Sabyasachi Patra

Save Telineelapuram from East Coast Energy Thermal Power Project

Save Telineelapuram

I was increasingly getting jittery as my railway ticket was not yet confirmed. I was checking it online every few minutes. Finally, my ordeal was over at 8.15 pm barely three hours to go before the schedule departure time of the train.

To make the matters worse, I was thinking that the ticket wont get confirmed, so hadn’t packed. Naturally, something or the other would be missed. However, I had never imagined that I will miss my tripod. I had packed the tripod in its cloth bag, but while rushing from the room, I forgot to pick it up. What a costly mistake.

On 1st of November 2008, I got down at Naupara junction. It is a small junction with hardly any construction. I got into an auto rickshaw. And what a drive it turned out to be!

I don’t know whether the driver would have ever seen F1 in TV. Being in a remote corner of India, this seems to be impossible. However, the way the auto driver started driving his auto at breckneck speed, dodging the pot holes, he would have put aspiring formula one drivers to shame.

I had a tough time understanding the language as I don’t follow Telugu. I reached the forest guest house. I could see pelicans and painted storks flying by. I could see a watch tower constructed within the premises. Without waiting for the watchman to open the door of the Forest Rest House, I climbed up the tower and could see a small colony of pelicans nesting in a nearby tree. The sun was setting and I took some record shots of pelicans. Normally, I am not so keen in photographing Pelicans and Painted storks nesting. The background comes out pretty clumsy. I tried photographing them against the setting sun to make it slightly different than the run of the mill pelican shots.

I came back to the room and unpacked. I had a chat about Mr. Mrutyunjaya Rao – a man whom I had come to support in the fight to save the Telineelapuram wetlands – to understand the area. I asked the watchman to get some food from a nearby hotel. In the meanwhile, a few local guys arrived and striked a conversation. Initially I was polite with them till the time one of them offered to arrange someone to remove my loneliness. I had to show them the door and then retired for the night.

Lets see what is in store tomorrow.

It was tough sleeping in the forest rest house. The building is hardly maintained as this is not a regular tourist spot. There is a watchman who hasn’t got his salary for a long long time. Naturally, he felt very good when I tipped him yesterday. It was a difficult night and I woke up feeling uneasy.

I finished my morning chores and then slept for half an hour. I was woken up by a local guy whom I had met earlier. He was from Orissa and had settled in the village. I went out to photograph the pelicans and painted storks. I was urged by the locals to shoot the painted stork and I realized that they feel painted stork is better. On questioning, I was told that every year they wait for the arrival of painted storks and consider the day of their arrival as an auspicious day.

The forest watchman brought tea and breakfast for me. After having breakfast, I took an autorickshaw. There were confusions galore, as I could not understand their language. The auto rickshaw driver and the forest rest house watchman took me to the sea thinking that I am a normal tourist. I could not even convey it to them that the extremely bumpy ride was a waste of time. I had lunch in a small thatched roof restaurant. In such kinds of places, there is no point in asking for the menu. You eat whatever is given. Surprisingly, the hotel owner knew a smattering of hindi and provided me with some piping hot vegeteraian meals.

A Pelican builds its nest in Telineelapuram

A Pelican builds its nest in Telineelapuram

 

A pelican flys by with Painted Storks in the background

A pelican flys by with Painted Storks in the background

 

I then went to another place and could find lots of Open billed storks in the fields. I could find a pair of pied kingfishers perched on an electric pole. Black wing stilts, cattle egrets, median egrets, Indian roller, common rail, water hen, coots, shoveller, kite, harrier….

It was tough trying to photograph using only my 300mm lens as it was difficult to handhold my 400mm lens that weighs 5.3 kgs. All the time I was cusing myself for forgetting my tripod without which the 400mm lens was difficult to use.

Will this be the sunset on the beautiful wetlands

Will this be the sunset for the beautiful wetlands

 

We kept on moving on the auto rickshaw and stopping whenever I saw a bird. This went on till the auto rickshaw reached a checkgate. I got down and started shooting some shovellers and immediately a guard came running towards me. He told me that I am not allowed to photograph there. On asking he told me that a Thermal Power Plant was being set up by East Coast Energy Ltd. I had an argument, as I was not encroaching upon their territory and was photographing in the area opposite to their area on the other side of the road. The supervisor of that place who appeared more like a goon, threatned me and told me that they will file a police complaint against me. See the temerity of these people. This is a company that had applied for environmental clearance and it was pending. They guys are constructing without the environmental clearance and threatening me of dire consequences.

