New Delhi, Oct. 22: The cabinet committee on investment is likely to discuss and clear some half-a-dozen projects worth nearly Rs 40,000 crore after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns from his trip to Russia and China.
One of the projects is the 2,000-megawatt Sagar super thermal plant at Bengal’s Nayachar island on the Hooghly river.
The cabinet committee on investment (CCI), formed to fast-track critical projects that could spur the faltering Indian economy, will take up some five stalled super thermal power projects and a mega-coal mine to feed multiple power projects. Most of these projects are in the private sector, unlike the CCI’s usual bill of business, which has been to clear pending state-run projects.
Besides the obvious impact these projects have on the economy by increasing energy availability and creating jobs, top officials say, banks have already committed money to some of these projects and these may turn into bad loans unless the projects are hastened.
The Sagar Super Thermal Power Project, estimated to be worth Rs 8,600 crore, is the largest of these projects and is stuck because the ministry of environment has not given its clearance.
The ministry feels the project is being planned on an ecologically fragile island, though a committee set up by the Bengal government has disputed such a finding.
The plant is to be set up by Universal Crescent Power, headed by Singapore-based NRI Prasoon Mukherjee. The note for the CCI says, “appropriate directions of the cabinet committee are sought” for environment and coastal zone regulation clearances.
Nayachar was the site for a chemical hub planned by the earlier Left Front government. However, the plan was abandoned after Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee took over as chief minister.
Other projects to be vetted include the Rs 7,200-crore Rajwest pithead thermal power plant at Barmer, which is stuck as a lignite mining lease is yet to be transferred; a Rs 6,848 crore coal-fired power plant at Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, being promoted by SKS Ispat Group, whose coal mining licence at Rawanwara North Coal Block was cancelled last year; Hinduja Group’s Rs 5,545 crore under-construction thermal power plant near Vizag, which needs a clearance under coastal regulation zone act; and a 1,000-megawatt Meenakshi Energy thermal power plant in Krishnapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, which also requires an environment clearance.
The CCI will also consider Odisha’s Machakata Coal Project being set up at a cost of Rs 5,416 crore, which will produce some 30 million tonnes of coal annually for a clutch of power plants run by Maharashtra and Gujarat state electricity boards. Here again green clearances and approvals from the states have been holding up the project.
Projects worth Rs 4,43,458 crore are stuck in the pipeline.
An earlier note prepared for the CCI by the department of financial services had pointed out that “any delay in the implementation of infrastructure projects would also turn exposure of banks and financial institutions into NPAs, halting the cycle of lending.”
So far, the CCI has cleared about 75 projects worth some Rs 3,11,419 crore but little of that money has actually been spent on the ground.