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Sompeta: land allotment suspended

Legal Correspondent



BURNING ISSUE:Police firing teargas shells at agitating Sompeta farmers in July, 2010.

HYDERABAD: In a significant shot in the arm for the environmentalists, the A.P. High Court on Thursday suspended operation of Government Order 1107 alienating 972 acres of land in favour of Nagarjuna Construction Company for setting up a thermal power plant at Sompeta in Srikakulam district.

Sompeta was in national focus last year when police opened fire on agitators, including environmentalists and farmers, opposed to the thermal power station on the ground that it had been sanctioned on wetlands and that the fly ash would cause extensive pollution in the region.

At least three persons were killed in the police firing and dozens, including policemen, injured in the subsequent violence on July 14, 2010. However, the State government has been standing its ground in the face of opposition by various sections to the liberal sanction of facilities to pollution-causing thermal power stations in coastal Andhra region. Justice Nooty Rama Mohana Rao suspended the GO while admitting a writ petition filed by Laxminarayana and two other farmers of the area. The petitioners wanted GO 1107 to be quashed but the Judge said that the order was suspended and the land should not be used for other purposes.

The petitioners contended that three lift irrigation schemes had been commissioned by A.P. Irrigation Development Corporation at Benkili, Rishikudda, and Kuttuma to irrigate about 750 acres of land. The source of water for these schemes was the swamp lands which had been given away for setting up a thermal power plant.

They lamented that lands which are classified as ‘kalva poromboke', ‘tampara poromboke', ‘beela gayalu', and ‘beela tampara' (swamp in local dialect) were alienated for setting up 1980 MW coal-based thermal power plant. They relied upon the report submitted to National Board for Wild Life recommending outright cancellation of the proposal for setting up a thermal power plant at Sompeta.

Further, the Ministry of Environment and Forests had granted clearance in December 2009 but the National Environment Appellate Authority quashed it on July 14, 2010, quite ironically on the day that the firing took place near Sompeta.

Hyderabad Special Correspondent adds: Telugu Desam president N. Chandrababu Naidu has welcomed the High Court's order staying the work on thermal power project. Reacting to the development, he told media persons that TDP too had fought against the project and had supported the people's struggle.

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