 These guys were filling mud in the place to change the very nature of that place. I saw lot of dumpers dumping mud and construction being done at a very fast pace. I was amazed, as I had been told that some activity is going on, but hadn’t expected work to be going on at such furious pace. Clearly, they wanted to change the nature of that place and then prove that a wetland never existed. Unfortunately, in India our wetlands are not documented. This makes it easy for people to “reclaim” that land by terming it as wastelands.

 A PIL was already filed by Mr. Mrutunjaya Rao. I was happy to send my images to strengthen the fight against such blatant violation of environmental norms. We should be happy that there are still some good people around to take up the cause of conservation. Dr. J S Sarma, who was the Ex- Forest secy of Andhra Pradesh had also lend his voice in support of the movement against the Thermal Power Plant in telineelapuram. Fortunately, the committee decided that the Power Plant needs to be shifted to another location.

 The following is the text of the meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee on Environmental Impact Assessment of the Thermal Power Project. I have reproduced the minutes of both the meetings.

 This meeting was held on June 11, 2008.  The minutes of the meeting is as follows:

Ministry of Environment & Forests

(IA Division)

***

 SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 24th MEETING OF RECONSTITUTED EXPERT APPRAISAL COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF THERMAL POWER AND COAL MINE PROJECTS

      The 24th meeting of the reconstituted Expert Appraisal Committee for Environmental Impact Assessment of Thermal Power and Coal Mine Projects was held on June 11-12, 2008 in the SCOPE Complex, New Delhi.

2640 MW Bhavanapadu Thermal Power Project near Kakrapalli Village, Sri Kakulam District, Andhra Pradesh by M/s East Coast Energy Pvt. Ltd.

 

The proposal was considered by the Committee and the proponent made a presentation on the proposal.  The proposal is for grant of environmental clearance for setting up of a 2640 MW (4×660 MW) thermal power project at Kakarpalli village, Sri Kakulam District,Andhra Pradesh.  The TORs for the project were prescribed on 6th August, 2007.  The public consultation was held on 23.4.2008. Super Critical Technology will be adopted. Project will be implemented in two phases. The land requirement for the project is 2450 acres. The water requirement is 155.12 cusec. Seawater will be used. There would be no fresh water requirement. CoolingTowers will be installed. COC of 2 will be adopted.  Imported coal requirement for both the phases is 8.98 MTPA, which has been tied up with Global Fuels Pte Ltd., Singapore.   However, indigenous coal for phase-II is also proposed, for which coal linkage is being sought from the Ministry of Coal. Imported coal will be transported by sea to the dedicated Jetty at Meghavaram village. Project area is reported to be out side the CRZ area.  Railway line is at less than 500m distance. It is proposed to shift the project colony from the present location. Impervious lining in the ash pond will be done. 

The Committee observed that the project proponent has submitted both the fuel options i.e. imported   and indigenous coal for the project and also prepared EIA report having both the option. The imported coal has been tied up with the supplier where as indigenous coal is not yet confirmed. In view of this, the Committee decided to consider the project with imported coal to be used in this project. 

          Based on the presentation made and discussions held, the Committee desired information on the following:-

(i)                EIA report should be modified with imported coal as fuel.

(ii)              Revise the land and water requirement accordingly.

(iii)            Distance from railway line should be kept > 500 m as per siting guidelines of the ministry for the thermal power plant.

(iv)            Land use of the project land as well as study area of the project.

(v)              Location of intake and outfall points should be given. These locations should be selected based on physical modelling. Details of modelling and the results obtained there from should be furnished. It may be kept in view that the intake and outfall points are away from the mangroves.

(vi)            Impact of the project on marine environment should also be covered.

(vii)          Details of desalination plant and disposal of sludge.

(viii)        Topography of the area should be given clearly indicating whether the site requires any filling. If so, details of filling, quantity of fill material required, its source, transportation etc. should be given.

(ix)            Impact on drainage of the area and the surroundings.

(x)              Information regarding surface hydrology and water regime.

(xi)            Facilities like jetty are to be created specifically for coal transportation; details of the same along with their impact should be provided. Details of other associated activities like dredging, if any should also be furnished.

(xii)           Revise Marine study taking discharge temperature < 30 c instead of 70 C and also do mathematical modeling.

(xiii)        Coastal fumigation study for air quality data.

(xiv)        Location of any National Park, Sanctuary, Elephant / Tiger Reserve (existing as well as proposed), migratory routes, if any, within 10 km of the project site shall be specified and marked on the map and got authenticated by the State Chief Wildlife Warden.

