MUMBAI: India’s ambitious plan to set up ultra mega power projects is in trouble again. Two key sites in states where some plants were to be located—Maharashtra and Karnataka—were found unsuitable due to environmental and local reasons. While both states are still hoping that alternative sites might work, it is unlikely, says a power ministry official, who was involved in the study.
In addition to the two latest problems, a site in Chhattisgarh had already been put on the back burner because of the state’s insistence that 12% of power from the project be supplied free of cost to itself. This means that the government’s plan to build nine plants is now down to six, a 33% reduction.
Ultra mega power projects are of 4,000 megawatt (MW) each, and seen as a critical piece in India’s attempts to deal with its chronic power shortages and growing demand.
In Karnataka and Maharashtra, power ministry officials are internally ruling out the feasibility of other sites. “Though the alternative sites are being worked out, site selection is a long and tedious process. We are not willing to wait that long. It will be difficult to set up such a big project in both the states on account of unavailability of suitable project sites,” the official added.
The original coastal sites in the two states are in Girye and Tadri. While the Girye site has witnessed strong opposition due to the danger posed to the local alphonso mango cultivation, the site at Tadri has been criticized, as it was to be located in a green belt.
The Union power ministry had previously asked the Central Electricity Authority to explore alternative sites in Maharashtra. “The sites have to be coastal in nature, as both these projects need imported coal as fuel. The situation is very dicey as no coastal sites are available there,” said an executive with the Power Finance Corporation, the agency responsible for the projects.
The Centre had initially decided to set up these projects at five locations in Sasan (Madhya Pradesh), Mundra (Gujarat), Girye (Maharashtra), Tadri (Karnataka) and Akaltara (Chhattisgarh).
The list was later increased to nine, to include four more projects—Krishnapattanam (Andhra Pradesh), Tilaiya (Jharkhand), Cheyuur (Tamil Nadu) and Jhasuguda (Orissa).