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Coal hope for NTPC project

Calcutta, Jan. 27: State power minister Manish Gupta has assured the NTPC that the government will arrange for coal supply to its proposed plant in Burdwan’s Katwa, sources in Nabanna said today.

Minister Gupta met NTPC chairman Arup Roy Chowdhury at the new state secretariat this afternoon and apparently told him that permission for a coal linkage to the 1,320MW plant would be given at the next cabinet meeting, expected to be held in a week.

Power department officials said the supply would be made from the state-owned Deocha-Panchami coal block in Birbhum, which has a reserve of 2,102 million tonnes.

According to sources, once the NTPC gets the state government’s approval for the coal linkage, the central utility’s proposal to acquire a portion of land directly from farmers would be placed before its board of directors in February.

“As we are very keen on the Katwa project and we never gave up on it even when land was a serious hurdle, the board’s approval should not be an issue,” an NTPC official said.

Last month, the NTPC had agreed to directly buy around 150 acres that remain to be acquired for the proposed plant, the move a first for the central utility that has until now depended on central and state governments for land.

“Linkage” with a coal mine is necessary for any thermal power project as coal is burnt to boil water and generate steam, which in turn rotates turbines that produce power.

The Katwa plant is expected to consume around 6.4 million tonnes of coal annually, once generation starts.

Supply of coal had become a cause for concern for the project in September last year, when the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited returned to the Centre the Damagoria coal block in Burdwan, which was to supply coal to the NTPC plant.

Coal blocks are allotted by the Centre to state-owned undertakings that operate the mines. In this case, both the Birbhum and the Burdwan coal blocks were run by the state power utility before the Damagoria block was given back to the Centre.

NTPC chairman Roy Chowdhury said: “Following the coal linkage, if the board approves, we would like to float tenders for the project within this fiscal year.”

The 556 acres the Left government had acquired in Katwa would be enough for the Rs 10,000-crore main plant, officials said. The remaining 150 acres, which the utility plans to acquire directly, would be required for allied infrastructure, which, the officials added, wouldn’t be needed for at least another four years.

Power department officials said the NTPC would start buying land later this year.

The NTPC had requested the Trinamul government several times to acquire the remaining 150 acres. But the chief minister had refused to acquire “even an inch”.