Power, and not paddy, may be the new identity of Janjgir-Champa, Chhattisgarh’s largest irrigated district.
The state government has inked memoranda of understanding with 34 companies over the past five years for setting up power projects in the district, located in the state’s north-east. If the proposals materialise, the highly fertile Janjgir-Champa will be the only district in the country to have such a large number of power plants.
The government’s plan to set up as many as 34 power plants in this district has also drawn criticism from various quarters. The proposed power plants with a total capacity of about 34,000 Mw will require about 40,000 acres.
“Janjgir-Champa is the only district in the state to have 78 per cent irrigated area and this has resulted in higher paddy productivity of the state,” local legislator Saurabh Singh said.
But unfortunately, the fertile land had been targeted for setting up the power plants, he added.
The district has a paddy cultivation area of 250,000 acres, while the agriculture department had set a production target of 86,4000 tonnes in this kharif season.
As against the state’s average paddy productivity of 17 quintals per hectare, Janjgir-Champa produces an average 34 quintals paddy on a hectare. “Of the land demarked for the power projects, a major portion is irrigated,” said Virendra Pandey, the state’s former finance commission chairman.
In most of the land, farmers were taking two crops because of best irrigation facilities. “The remaining area of agriculture would be badly affected as a major flow of water from the rivers, and big tanks — the major sources of irrigation in the area — would be diverted to the industries,” Pandey said.
Singh added the proposed power projects would have a serious impact on foodgrain production. This would also disturb the water-table of the area and people feared that they could even see industrial wastes being dumped in rivers and canals — something they have not seen till now.
About 6,000 acres of grazing land would also be affected by the projects, Singh said, adding that cattle economy had been the base of rural economy and it would have an adverse impact.
Amid criticism, the state government also admitted that a majority of the district’s fertile land would go to the power plants. “Not all, but yes agriculture land will be used for setting up the power plants,” Energy Secretary Aman Singh told Business Standard.
Since Janjgir-Champa adjoins the coal-rich Raigarh and Korba districts, investors (for the power projects) preferred the district, he added.