Bengal plots chemical hub at Nayachar

The West Bengal government’s determination to construct a chemical hub is commendable. The government had initially set its heart on Nandigram but after widespread resistance and violence over land acquisition (see my blog entry in March), many had believed that plans for a hub in the state had been shelved.

However, much to my surprise, the state government cabinet recently approved an alternative site –Nayachar island, near Haldia which is already home to a refinery and petrochemicals complex.

Nayachar appears to be an excellent choice as it carries no political risk. The 11,000 acre island belongs to the government and the only residents likely to be displaced are about 2500 poor fishermen who are in any case illegal residents. Government files classify the island as uninhabited.

The fishermen have welcomed the government’s plan. This report quotes one.

“We know we are living on government land. We have to move out whenever they tell us. But we hope the government will provide jobs to our sons in the factories that come up.”

That should surely be music to ears of the West Bengal chief minister. However, I suspect the going will not be easy. Nayachar is a coastal island and environmentalists are protesting. The opposition party has already named the project a ‘killing hub’ and warned of severe environmental pollution.

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