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CM sets off Barh countdown

Patna, May 21: Nitish Kumar today did a recce of NTPC’s upcoming thermal power plant in Barh to see for himself the progress of the project, which is already delayed by over two years, and asked officials to ensure that the deadline — now set for June 2013 — is strictly adhered to.

The state government has been facing flak from entrepreneurs for not being able to push through big-ticket power projects. Last week, CII president Adi Godrej highlighted the problems of power while announcing an investment for the state.

The Barh project was initiated by Nitish during his stint as a Union minister under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The plant, which is to produce 3,300MW of power at a cost of over Rs 26,000 crore, is already delayed by over two years.

Officials accompanying Nitish said the chief minister’s patience wore thin as he sat through a presentation by NTPC personnel. Nitish repeatedly asked them to speed up work.

Even when Nitish went through the rituals of planting a sapling within the premises of NTPC, he remarked that even tree plantation in the area was delayed and should have been completed long ago. His talks with NTPC officials revealed that production of the first unit of 660MW would start only by June 2013. The second unit of another 660MW is expected to start production in September 2014, the year the next parliamentary election is scheduled.

The Centre has assured the state government that it would get 50 per cent of the output from the Barh plant. It means that the power-starved state can expect an additional 660MW. “It will be a big relief considering the fact that power shortage has led to towns of Bihar remaining without electricity for long periods in summer,” said an official of the Bihar State Electricity Board (BSEB).

With an exception to the state capital, people vent their frustration regarding erratic supply of power. Bihar’s second-most important city, Muzaffarpur, witnessed an 18-hour power cut recently. A district magistrate wrote a letter to the state headquarters complaining that the lack of power is leading to law and order problems. “Apparently the state government would not like the situation to remain grim in an election year,” said a JD(U) MLA.

The ambitious thermal project at Nabinagar in Aurangabad of 1,980MW was expected to be commissioned in 2015. However, the joint venture (along with NTPC) is facing hurdles from those persons who are being displaced by the project. “It is unlikely that we would be anywhere near completion by 2014,” conceded a BSEB official.

During the last Assembly elections, power was a major plank of Nitish as he promised that he would make the state self-sufficient in the next five years. However, his efforts to get private investment and expand the existing thermal plants have faced hurdles — primarily due to the Centre’s refusal to give coal linkage. Recently, he has begun to speak on development of alternative energy — solar and hydro — stressing that there was a limitation of thermal power.


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