Hyderabad: Farmers and scientists are opposing the proposed National Investment and Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ) in Telangana’s Sangareddy district ahead of a scheduled public hearing on January 20.
While hundreds of farmers have been protesting against the land acquisition for the project, Scientists for People, a group of retired scientists have recently written to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) pointing out plagiarism and other lapses in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of NIMZ urging the ministry to reject it.
In 2015, the Telangana State Industrial Infrastructure Corporation Limited (TSIIC) under the state government announced to establish the NIMZ in Zaheerabad, Nyalkal and Jharasangam mandals in an area extending over 12,635 acres in accordance with the National Manufacturing Policy, 2011. As proposed, industrial and manufacturing units will be set up in the NIMZ.
Reportedly, about 2,900 acres of land earmarked for NIMZ is in possession of the state government which is planning to acquire the rest this year.
Since the project was announced, farmers have held numerous protest demonstrations against it. According to them, about 5,000 farmers from 17 villages will be affected with the project.
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“Majority of the farmers are against giving lands for the project as they are worried about their livelihood if their lands are acquired. Moreover, the TSIIC is offering a compensation of Rs 7 to 9 lakh per acre whereas the market value is about Rs 25 lakh per acre. The compensation will do no good to the farmers,” said a farmer from Bardipur village in Jharasangam mandal. He said that hundreds of farmers will oppose the project in the public hearing tomorrow.
“With the compensation being offered, it's difficult to buy same area of agricultural land in other places in the district,” pointed out the farmer, who wanted to remain anonymous.
On January 13, in a letter to MoEF&CC secretary RK Gupta and Telangana State chief secretary Somesh Kumar, Scientists for People, has demanded the rejection of EIA submitted for NIMZ.
“We have looked at three crucial chapters of the EIA report on Anticipated Impacts, Alternative Studies and Environmental Management Plan in detail. Pollution loads presented are fictitious and have no basis. MoEF&CC does not include Food Processing industries under EIA Notification 2006, but the draft EIA report shows that the pollution load from this sector is the highest. Especially sulphur dioxide emissions are maximum,” stated the letter. The scientists had also expressed shock over the extent of plagiarism in the EIA report.
K Babu Rao, former scientist from the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, said that the impact of the project was estimated without any basis. “Once the ministry gives environmental clearance to the project, then the TSIIC will have the authority to grant permissions for industries to set up there without further assessment and need for clearances. This model only serves the interests of TSIIC and corporates but not the people there,” he added.
He has also demanded the state pollution control board to uphold the integrity of EIAs.
“MoEF&CC can verify our plagiarism report and then take quick action to disqualify the EIA,” urged the retired scientists in the letter.
The public hearing is considered a crucial step in getting environmental clearance.
In July 2020, the state high court had stayed a public hearing on the project citing COVID-19 pandemic, which was urged by several farmers from the affected villages.
The farmers under the banner ‘NIMZ Rythula Poratha Samithi’ are leading the protests against forceful land acquisition. Opposition parties including Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Telangana Jana Samithi have been supporting the cause of the farmers.
However, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi-led state government is keen on speeding the works of the project. In December last year, Telangana Information Technology and Industries Minister KT Rama Rao had even asked the Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal to allocate Rs 500 crore as special funds for beginning the phase I of the project.
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