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L&T sets up a 1600MW land test for hands-off state govt

Calcutta, Dec. 21: Larsen & Toubro has expressed interest in setting up a 1,600MW thermal power plant in Bengal and requested the government to arrange for 1,200 acres.

The company said it would not opt for direct acquisition, raising the question how the government would get so much land given its hands-off policy on acquisition for private players.

A delegation of three senior officials of L&T’s power wing today met chief minister Mamata Banerjee, finance minister Amit Mitra and power minister Manish Gupta at Writers’ Buildings.

The estimated cost of the project is Rs 11,000 crore.

Sailendra Roy, a senior L&T vice-president who oversees the company’s power wing, said the government had given “three to four” site options. He said the company would consider them over the next fortnight before meeting the government again.

“We have been given three to four areas, which are our options for deciding on the site. We are not willing to disclose what these options are. We will report to the chief minister in 15 days after assessing these options on the parameters of water availability, layout, rail and road connectivity, etc. We will bring supercritical technology and latest equipment to build and run the plant, which will produce low-emission power,” he said.

Mamata had said during a recent interview with STAR Ananda that L&T would be offered 700 of the 1,000 acres available with the government in West Midnapore’s Goaltore. Asked by reporters if the company was willing to set up the plant in the Maoist-affected zone, Roy said “no”. When asked if the government had offered the Goaltore land today, he said: “We have not been given any such impression.”

Roy made it clear that the company would not acquire the land. “The government has to give the land to us. We will prepare a plan that can be altered according to the availability of land but we cannot do with less than 1,200 acres to produce 1,600MW of power,” he said.

Power minister Gupta said the government would provide L&T the land it needed from the land bank once the company chose the site. “We are positive about the L&T project. I spoke to NTPC a few days ago. It has started work on acquiring the additional 500 acres it needs to set up a power plant in Katwa. These two projects will help augment Bengal’s power-generation capacity by 3,200MW in the next four years or so,” he said.

If the government does agree to give L&T 1,200 acres, it will have to be from the land bank as it is unlikely that the administration will acquire so much land. Recently, the government had asked NTPC to acquire the 500 acres of additional land for the Katwa project.

But the land bank is yet to be created as a dozen major departments, including health, public works and panchayat and rural development, have so far failed to furnish details of the plots available with them.

Government officials said L&T could also be offered land in Purulia’s Adra in case NTPC, which has expressed interest in constructing a power plant there, pulls out.

So far, NTPC has not said officially that it wants to scrap its plans in Adra.

However, the closest source of water, which is needed to produce steam to run the carbines, is Panchet dam, 35km away. An NTPC official said laying the pipeline to fetch water from Panchet would cost about Rs 150 crore. The daily operating cost will increase about 10 per cent if water has to be brought from such a long distance.

Coal, needed to run boilers, will have to be brought from Sanktoria and Kulti in Burdwan, about 50km away. But this would not be much of a problem because there is rail connectivity.

Roy said L&T chose Bengal “because it is in need of power”. “There is a shortage of power here,” he said, adding that the state was “investor-friendly.”