The sweet, sweet taste of alphonsos might sour India’s mega power dreams.
The government finds itself confronted by a determined group of alphonso mango farmers who have refused to yield even an inch of their land for the proposed 4,000 megawatt ultra-mega power project (UMPP) in Girye in coastal Maharashtra.
Girye in Maharashtra, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s home state, according to sources was chosen after the Central Electricity Commission carried out a detailed feasibility study and gave its go-ahead completely overlooking sensitivities of local alphonso growers.
The 3,000-acre piece of land originally earmarked for the project spreads over four villages with a population of about 4,000. As much as 75 per cent of the proposed site is within the alphonso farming belt.
Government sources admit that these farmers have spurned the government’s relief and rehabilitation offers as they feel that no new site would be suited for alphonso farming.
After two decades, Indian mangoes, especially the mouthwatering alphonsos, have found their way into lucrative the US market and farmers believe that uprooting them from the conventional farming areas would let go India’s advantage in new found global mango bazaar.
Many Indian business conglomerates, including Reliance Industries, Bharti, and ITC, have also chosen to cash in on the boom and are investing heavily in mango farming. India is the largest producer of mangoes producing 10.9 million metric tonne.
A confused government would now have to look for an alternate site in Maharashtra for the proposed UMPP. “Girye was one of the first site identified for an UMPP and if the site is abandoned it would be a huge loss of face for the government and would jolt investors confidence,” a source said.
However, there has been no official communication from the Maharashtra government about a new site or abandoning of the originally proposed site, he added.
A Parliamentary panel has also rapped the government for the tardy implementation of the ambitious ultra-mega power projects as environmental concerns, location disputes and differences with state governments continue to dog many of the planned projects.
Of the 9 locations identified for UMPPs, three including Girye in Maharashtra, Akaltara in Chattisgarh and Tadri in Karnataka may have to be eventually abandoned. Despite being a pit head project, the Akaltara project has been dogged by coal linkage issues, while the Tadri project has been delayed due to various reasons, including the unstable political situation in Karnataka.