New Delhi: To counter charges that it is ignoring Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) development, the Union government plans to build a coal-fired thermal power plant in Udhampur district of the state.
“This decision (to set up the project) has been taken at the highest levels of the government, although there is no coal available in the state,” said a senior government official who didn’t wish to be named. “By doing so, the Union government feels the apathy charges levelled against it for ignoring the state’s development may cool down.”
The official said the government is also trying to contain the political fallout of the two-month-long agitation in the state over the transfer of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).
Bright idea? NTPC’s thermal power plant in Unchahar, UP. Despite a coal shortage faced by the firm, the govt plans to build a plant in J&K.
Elections to the J&K assembly are likely to be held by the end of this year. National elections are due by May 2009.
The protests in the state ended early this month after a Central panel and Hindu groups agreed on a pact that gives rights to SASB to use land at Baltal during the summer pilgrimage to Amarnath.
“The talks have been on for the thermal power project but nothing has been committed so far. Attempts are being made to establish coal linkage for the project,” confirmed a J&K state official, asking not to be named.
Securing coal linkages to the plant is difficult due to shortage of coal across the country. As per norms, a proposed plant should have a minimum coal stock to support production for 25 days.
However, even NTPC Ltd, the country’s largest power generation utility, is facing shortages across its coal-based projects with stocks to support two-four days of power generation, as reported by Mint earlier on 29 August.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s marquee rural electrification programme is yet to make an impact in J&K due to security and law and order issues, non-availability of turnkey contractors and high costs, as reported by Mint on 24 July.
The state receives 1,000MW compared with a demand of around 2,000MW.
Power sector analysts aren’t impressed by the move. “It is a completely unsound idea,” said Anish De, chief executive officer at energy consulting firm Mercados Asia.
“What the government should do is to set up a coal pithead plant for Jammu and Kashmir in the eastern region or in Chhattisgarh.”