throws up a lot of things as there is a ocean going vessel port nearby.

Whether you live near the coast or thousands of miles inland, we are all connected to the ocean. It drives and moderates our climate, it helps provide the water we drink, the air we breathe, and much of the food we eat. The ocean also absorbs much of the pollution we generate. And trash that falls from our hands is one of the most pervasive pollution problems facing our world's ocean.

But it doesn't have to be…keeping our ocean free from trash is one of the easiest things we can do to help protect it.

In partnership with organizations and individuals across the globe, Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup engages people to remove trash and debris from the world's beaches and waterways, identify the sources of debris, and change the behaviors that cause marine debris in the first place.

Join us this September 19th : Sign up for a Cleanup near you and get involved today!