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Thursday Jul 20 2000
Maheshwar project cost-effective: S Kumars
K S Shaini
S KUMARS, promoters of the Maheshwar hydel power project in Madhya Pradesh, refuting the claims of Narmada Bachao Andalon have said the project was "environment-friendly and cost-effective and that the rehabilitation package for the project oustees was comprehensive and complete."

The state government has also clarified that the project had obtained "all necessary sanctions" and that the rehabilitation of the oustees would be a "model to uphold before the nation."

The NBA has been demanding the scrapping of the Rs 2,100-crore, 400-mw project on Narmada saying that it was environmentally devious, would displace thousands of people and would produce very costly power.

Maheshwar is the first hydel power project in the country to be handed over to the private sector.

Thanks to the NBA’s vigorous agitation, the project has suffered massive time and cost over-runs. Two German companies withdrew from the project last year saying that it would "violate the human rights of the oustees".

S Kumars said the project was "environment-friendly". "Not an inch of forests is being submerged and only 61 villages are being affected. Barely five per cent of the submergence area is irrigated land. And hydel power plants generate absolutely no pollutants," said M P Jain, director of the joint venture company floated by S Kumars for the project.

He said the average cost of production of power in the project would be Rs 2.83 per unit over a period of 35 years. He described as biased the report of a German team which visited the project site and submitted a report questioning the environmental and social viability of the project.

"The team members stayed at the NBA guest house at Indore and visited the project area in the company of NBA activists and sympathisers. They declined our offer of a visit to the villages where the rehabilitation work was in progress," he said.

According to them, almost three-quarters of the 2,500-odd project affected families had been rehabilitated. "Most of the people have voluntarily accepted the rehabilitation package," he said. Jain denied that the land being allotted to the oustees was barren.

The NBA disputed all these facts. Alok Agarwal of the organisation told a Press meet, arranged within hours of the S Kumars interaction with the media, that the affected families numbered 7,000, that a majority of them had not been rehabilitated and that the project would produce Rs 15 per unit of power. He claimed that the land allotted to the oustees was "rocky and barren".
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