Mumbai: Political opposition to the proposed refinery and petrochemicals complex in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district is set to grow with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) siding with a section of locals agitating against the project.
Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan told reporters on Saturday that a Congress party delegation would visit the proposed site on 19 April and speak to locals. Chavan also urged the government to not push through the project against the will of locals.
Last week, a delegation of Nanar Refinery Virodhi Sangharsha Samiti (Action Committee Against Nanar Refinery) also met NCP chief Sharad Pawar who told them that he would personally visit the site on 10 May.
The NCP chief held that the project should not be moved out of Maharashtra, but told reporters efforts should be made to look for an alternative site nearby if the local population was against it. The action committee has been opposing the project claiming the land it is proposed to be built on includes highly productive mango and cashew orchards.
Support extended to the people against the project by the Congress and NCP could create problems for the ambitious refinery and petrochemicals complex, to be built with an investment of nearly Rs3 trillion, according to an official at the chief minister’s secretariat.
This official, who did not want to be named, pointed out that the Shiv Sena, which is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led governments both in Maharashtra and at the centre, was also against the refinery. “The Congress and NCP have not so far taken a clear position against the project but by standing with this action committee, they have lent strength to the agitation. If they come out openly against the project, it could create problems," said the official.
Last week, an Indian consortium of oil marketing companies Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) and Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Saudi Aramco, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Delhi to jointly develop and build the integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex, called the Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd (RRPCL).
The refinery, proposed to come up over 15,000 acres, will be capable of processing 1.2 million barrels of crude oil per day (60 million metric tonnes per annum, or MMTPA). It will also produce a range of refined petroleum products including petrol and diesel meeting the BS-VI fuel efficiency norms.
The refinery will also provide feedstock to the integrated petrochemicals complex, which is estimated to have the capacity to produce nearly 18 MMTPA of petrochemical products. At the MoU signing, Union petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the project would bring huge benefits to the Konkan region, Maharashtra, and the entire country in terms of large-scale employment generation, direct and indirect, as well as all-round economic development of the region.
The Shiv Sena has sharpened its opposition to the refinery after the MoU signing. In a press statement issued soon after the MoU was signed, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray accused Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis of “betrayal" and said the Shiv Sena would not allow the project to come up at any cost.
“Even though the chief minister has betrayed the local population by going back on his promise that the project would not imposed on them, Shiv Sena would continue to stand by the people and oppose the project," Thackeray said.