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Coal bug bites Bengal steel projects

Calcutta, Oct. 30: The size of the three proposed steel projects of Bhushan Steel (Salanpur), Videocon group (Jamuria) and Abhijeet group (Jamuria) may have to be reduced and realigned to exclude coal bearing areas as in Bengal Aerotropolis Project’s proposed airport city at Andal. All the sites are in Burdwan district.

The Bengal government has convened a meeting on November 3 with the top officials of Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL) and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDCL) to discuss the impact on coal bearing areas of the planned steel projects and thrash out a realignment to exclude the coal areas.

At a meeting in April this year, the government had agreed that the WBIDC would review projects that have been approved to exclude the coal areas. The government also agreed that from now it would take into confidence Coal India Limited, ECL and CMPDIL before approving any project on the coal areas in the state.

Following an objection by CIL, the government and Bengal Aerotropolis have agreed to reduce the size of the airport project from 3,500 acres to 2,182 acres as it would not only encroach on 2.63 sq km of ECL’s leased land, but also lock up huge reserves of coal.

CMPDIL has estimated that even after the reduction in areas, the Aerotropolis project will lock up 1,623 million tonnes, or nearly three years of coal consumption of the entire nation.

“The steel projects of Bhushan, Abhijeet group and Videocon group are coming up on prime coal bearing areas. If set up, these projects will lock-up a far greater quantity of coal than the aerotropolis project,” said Partha S. Bhattacharyya, chairman of CIL.

According to him, these problems would not have arisen had the state government consulted CIL and CMPDIL.

“Now, the government has decided to consult CIL, ECL and CMPDIL before sanctioning any project on coal bearing areas in Bengal,” Bhattacharyya said.

The three steel projects together would require 8,000 acres (32.5 sq. km).

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