(xv)          Ash dyke area should be shifted to the down wind direction i.e. north of the project site.

(xvi)        Detailed plan of ash utilization / management with imported as fuel.

(xvii)      Details of evacuation of ash.

(xviii)    Measures of socio economic influence to the local community proposed to be provided by project proponent. As far as possible, quantitative dimension to be given. CSR initiatives should also be specified with proper funding details.

(xix)        Particulate emission should not exceed 50 mg/Nm3.

(xx)          Area under greenbelt should be increased making 1/3 of total area and details of local species to be planted. 

(xxi)        Phyto barriers should be put up in between CHP and the plant.

(xxii)      Details of the auxillary fuel to be used, if any, in the project (type of fuel, quantity to be used and maximum inventory to be stored at site). 

(xxiii)    Risk analysis taking into account the worst-case scenario including cascading effect based on the maximum inventory of storage.  The risk contours should be plotted on the location map.  It may clearly be shown whether the risk will be contained within the plant premises. 

(xxiv)    Time bound action plan to address the issues raised during public hearing along with financial allocation.

           The presentation made by the project proponents show that the project site is a low lying area which collects the drainage from the surrounding areas and the overflow from there   reaches the sea through a connecting creek. Some of the members have opined that this could be a marshy land and prone to submergence even facing tidal impacts. The concerns in regard to general drainage of the surrounding area were also expressed during the public hearing conducted for the project. In view of these aspects, the committee felt the need for inspection of the site   by a sub group comprising Shri T.K.Dhar and Dr. Asha Rajavanshi with a representative of the Ministry.  As Prof. R V Rama Rao is located at Visakhapatnam and he is fully conversant with the area, he has been requested to offer his specialist services in respect of hydrology and coastal dynamics as a special invitee to the committee.

 It was decided that the proposal may be brought back before the Committee for its further consideration after the requisite information as mentioned above and the reply to the observations of the sub group has been received from the project proponent.

 After this decision was taken in June 11, 2008, the East Coast Energy Pvt. Ltd. did its best to change the nature of the land. However there were people like Mrutunjaya Rao, Dr Sarma whose untiring efforts in collecting data and images from various sources made the EAC give the verdict to change the location of the project. I am happy that my images did their job on their own way. Read the minutes of the meeting reproduced below:

 2640 MW Bhavanapadu Thermal Power Project near Kakrapalli village, Sri Kakulam District, Andhra Pradesh by M/s East Coast Energy Pvt. Ltd.  (Reconsideration Case)

 The proposal was earlier considered by the Committee during its meeting held on June 10-11, 2008 wherein the Committee had sought additional information / clarifications on various issues.  It was also decided to undertake a site visit.  Accordingly, a site visit was taken by a sub group on 22nd July, 2008.  The observations made by the sub group were briefly discussed during the last meeting of the EAC held on November 10-11, 2008.  These observations were also communicated to the proponent for their response.  Based on the information / clarifications received from the proponent on the issues raised during the June, 2008 meeting as well as the observations of the site visit team, the proposal was considered further.  The Committee also took note of the various representations received against the project from Shri K. Mrutyumjaya Rao, Dr. E.A.S. Sarma and Sri Jagannadha Inland Fishermen Co-operative Society, Vaddithandra and the report on violations of environment clearance procedure by M/s East Coast Energy Pvt. Ltd. prepared by BNHS.

 With regard to start of construction at site without obtaining prior environmental clearance, the proponent stated that no construction activity relating to the project has been undertaken at site; however, some work relating to improvement of drainage of the area was undertaken based on the issue raised during public hearing.

The Committee observed that Painted Storks and Spot Billed Pelicans are the two species, which use this area for breeding and nesting.  It is the only remaining remnant of the marsh area on the east coast.  The proposed site is an ecological entity with incomparable value requiring conservation and protection.

 Based on the submissions made by the proponent and the discussions held, the Committee recommended that the proponent should shift their site upland sufficiently away from the marshy area and submit the details for further consideration of the proposal.

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Sabyasachi Patra

Sabyasachi is an award winning Cinematographer and shoots for international broadcasters, feature films and corporates to make a living. He is a passionate wildlife filmmaker and photographer and has won awards and accolades for his documentary “A Call in the Rainforest”. He has been striving to make his films and photographs full of life and emotion and write articles to educate and evangelise the need for conserving the last tracts of vanishing wilderness and wildlife in our country. He hopes that his wildlife films, photographs and writings force people to pause, look, ponder and ultimately take action.

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