The government’s ultra mega power project (UMPP) initiative has run into rough weather with concerns emerging over the suitability of sites proposed for the power plants at Tilaiya in Jharkand and Krishnapattnam in Andhra Pradesh. The Jharkand project is under threat because of the Naxalite problem. And the Krishnapattnam one may not meet environmental norms.
“We are facing a problem in Jharkhand due to security reasons. The area for the Jharkhand project is a both a forest and Naxalite-infested area. It also has a lot of tribal presence. This is posing a land acquisition and displacement problem,” said a senior government official who did not wish to be identified.
In Andhra Pradesh, the state government wants to build another 4,000MW UMPP at Krishnapattnam. This has triggered fears that the resulting sulphur pollution levels in the area will not meet environmental norms. When sulphur in the coal burns, it produces sulphur dioxide, which, when it comes in contact with water (or moisture), produces acid rain. Installing equipment to reduce suphur emissions would increase the cost of the project, estimated at Rs16,000 crore, by another 15-20% and a corresponding increase in the cost of the power produced.
“As the proposed project will use imported coal which is high in sulphur content, there is an environmental problem,” said an official close to the development who did not wish to be identified.
According to Arvind Mahajan, executive director at accounting firm KPMG, large projects tend to be complex because of issues related to land and environment. “There is a need to prepare these projects well in advance in terms of clearances and land acquisition to counter the problems which have affected the other infrastructure projects in the country,” he said.
The government proposes to build nine UMPPs, each with a capacity to generate 4,000MW at Sasan (Madhya Pradesh), Mundra (Gujarat), Tadri (Karnataka), Girye (Maharashtra), Akaltara (Chattisgarh), Cheyuur (Tamil Nadu), Jharsuguda (Orissa), Krishnapattnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Tilaiya (Jharkhand).
Two projects had run into trouble earlier after environmental groups raised concerns about their location. The Central Electricity Authority, the government body that will decide on the location, is assessing the substitution of Tadri in Karnataka and Girye in Maharashtra with Bhavnagar in Gujarat and Dighe in Maharashtra. Mint reported this on 2 July. A group of ministers will decide on the fate of another project, the one at Sasan in Madhya Pradesh, which has come under a cloud following a change in the constitution of the winning consortium.