New Delhi: They compete head-to-head for business, and they competed for land for this particular project, but the government has asked Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s Reliance Energy Ltd, or REL, and Tata Po-wer Co. Ltd, or TPCL, to share some infrastructure for power plants the two are building in Maharashtra because doing so will minimize the impact on the environment.
The two plants have a combined capacity of 4,400MW.
India’s ministry of environment and forests, or MoEF, has asked REL and TPCL to submit an integrated proposal for a coal-handling jetty, conveyor system, green belt, mangrove afforestation and utilization of waste water at Shahpur in Raigad district on the Maharashtra coast where the two plants are being built. Apart from minimizing damage to the environment, the government also wants to protect the limited freshwater reserves in the area.
“The integrated plan shall be prepared and placed before the expert committee (the MoEF body which studies environmental impact assessments or the projected impact a project will have on an area’s environment) in the next meeting to be held in April. The ministry has also asked both companies to form a joint committee that is mutually acceptable and inform the ministry by 15 April,” said a government official who did not wish to be identified.
Tata Power and REL were engaged in a protracted fight over the 3,490-acre plot of land allotted for the project at Shahpur. Both had obtained approvals from independent state industrial development agencies and claimed lien on the land. Eventually, the state government prevailed on REL to scale down its initial project plan so that both companies could set up their coal-based power projects, as reported by Mint on 7 June. According to the terms of the compromise, REL decided to relocate its 1,600MW gas-based power project elsewhere.
Spokespersons for both firms declined comment.
According to REL’s environmental plan, its power plant will use freshwater from the nearby Amba river and discharge waste freshwater back into the river. TPCL’s plan, on the other hand, calls for drawing brackish water from the river and running it through a reverse osmosis water treatment plant. Both plants are near the Amba estuary, and while REL will use water from the freshwater part, TPCL plans to use water near the end of the estuary, which is marginally salty. TPCL has offered to do this to reduce the stress on freshwater from the river.
However, MoEF says it has a better idea. It has asked TCPL to consider the possibility of using freshwater effluent from the Reliance plant after treatment.
A New Delhi-based power sector analyst, who did not wish to be identified, said the MoEF’s proposal sounded “extremely encouraging”. “REL’s hands are quite full and it has been pretty stretched. Joining hands will save on duplicate infrastructure development, and it will be helpful for both companies,” the analyst said.
Maharashtra is India’s largest power-deficit state with a demand-supply gap of 4,500-5,000MW. The gap is likely to widen further with demand projected to rise by 7-10% every year.