56 year old Anant Sitaram hails from the small village of Dhopave in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. He is a marginalized farmer who possesses a quarter of an acre of land (20 Bhigas) which he uses to cultivate rice. Sitaram has enjoyed the fruits of nature in its serenity, beauty and the sea’s fresh fish.
Tigers can still be found in Dhopave’s wild – a part of the Western Ghats which was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Ratnagiri Gas and Power Project Limited (RGPPL) and the proposed 1980 MW coal based power plant from Mahagenco are set to change and ruin the landscape of the entire region. Dhopave has a small population of 2000 people but hosts a diverse culture of people from different castes and mores of India. Kunbi, Maratha, Brahmins, Bodha, Teli, Sarvi, Wani, Navi, Guro, Kodi, Bhandari, Sutar, Goi, Lohar, Kumbhar and Muslims reside in varying numbers. With the land acquisition being pursued with great vigor by the state Government, many are set to leave the village. The plant will affect 4 villages in the vicinity.
Dhopave’s villagers became aware of the plant at a public hearing in 2007. Realizing the dangerous effects of coal ash and the hot water on the local ecosystem, the villagers sprung to action and took to protest against the power plant. Adopting various means to achieve their cause, the villagers made sure the state revenue department and other officials could not enter the village for any survey by laying down on the roads. Mahagenco currently has been denied permissions to set up based on environmental grounds.
The locals have pitched the government for power from renewable sources of energy and are not willing to compromise on their environment and health for coal-based energy. The villagers claim that the Government’s earlier promises of setting up hospitals and schools for the locals when the ENRON plant was set up were never kept. With growing distrust towards the government, it is only understandable that any more arguments made in favor of jobs and social welfare from power plants is hardly ever true. Many are already suffering from RGPPL through water and air pollution which is also impacting farming.