Imagine a massive 4000 MW coal fired power station proposed on a land near you. How would you react ? With the promise of unlimited electricity and good paying jobs along with private educational and health care facilities, it seems an offer many can’t refuse, especially in India. However, environmental and livelihood impacts of such power plants is often ignored until they come back to bite us later! The TATA Mundra Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) in Gujarat, India is a case in point where environmental norms and people’s livelihood have been disregarded; but it is also a case of peoples resilience that fights project developers to get away with their offenses.

Bharat Patel, a local activist from the Machimar Adhikar Sangathan Samithi (MASS) has been campaigning against the plant since 2007 when the special economic zone (SEZ) and the nearby port of Adani had already blocked routes for the local fisherfolks and pastoralists to reach their daily catch and grazing fields. ” The destruction of Mangroves for the plant has disturbed the marine eco system. The fish catch fell dramatically over the last 3 years with the construction of the Adani port and now with the first unit of the TATA plant running, the yield has gone down even further”, says Bharat.

The project costs upwards of $4 billion out of which over $450 million is being support by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a part of the World Bank Group! MASS recently filed another case with the Compliance Advisory Ombudsman (CAO) of the IFC for ignoring its norms which dictates IFC to not support environmentally destructive projects. For instance, TATA’s installed a once-through cooling system which is cheaper and more environmentally destructive as opposed to the closed-cycle cooing system for which the company initially gained permission for. “Local communities are unitedly opposing the project and have clearly stated to the CAO of the negative impacts on fish yield and gross environmental and public hearing violations of the project”, claims Bharat. 

If the above violations were not sufficient, the project is now seeking a public bailout in the form of a tariff rise. The TATA’s preempted a drop in coal prices during the project bidding stage while its cost has instead tripled over the past 5 years making the project unviable without the tariff rise which could result in the average consumer having to pay more. A classic case of public money to bail out big corporations!  

Fresh audits have now been slapped on the project following the strong complaint from local communities. This is a great example of people power using all the tools within its means to hold off a huge corporation. At, we will continue to focus our energies on communicating these struggles and working with them to eventually help India move beyond coal and adopt a clean energy pathway. 

Image source: Sierra Club.