Ketaki Ghoge, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, September 08, 2010
The Rs 400-crore controversial research and development centre proposed by one of the largest chemical makers in the US, Dow Chemical Co, will be shifted out from its current location in Chakan near Pune. The company wrote to the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) this month seeking permission to surrender the 100 acres at the proposed site at Vasuli-Shinde village in Chakan.
“Dow Chemical Co wrote to MIDC asking to surrender the land at Chakan for their proposed R & D centre. They will be shifted to an alternative site in the state. We have still not zeroed in on the site,’’ said Principal Secretary (Industries) A.M. Khan.
The company had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the state in 2007 to develop the global centre that was to house 500 scientists doing research in personal care, building material, plastic chemicals and water, in addition to basic research in chemistry and chemical engineering.
The project ran into trouble in 2008 after locals and warkaris [a religious sect with widespread following in the state], opposed the R & D centre over concerns of damage to the nearby rivers, Sudha and Indrayani, and grasslands.
After the issue became politically contentious, the state government was forced to put a stay on the project and set up a panel under a former high court judge to probe the villagers’ allegations.
The panel’s report was submitted to the Bombay High Court on Wednesday. Sources in the government said the report had given the company a clean chit.
“The report has ruled out any kind of environmental damage because of the project. But the issue is too political and it was decided that it would not be feasible to let the project stay on this site,’’ said a senior official from the Industries department.
The government is concerned that if an alternative site is not found, Maharashtra’s loss may become Gujarat’s gain. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan had last year indicated that in the face of such protests, the R & D Centre would have to be shifted.
This is not the first time that protests by locals have threatened industrial projects. The Reliance-promoted Mahamumbai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) spread across 10,000 acres in Raigad had to be dropped after continued protests from locals, while Videocon’s multi-product SEZ in Pune had to look for another site after farmers opposed it.