New Delhi: Culture and wildlife have trumped economics once again. The need to preserve the Khajuraho temple, famous for its erotic sculptures, as well as nearby tiger and crocodile sanctuaries has prompted a government panel to hold off on clearing a Rs.18,000 crore thermal power plant in Madhya Pradesh.
This is the second time the Union environment ministry’s expert panel has deferred giving green clearance to NTPC Ltd’s 2,660 megawatt (MW) super thermal power plant in Madhya Pradesh.
The power project near Barethi village (Chhatarpur) in Madhya Pradesh was referred to the environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for thermal power and coal mining projects seeking environment clearance in 16-17 June meeting.
The project had been deferred last year as well because of environmental concerns.
“Since Khajuraho Temple is made of red stone, long-term effect on this also needs to be assessed, mainly due to SPM (Carbon) & SO (Sulphur Oxide),” the EAC had noted in May 2015 and sought details on nearly 19 other concerns. Another concern of the panel was that the proposed power project site is only 12km from the ecologically sensitive Panna Tiger Reserve.
According to the minutes of the 16-17 June meeting, reviewed by Mint, the NTPC came back with answers to the concerns but these failed to satisfy the EAC, which noted that the site is in an “ecologically sensitive area”.
“It is close to Khajuraho Temples and Ken Crocodile Sanctuary, which are about 20-30km from the TPP (thermal power plant) site. It is about 12km from Panna Tiger Reserve. There is extensive network of surface drainage system consisting of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th order streams all of which find their way into Ken River,” observed the EAC.
The committee, after detailed deliberations, again “deferred” the green clearance to the project and sought information on 14 points. It sought a “revised plant layout with 33% green belt of the project area, with focus towards Khajuraho, and Panna Tiger Reserve” adding, “plantation must be started immediately along the periphery areas, so that some cover will be available by the time the plant becomes operational”.
It also asked for a detailed stormwater management system along with additional information regarding impact of fugitive emissions, impact on aquatic flora and fauna.
The EAC also sought details of “water drawl, including reported plan that only excess water during monsoon will be stored in the dam and utilised for the plant and that there will be no change or diversion in non-monsoon flows, or in the downstream water withdrawal during non-monsoon period and impact of the same”.
The panel pointed out that NTPC’s contention that there will be no impact on Ken river is not tenable, since both the dams that will cater to the project’s water requirements are fed by the river.
“Considering the scale of the project and proximity with the Panna Tiger Reserve and the contiguous forest, NBWL (National Board for Wildlife) clearance shall be obtained,” directed the expert panel. The panel noted that the environment ministry may also seek comments from its wildlife department.
“Since the site is ecologically sensitive, the EAC recommended that no further expansion of the project may be permitted in future at the site,” it added.