Mangoes or power? Farmers in a dilemma | india | Hindustan Times
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Mangoes or power? Farmers in a dilemma

Agriculture experts say it is too early to say if the new power plants can kill the farmer’s aspirations.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2007 02:00 IST

Alphonso farmer Uday Jog’s produce is down 75 per cent this year after the November showers and an unusually warm winter battered orchards along the Konkan coast. But that does not worry him. Mango farms here are on the threshold of unprecedented opportunity, fuelled by deregulated markets in Japan and the United States and by the agricultural boom powered by Indian retail companies like Reliance, Bharti and Pantaloons.

What does worry Jog is the effect a proposed 1,200 megawatt thermal power plant burning 4.1 million tonnes of coal each year just outside his village of Nandivde will have on his 250 mango trees. “Mango trees flower once a year, and the crop is delicate. Changes in temperature, fly-ash emission will make the dew acidic. Will all this not damage my trees?,” he asks.

The plan for the plant over 1,025 acres — by JSW Energy Limited — comes with an associated port to import the coal which is currently awaiting environmental clearance. “The plant will be functional 27 months after work begins,” says JSW CEO Raaj Kumar.

Altogether, six coal-fired power plants are poised to come up along the coast and they could be the answer to the state’s growing power problems. Maharashtra’s power shortfall is 5,500 MW and growing.

But farmers like Jog, who produce 2 lakh tonnes of mango a year, want a cumulative assessment of how these projects might impact the region’s environment and agriculture.

Agriculture experts say it is too early to say if the new power plants can kill the farmer’s aspirations. “Farming gives us work 365 days a year,” says Jog. “Does the government want to send us the Vidarbha way?”