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Move to hasten stuck projects

New Delhi, Jan. 1: As part of a pre-election rush to finish projects, the Cabinet Committee on Investments has been requested to prod ministries to finish their jobs within a set time limit.

In a note to the CCI, the power ministry said several projects that the cabinet committee had given time-bound directions to complete jobs in the beginning of December were still hanging fire.

The projects that are delayed include a super thermal power plant in Bengal’s Sagar island, Hinduja’s 1050-mw power project at Visakhapatnam and a pit-head power plant in Rajasthan’s Barmer district.

Apparently the CCI had asked the ministry of environment and forests to issue environmental and coastal regulation zone clearances for the Sagar power plant within a fortnight from December 9.

However, the matter hasn’t moved since then. News reports had speculated in the past that Congress leader Jayanthi Natarajan was shifted out of the environment portfolio for delaying key projects, including Sagar.

The power ministry’s note says, “The MoEF may be directed to decide on the grant of environmental and coastal zone clearances as the two weeks given have elapsed.”

The environment ministry, however, says the assessment committee that had examined the proposal felt the findings of a panel constituted by the government of Bengal was not based on any scientific study.

The committee constituted by Bengal had said the island on which the power plant was supposed to come up “is neither unique nor ecologically fragile”.

This spat over whose environment findings are right will now form the basis of the CCI’s directions.

A similar spat is on over the Hinduja project. The CCI had on December 9 asked for a coastal zone clearance within a week. This seems to be still overdue.

In December 2012, the ministry of environment had asked the Andhra Pradesh government to report on violation of the Coastal Zone Act and wanted signed resolutions from the company involved that it would not violate the law again.

Strangely, the state government reported back in August 2013 that no major violations had occurred and only some patches had been filled with spillage of earth during grading and levelling work at the project site. The environment ministry had decided the violation attracted a minor fine of Rs 1 lakh but this could be done only after a case had been filed. The power ministry now feels the environment ministry should wrap up the matter within a week’s time.

The power ministry’s complaint over Rajwest, a Rs 7,200 crore pithead thermal power plant at Barmer, is against the coal ministry which it says had been tardy in approving a mine plan and mine closure plan so that the project can use 7 million tonnes per annum of coal from the Kapurdi lignite mine.

Officials said with elections round the corner a tussle was on — some ministries were racing to finish pending work, while others were delaying work so that a successor government cannot blame it of wrong-doing.

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