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Ratnagiri mega refinery project meeting heavy opposition

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Reuters is reporting the proposed US$44 billion Ratnagiri refinery on India’s west coast is running into substantial opposition from local farmers who are refusing to surrender their land.

Saudi Aramco and a consortium of Indian companies agreed a preliminary deal to build the refinery in April – a move that was promoted at the time as immensely beneficial for both Saudi Arabia and India.

However many locals in Ratnagiri district in the state of Maharashtra fear that the project would be detrimental to a region which has thrived on the production of Alphonso mangoes, cashews and seafood. 14 villages in the district would need to be relocated in the event of the refinery being constructed.

The farmers are supported by opposition politicians as well as Maharashtra Industries Minister, Subhash Desai, who is a member of the Shiv Sena, a local ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Desai told Reuters that the Maharashtra state government, which is responsible for acquiring the requisite land, has failed to secure any of the 15 000 acres believed to be required for the refinery.

Desai said: “The state is not going to acquire land as a majority of the farmers are against the plan.” Under land acquisition rules at least 70% of the land owners need to provide consent for a project, he said.

Hundreds of people have joined non-violent protests, blocking surveyors from even measuring land needed for the site.

However the Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd (RRPL), which is running the project, is hopeful that the project will continue and has said the 1.2 million bpd refinery, and an integrated petrochemical site with a capacity of 18 million tpy, will help create direct and indirect employment for up to 150 000 people, with jobs that pay better than agriculture or fishing.

Anil Nagwekar, a spokesman for RRPL, said: “Some people misguided farmers and created fear. We’re now trying to answer each and every doubt.” Nagwekar added: “Ideally the state government should have acquired land by now and the work for the project should have started. The delay could impact deadlines.”

The refinery, announced in 2015, was to be commissioned by 2022, but delays in land acquisition mean the deadline is likely to be pushed back.

Saudi Aramco has declined to comment, while India’s oil ministry did not respond to a Reuters email seeking comment.

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