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Forest Dept says no, but people say yes to solar project in Maharashtra

According to reports, at a time when several new power projects in the country are facing resistance from people, residents of Sakri town in Dhule district of Northern Maharashtra are fighting to retain a 125-MW solar power project.

The State Forest Department has recently issued a notice to the project promoter – Maharashtra State Power Generation Company – claiming that a substantial portion of land on which the plant is being built, belongs to the Department.

But residents of Sakri are agitated with this move. The town and the neighbouring areas have been observing a ‘bandh’ over the last three days against the notice and MahaGenco’s decision to put the project on hold, say locals.

Since May, the Rs 1,987-crore project has been under construction by MahaGenco with the help of a 250-million euro loan from KfW Bank of Germany.

MahaGenco is now toying with the idea of shifting the project by another 650 km to Chandrapur district in eastern Maharashtra. It has commenced some initial soil testing there.

Mr Nitin Bang, local entrepreneur and chief promoter of Khandesh Industrial Development Council, told Business Line that there seems to be no coordination between the Forest Department and MahaGenco; otherwise, the Dhule region would not have lost such an important project, he said. “The project was bringing in the feel-good factor. If the people manage to retain the project through struggle, then the investor community will look at the region in a positive manner,” Mr Bang said.

The struggle for keeping the project in Dhule will only get strengthen with every passing day. Already, one delegation has met the Chief Minister, Mr Prithviraj Chavan, and another would be meeting him soon, he said.

The local MLA, Mr Shard Patil, said that the Forest Department had given clearance to the project in May and now they are reneging. It just shows that there is confusion in the government. “The decision to shift out the project could also have political undertones,” he alleged.

Mr Patil said that in the coming days there would be more agitations to keep the project in Dhule.

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