In the Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, India, a region noted for its economic underdevelopment, a new factory is good news. The younger ones may no longer need to queue up in front of army recruitment camps; it could also mean no longer being bothered by the endless waiting lists on trains towards Gujarat or ships to Port Blair.
But when two massive coal-fired thermal projects, each of 2640 MW, were announced at Sompeta and Vadditandra in the district, there was much resistance. The projects, proposed to be constructed on conserved wetlands against all environmental regulations in vogue, had the villagers up in arms. A few concerned villagers visited communities inhabiting areas surrounding a similar plant near Visakhapatnam. The news they brought back was grim. A thermal power plant means groundwater unfit for consumption, skin and neurological disorders caused by heavy metal poisoning and having to keep doors and windows always shut to protect themselves from the ash from the thermal plants.
When the private promoters of the projects and the administration, who sided with them, refused to budge, a prolonged battle was in the pipeline. Fishermen and farmers, two communities severely affected by the power generation facilities spearheaded the agitation. Six villagers, three each at Sompeta and Vadditandra were killed in police firing when they tried to stop the construction of the plants.