Maharashtra to move planned $44 bn Saudi Aramco refinery after farmers' protest; new location not revealed

Opposition from farmers has prompted Maharashtra to move the location for what would be the country's biggest oil refinery, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Monday.

State-run oil companies and Saudi Arabian Oil Company known as Saudi Aramco have teamed up to build the $44 billion (Rs 3 lakh crore) refinery, which is aimed at giving India steady fuel supplies while meeting Saudi Arabia's need to secure regular buyers for its oil.

Nanar village in Ratnagiri district, some 400 km south of Mumbai was the site for the world's biggest integrated oil refinery and petrochemicals complex with a capacity to process 60 million tonnnes.

Nearly 14 villages and 850 families were likely to be affected due to the project. Thousands of farmers refused to surrender land, fearing it could damage a region famed for its Alphonso mangoes, vast cashew plantations and fishing hamlets that boast bountiful catches of seafood.

After their protests, land acquisition was stopped for the refinery at the proposed site at Nanar,

The refinery will be now built at a place where local population won't oppose the project, he said in a press conference, without identifying a new location.

Maharashtra to move planned  bn Saudi Aramco refinery after farmers protest; new location not revealed

Representational image. Reuters.

Fadnavis made the announcement after the BJP forged an alliance with Shiv Sena for the upcoming general election.

The location of the refinery was one of the contentious issues between the parties, with Shiv Sena opposing the refinery.

The entire Konkan belt is ecologically sensitive and is home to one of a large varieties of flora and fauna apart from animal, bird and reptile species and is tagged as one of the most fragile ecological zones in the world.

The announcement comes as Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to arrive in India on Tuesday and is expected to announce investments in energy and infrastructure during the visit.

The Ratnagiri Refinery and  Petrochemicals Ltd (RRPCL), which is running the project, says the 1.2 million barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery, and an integrated petrochemical site with a capacity of 18 million tonnes per year, will help create direct and indirect employment for up to 150,000 people, with jobs that pay better than agriculture or fishing.

RRPCL, a joint venture between Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum, has said suggestions the refinery would damage the environment were baseless.

Land acquisition has always been a contentious issue in rural India, where a majority of the population depends on farming for their livelihood.

In 2008, for example, Tata Motorshad to shelve plans for a car factory in an eastern state after facing widespread protests from farmers.

--With agency inputs

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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2019 08:59:24 IST

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