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Protest Against Suzlon Windmills in Kutch Reignites

Sangnara forest is part of a grove considered sacred by five villages in Nakhatrana taluka.

The residents of Sangnara, in Nakhatrana taluka of Kutch, Gujarat, have stepped up their protest against the proposed plan of Indian wind turbine manufacturing giant Suzlon Energy Limited’s to install windmills on the forest land near the village.

The villagers have again assembled around Vadvalu Talav, located near their village, and blocked the road leading to the foundation laid by Suzlon. “The villagers of Sangnara, who have been blocking the road for the last several days, don’t let the company employees or even the police to reach the site,” Mudita Vidrohi, an Ahmedabad-based activist who supports the villagers told Newsclick.

Initially, the villagers could not gauge the impact of the project and didn’t resist it. However, with time, they educated themselves and approached the National Green Tribunal. The villagers, especially the women, who have been at the forefront of the protest since the corporate giant built its first wind turbine in the area, are determined to not let Suzlon expand its project,” Vidrohi added.

Noticeably, the Gujarat government had allotted the land to the company in 2015-16 to install 11 windmills in Sangnara. Subsequently, six windmills were installed at different locations and the foundation for one more was laid at Vadvalu Talav.

Suzlon destroyed hundreds of trees and flattened hills to transport machinery and access fans and transmission cables while installing the first windmill. Besides, birds and animals deserted the area due to the noise of the fans and the machinery.

Subsequently, more than 40 more windmills were approved by the local administration for ‘green power’ despite strong resistance from the Sangnara village panchayat. The villagers, who are primarily farmers and pastoralists and depend of the forest area for their livestock and livelihood, wrote to the collector expressing their concern. With the administration refusing to assist them, the villagers approached the tribunal, which admitted their case.

After a renewed attempt by Suzlon to put up two more windmills in the area in July-August as Gujarat relaxed the COVID-19 protocols, the villagers launched an agitation against the company. On August 6, around 500 villagers had marched to Vadvalu Talav and occupied the foundation site.

The Sangnara forest is part of a grove considered sacred by five villages. A 500 sq km virgin tropical thorn forest with a huge diversity of endangered flora and fauna is home to chinkaras, wolves, caracals, ratels, hyenas, desert cats, foxes, spiny-tailed lizards, desert monitors, white naped-tits and vultures. The villagers have maintained and protected the area through generations in the 500 years.

The locals have been in a conflict against corporate entities since Kutch was designated as an important wind energy exploitation zone. This led to the installation of multiple windmills and solar panels by energy companies around the district. In 2018, Alfanar, a Saudi Arabia-based company announced a 300 megawatt (MW) windmill project near Bhuj, Kutch, stretching to about 50 km, for setting up of 131 wind turbines.

In December 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a 30,000 MW hybrid renewable energy park close to the India-Pakistan border in Kutch touting it as the largest of among such projects in the world. The same year, the Gujarat government allotted land to five developers for the hybrid renewable park—Adani Green Energy Limited was allotted 19,000 hectares, Sarjan Realities Limited (Suzlon) was 9,500 hectares, NTPC 9,500 hectares, Gujarat Industries Power Company Limited 4,750 hectares and Gujarat State Electricity Corporation 6,650 hectares.

In March, clean energy firm ReNew Power commissioned 300 MW wind power project in Gadhsisa village, in Mandvi taluka of the district, amid the pandemic.

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