It was almost 2 years ago when I started working with DTEWA (Dahanu Taluka Environment Welfare Association) as a campaigner. The organisation when I joined had embraced many issues like Solid Waste Management, Tribal Upliftment etc. But the core issue remained that of the Thermal Power Plant. To understand the problem of the Thermal power Plant, it is important to know about Dahanu.
Located on the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat, Dahanu is only a mere 120 kms away from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai/Bombay. Dahanu is a small town with most of it population being land owning, horticultural Parsis and Iranis whose forefathers had migrated there after leaving Persia and indeginous Warli tribe who have over the years become marginal fisherfolks, farmers, labourers etc. Situated in a ecologically strategic location Dahanu is still 42.5 percent of forest.
Thus owing to the forest cover, its coastal location, providing abundant natural resource, its tribal culture and its horticultural wealth, It was one of the three, among its kind in 1991 , to be declared as Ecologiacally Fragile by the State of India. The Notification specifically restricted the setting up of polluting industries in Dahanu and restricted these to a limit of 500 acres. The Notification also classified industries into Red, Orange and Green categories on ecological considerations.
The Notification also stipulated "no change in land use" while directing the State Government to prepare a Regional Plan demarcating all green areas, orchards, tribal areas and other environmentally sensitive ones.
All said and praises for Dahanus beauty, but it is yet a fight for those living in Dahanu. It was in 1986 when the The Dahanu Thermal Power Plant was proposed to be built in Dahanu. Even though it was met with a fierce protest from residents and farmers who formed DTEWA (Dahanu Taluka Environment Welfare Association) under the leadership of Ms Nergis Irani and Katy Rustom, the Thermal Power Plant was built and put to function. Surprisingly all the committees appointed by the State and the Central Government to ascertain the viability of a fossil based Thermal Power Plant in the area were unsure of its repurcussions and gave it a negative verdict.
Yet, the Ministry of Environment and Forests granted permission to the company then owned by the Bombay Suburban Electric Supply (BSES) Co. Pvt Ltd to set up a 500 MW thermal power plant in the region. However, the company was given clearance conditionally with fifteen consent conditions laid down "to minimize pollution caused by the Plant and to protect Dahanu Taluka".
Satelite view of the coal power station with google.
Meanwhile the DTEWA appealed to the Mumbai High court against the permission but lost the case as the court cited the need to produce energy to provide electricity for Mumbai as a reason to sanction the Thermal Power Plant in Dahanu.
Dahanu Thermal Power Station (DTPS) is Reliance Energy Ltd.'s single largest power generating facility. It is a 500 MW (2 X 250 MW) coal based thermal power station. Located over a spread of 834 acres of land the Thermal Power Plant is directly adjacent to the coastal area therby making it easier for the Thermal Power plant to dump the hot water produced into the sea. This especially is a cause of concern among the fisherfolk as the decreasing annual catch bears witness to their plight and concern.
Over the years the fight for a clean existence for the residents of Dahanu has been a part of Daily life. One of the stipulations of the environment clearance was the setting up FGD (Flue Gas Desulphuristaion) unit with 90 percent efficiency. This condition imposed in 1989 was left hanging till the environmentalists decided to pull up the Thermal Power plant as they saw no attempts being made of its installation. The environmentalists took up the issue with the specially constituted quasi-judicial authority, the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA) that passed an order on May 12th 1999 directing the company to initiate the process of "setting up of the FGD unit within a period of six months and complete the same within a reasonable time period."
This was then again delayed by Reliance till March 2005 who was then ordered by the Dahanu Authority to put in 300 crore Rupees as a bank guarantee towards the commitment of protect Dahanus Environment. This was then again appealed in the High Court by Reliance only to have the amount lowered to 100 crores. The FGD was finally installed and is now being monitored by various environmentalists and the DTEWA as they receive bi annual reports of its function.