Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday to express reservations about a greenfield oil refinery in coastal Konkan citing opposition by local people. The opposition to the West Coast Refinery by Uddhav has come days before the Magnetic Maharashtra Summit is to start on February 18. The Chief Minister, according to sources, dismissed the apprehensions of the Sena, urging its leadership to perceive the project scientifically as it could benefit youths in the Konkan region.
The state government was expected to sign an MoU for the project which promises investments worth Rs 1 lakh crore and employment to 1 lakh people in the Konkan region. But industries minister (Sena) Subash Desai later said: “We will not allow any MoUs to be signed for the refinery at the Magnetic Maharashtra.” Thackeray met Fadnavis at his official residence Varsha in Mumbai. At the meeting, Fadnavis reportedly gave the example of the Reliance oil refinery and the Chembur refinery to allay Sena leaders’ fears of environmental hazards. Emerging from the meeting, the Sena chief said: “If local people are opposed (to it), we will not allow the project.”
“The development cannot be at the expense of people and environment.” Fadnavis reassured Uddhav that every project, including the West Coast Refinery, has factored in the highest ever compensation package to villagers and their overall development, including long-term jobs and better livelihood. The state government would never compromise on the environment and villagers’ welfare, he reportedly said, asking the Sena to look at the growth potential of the project. When the refinery project was being discussed there were several states that had shown interest. “Ultimately, it was to be decided between Gujarat and Maharashtra. It was our insistence that we should have the refinery in state to boost the economic growth and employment,” Fadnavis is reported to have said.
About environmental concerns surrounding the project, he said: “We have a refinery in Chembur. There is a refinery in Gujarat. Have they posed any environment hazards to the local people. Moreover, today we have advanced technology which enables us to adopt greenfield project along the sea coast.” He also conveyed the message that the government was open for talks with any organisation which are local, not outsiders. Earlier, at the meeting Thackeray is reported to have said: “The development should not be at the cost of the people and environment.” The Sena chief was accompanied by members of NGOs. He also submitted a bunch of protest letters to highlight the reservations among people.
The West Coast refinery will be the country’s biggest greenfield project steered by BPCL, Indian Oil and Hindustan Petroleum. The work for land acquisition has begun. At present 16,000 acres have been notified under an industrial zone under the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) Act for it.