After protests against Posco steel, the state-run NHPC Ltd's plan to set up three hydropower plants in Orissa could face opposition, with social activists and a former MP saying the projects would submerge agricultural lands.
NHPC Ltd Thursday signed a pact with the state government to set up the hydropower plants in Subarnapur (100 MW), Sambalpur (100 MW) and Boudh (120 MW) districts across Mahanadi river in western parts of the state.
The hydropower generating company will build the plants in five years time in a joint venture with the Orissa state-run Hydro Power Corporation with a combined investment of Rs.2,600 crore to generate 320 MW power.
State Energy Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak told IANS there will be no displacement due to these projects.
However, Ranjan Panda, convenor of Water Initiative - a network of NGOs working on water related issues, said the projects will submerge thousands of acres of agricultural lands.
"No doubt these are small plants and will be comparatively less destructive compared to the coal-fired plants. However, these projects too have socio-economic and ecological consequences," Panda told IANS.
"We cannot see any justification as to why more power projects are required which will submerge fertile agricultural land, displace people and affect local ecology.
"The government has also not come out with any cost-benefit analysis of the said plants. Nor has it given out anything on the possible displacement, loss of land and number of people to be affected," he said.
Bhabani Shankar Hota, a former MP from the region, said the projects will hit at least 118 villages wholly or partially.
"The projects, if implemented, would bring untold miseries and devastation to the people of the area," he said.
In addition, 20,000 acres of reserved and village forest land, 16,000 acres of cultivable land, 240 acres of house-stead land will be submerged under the projects, he said.
He added that people also fear the plants will submerge several temples, including the world famous Huma Temple in the district of Sambalpur.
"People in the whole of western Orissa had stoutly opposed this project in the past, why is the government pursuing it again and again," he asked.
People have also been protesting land acquisition for the $12 billion South Korean Posco project, touted as the largest foreign investment in India.