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Rashmi Rekha Das

Protests against Subarnarekha Port project gained traction after green activists came forward to support local protestors and attended conventions like the Bhitamati Banchao and the Slipayana Hatao at Balapala Betagadia to oppose the state government’s move.

Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan fame, environmentalist Prafulla Samantara, Congress leaders Niranjan Patnaik and Panchanan Kanungo, among others, took part in the conventions and protested the setting up of a port and petro chemical project on a 25 km coastal stretch between Kankalapana and Hanskara. 

According to sources, the government has planned to develop Subarnarekha river mouth as a commercial port on a build, own, operate, share and transfer (BOOST) model. The port development is envisaged through a wholly-owned subsidiary, Subarnarekha Port Pvt Ltd. If the state government comes up with the project, paddy and betel nut farmers would incur huge losses for sure.  Protesters attending the conventions alleged that people will lose their land at Chaumukh, Dagara, Betagadia, Panchupalli, Ratei and Nuagan due to the port project, railway line and port-based industries.

Medha Patkar said “Today Narmada river water is not suitable for drinking. If the state government’s move is not opposed, people here will face a drinking water crisis. People residing here have nothing with them except for their ‘bhitamati’ which is their lifetime saving. The government is claiming to provide jobs for youths if the project is set up. However, it’s not true. It did not happen in Narmada case. So don’t trust the government and such companies.”

Prakash Singh, director of Subarnarekha Port Pvt Ltd, said “When the port is fully operational, it will create many jobs. Others would like to invest here if the project is executed.  Our major stakeholder Tata Steel will also try to sort out community-related problems be it employability, drinking water and education to provide quality life to locals.  Those who would give land would not be migrated because we will reclaim land and set up the port on sea. We require less private land compared to government land.  Private land is needed only for rail and road connectivity. Our land acquisition process will come to end soon. Land sellers of our project had given their lands spontaneously, not under duress. Besides, they had given land to the state government not to SPPL.”

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