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Refinery project moves out of Nanar after Maharashtra scraps land acquisition notification

The oil refinery was being touted as the world’s largest refinery.
After the Jaitapur nuclear power plant, this is the second major project to face obstacles in the Konkan region.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT File)
Updated on Mar 03, 2019 01:16 AM IST
Hindustan Times | BySurendra P Gangan, Mumbai

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis scrapped the proposed 3-lakh-crore oil refinery project in Nanar, in coastal Maharashtra, days after the BJP sealed an alliance deal with Shiv Sena for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Moving the project away from Nanar was one of Sena’s pre-conditions to forge an alliance.

The oil refinery, proposed to be built with investment from Saudi Aramco, the state-owned company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was being touted as the world’s largest refinery.

After the Jaitapur nuclear power plant, this is the second major project to face obstacles in the Konkan region.

Both projects were opposed by locals, who did not want to sell their land over fears of crop and environmental damage.

While the decision is certain to strengthen the BJP-Sena alliance, it is now a challenge for the state to find an alternative site for the project. “We want the refinery in Maharashtra, as it will power the growth of the state in the next 10 years. We will find an alternative site,” Fadnavis said.

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According to officials, the state is looking at the possibility of taking the project to Raigad.

“We would not let this investment opportunity go out of Maharashtra as it has the capacity of creating one lakh jobs,” the chief minister said.

Sena leader Subhash Desai, who is the state minister for industries & mining, said Fadnavis signed the proposal for cancelling the land acquisition process by scrapping the notification issued on May 18, 2017.

“Since the notification for intention of acquiring 5,932 hectares of land in 16 villages, issued under section 6 of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Act, has been scrapped, the project cannot be implemented at the proposed location,” Desai said.

Fadnavis cleared the proposal on Saturday, after which Desai made the formal announcement.

“The formal order will be issued in the gazette in the next few days,” Desai said.

The denotification process was initiated by Desai in April last year, but the file was with Fadnavis, who had not given his nod to scrap the notification, as required under state government rules.

“Although the process had begun, in the absence of consent and joint land measurement owing to resistance by locals, acquisition could not proceed. The denotification order will enable farmers and land owners to get their land back and remove the stamp of Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC). They will be able to utilise the land according to their needs,” Desai said.

Residents from 14 villages in Ratnagiri and two in Sindhudurg have been strongly opposing the project as it could destroy the ecology on the Konkan coast and worsen the pollution in the region.

Farmers feared the project could damage the vast horticulture and fishing hamlets. The anti-refinery protesters said 16 lakh mango trees and 3 lakh cashew trees would have been affected had the project received a nod. The region is also known for the famous Alphonso mangoes and farmers feared its cultivation would be affected.

Satyajeet Chavan, convenor, Konkan Refinery Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti – umbrella body leading the protests – said, “We are celebrating our victory which comes as a surprise. The farmers can now get their lands freed from the legal proceedings which had begun after the notification was issued.”

After resistance from villagers, Sena, which has been leading the anti-project protests, had asked the government to scrap the project in April last year. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had also held a rally in Nanar last year to support the protesting locals.

Desai said the project would not come back to Nanar. “The government is free to implement the project anywhere in the state if locals allow it. The referendum will be conducted before shifting the project elsewhere,” he said. “The government will bring other projects to Konkan for generation of jobs and investment.”

The refinery-cum-petrochemical project, with a capacity of 60-million tonnes per annum, was considered to be the largest such facility in the world, which would help in generating direct and indirect employment for around 1.50 lakh people.

In April last year, Saudi Aramco had signed up as a partner in the project, with a potential investment of 50%. The project is being implemented by The Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd (RRPL), a joint venture between three state-owned companies: the Indian Oil Corporation (25%); Bharat Petroleum Corporation (12.5%); and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (12.5%). Losing the land for the project has proved to be a major setback for the state government, as it was considered to be one of the major investments in the state.

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