Maha polls: Nanar oil refinery plan causing trouble in region againUpdated: Oct 17, 2019 00:03 IST
Even though the state government has withdrawn the notification to acquire land for the mega oil refinery at Nanar in Ratnagiri district, villagers fear the project could be revived after the election, with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis hinting at it recently.
During the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Mahajanadesh Yatra in Rajapur taluka of Ratnagiri district, Fadnavis claimed many people were in favour of the project. “I had repeatedly said and cried hoarse that the refinery should come up in Nanar. It is a green refinery and it will give jobs to one lakh youth of Konkan and transform the region. But because of allegations and protests, the project was stopped. Looking at your enthusiasm, I think we must discuss bringing this project back here,” he said on September 18.
The locals, mainly fishermen, daily wage labourers and people with small landholdings, have opposed the project. The project required 15,000 acres from 14 villages in Ratnagiri district and two villages in the neighbouring Sindhudurg district. The project was an ambitious three-trillion-dollar joint venture between IOC, HPCL and BPCL and Saudi Petroleum giant Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Shiv Sena pressurised the BJP-led state government to denotify the land acquisition for the project. The chief minister signed the document denotifying the land acquisition in March 2019.
Navnath Vasant Ghadi, 35, a daily wage labourer from Nanar village, is against the project, as he fears displacement and trust deficit. “We have paddy fields, about 60 mango trees, and some cashew nut trees. If the project had materialised, we would have been displaced. We are still not ready to give up our land. If we did, they would give us small houses somewhere far off. They wouldn’t give jobs as promised,” said Ghadi, who works in other landowners’ orchards in Nanar.
For some villagers, the oil refinery would mean a complete loss of livelihood. Omkar Prabhudesai, sarpanch of Nanar village, said the statements on reviving the project are political stunts. “The project is scrapped by the government. There is still opposition to the project. If the project is revived, people will again stage morchas,” said Bhai Samant, leader of the Konkan Refinery Shetkari and Macchimar Samiti.
Fishermen from Nanar, Ingalwadi, Sagwe, etc, are also against the project. “We are happy that the project was scrapped,” said Majid Bhatkar, a mango farmer and owner of fishing boats in Ingalwadi village.
He pointed out that fishermen would not get compensated for land acquisition. “Fishermen don’t have 7/12 extracts. Their livelihood is through water, which will be out of bounds with the refinery here,” he said.
Locals, under the banner of Konkan Jankalyan Pratishthan, have been silently carrying out a movement to push the project since 2018. The forum is collecting consent forms, copies of 7/12 extracts and Aadhaar card from the 14 villages, who are in favour of the project.
According to Avinash Mahajan, secretary of the forum, consent for around 9,000 acres has been collected and will soon be given to the district collector’s office.
The forum received a shot in the arm after the CM’s recent statements that there is support for the project. Mahajan said, “Keeping the politics aside, there is genuine support for the project here purely for development.”
Nilesh Patankar, a practising chartered accountant in Rajapur, was one of the project-affected persons as his 64-acre of ancestral land was needed for the project. Patankar, who is one of the key persons behind the forum, said he would prefer the development of Konkan and jobs for locals.
Vilas Kulkarni, a 73-year-old retired teacher from Katradevi village, said, “Konkan has not progressed, while other regions in Maharashtra are leaving us behind. Political parties have been playing with the future of the youth by opposing such projects.”
Kulkarni, a Congress supporter, said he is ready to give up his 40-acre land in Katradevi village for the project as it would bring schools, hospitals, better roads, etc to the area. One of the reasons why orchard owners are open to giving up their lands for a lucrative offer is that the cultivation of mangoes and cashew nuts is not economically viable anymore, they said.
As candidates of all three major parties – the Shiv Sena, Congress, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena – in the Rajapur Assembly constituency are against the project, Nanar has not become an election issue. However, fear looms over the quaint villages that are dotted with mango orchards that if the BJP comes to power with more seats, it may revive the project.
Shiv Sena leader and industries minister Subhash Desai dismissed the CM’s statement. “It is a done deal. For us, the Nanar chapter is over. The project is already scrapped and it will not come up there,” Desai said.
Earlier this week, Desai, at a rally in Devgadh in Sindhudurg district, said, “Locals opposed Nanar project as it was coming at the cost of environmental damage. No matter who puts his weight behind the scrapped project, I assure citizens it will not come here.”
For the Sena, getting the mega-project scrapped was a big victory, as it was a condition to forge the alliance with the BJP before the Lok Sabha polls. Sena sitting legislator and candidate from Rajapur, Rajan Salvi, said, “Uddhavji had taken up the issue as the locals were against it and it was environmentally not sound. We are firm in our stance.”
Although the Sena has a stronghold in the region, it would be able to milk the success of scrapping Nanar in the election,
Many Sena functionaries in the region, who are in favour of the project, have kept mum owing to the party’s stand on the project. Vilas Avsare, former deputy chairman of zilla parishad and a Sena functionary, said, “We are in favour of the project. We stand to lose around 40% of the 90 acres we own as a family.”
Vidya Rane, another Shiv Sena functionary, said, “The Sena leadership does not know the other side of the story. There is support too.”
Samant, who has spearheaded the protest, warned if the project was revived, it would face even stiffer opposition. “When we talk about such international level projects, there is the nation’s pride attached to it. Bringing it back after being scrapped will tarnish the image of India,” he said.