Rapid development and the accompanying untrammeled growth has meant that while more employment opportunities are being created, there is immense pressure on the environment.
How green is this valley
Founded in April 1993, the 3 million metric tonnes per annum Numaligarh Refinery Limited, now brand named NRL, began refining from October 2000. Unlike three older refineries in Assam, NRL went into production straightaway with zero emission thanks to the available pollution-control technology. This was evident in a 30-acre butterfly valley that was set up. Though the nets over the captive park were taken off following objections from green activists, the valley still has 75 species of butterflies. The best example of nature-development balance is perhaps Smritibon, a garden of herbs and medicinal plants within the valley that noted traditional medicine practitioner Gunaram Khanikar nurtures. "This garden has more than 5,000 herbal plants that are less affected by ecological changes here than in the other industrialised areas in these parts," he says.
- Rahul Karmakar
Making difficult choices
The tussle within the largest state in the country is emblematic of the problems that the country faces at large. The immense pressure exerted by the growing population has meant that it's imperative to juggle growth with protecting the environment. Currently, the new projects in the pipeline are estimated to generate 16 lakh jobs per year. "Out of these, 25% will be through direct employment and 75% will be through indirect employment," says Kaushal Raj Sharma, joint executive director, Udyog Bandhu. Some of the proposed projects in the state that are expected to bring the much-needed employment include the Ganga and Yamuna Expressways, many power generation projects and the Kushinagar and Taj International Airports, among others.
-Tariq Mohd Khan
Zooming Into the future
The Mumbai-Pune Expressway, India's first six-lane concrete, high-speed, access controlled tolled expressway, has cut down the travel time between Maharashtra's two major cities to two hours. The starting of the expressway in early 2000 led to the establishment of SEZs and industrial units in the belt and has transformed Pune into one of India's investment magnets. The project would have affected nearly 800 medicinal herbs and rare species of wildlife that were found in that region. The Environment Impact Assessment Report also claimed that the project could cause severe damage to the flora and fauna of the region. However, the state managed to overcome the hurdles by changing the alignment at places and ensuring that effective work was done to protect the environment. The 93 km highway was completed in four years and was thrown open to the public in 2002. - Zeeshan Shaikh
Red flags | ravaging the environment
In tears, and shrouded in ash
Ever since the National Thermal Power Coporation (NTPC)'s thermal power plants started operating in Kaniha in Angul district in 1984, people from surrounding villagers have complained about heavy pollution. In 2010, a 600-metre breach in an ash pond spead over hundreds of acres caused heavy loss of crops and jeopardised the lives of people in Jerenga village. "We have held agitations on several occasions, but the administration and police have always tried to suppress us," says Sudhakar Pradhan of Kaniha village. In 2011, the Odisha State Pollution Control Board slammed a shutdown notice on four out of six NTPC thermal power plants at Kaniha. An OSPCB official told HT that the NTPC had assured the board it would take compliance measures.
- Priya Ranjan Sahu
The desert creeps in
Large swathes of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts of northeastern Assam have become 'monsoon deserts' - as at least 16,000 hectares of hitherto fertile land have been irreversibly covered with sand. The desertification has increased after work on the 405MW Ranganadi hydropower project (at Yazali in Arunachal) began in 1988. North East Electric Power Corporation Ltd, which operates the project, claims the severity of floods in Assam downstream has reduced because of the diversion of the Dikrong river to feed the hydropower plant, the first major dam in Arunachal Pradesh. Farmer Phanidhar Phukan, who has lost 14 bighas (201, 600 sq ft) of paddy fields to flood-induced sand in Mothadang village since 1998, knows better. Higher up in Arunachal Pradesh, tribal villagers have had to put up with vacuous promises after resettling. "We were promised many things including free power but they were never implemented," says local resident Teyi Tagin. Environmentalists say the impact of Ranganadi needs to be assessed in view of the much bigger NHPC project, the-2000MW Lower Subansiri that's scheduled to be commissioned in 2014. - Rahul Karmakar