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NTPC land plan for green nod

Calcutta, Feb. 20: The NTPC will directly buy 150 acres for its proposed thermal power plant in Burdwan’s Katwa in addition to the 97 acres it is supposed to get from the state, the move aimed at removing an environmental hurdle before the project.

Sources in Delhi said the central utility’s board of directors had on Saturday approved the company’s plan to buy the 150 acres directly, a first for the firm that has till now depended on central and state governments for acquisition.

The price of the land has been fixed at Rs 15 lakh an acre.

The project already has 556 acres acquired during the Left regime. The 150 acres the utility would buy and the 97.1 acres promised by the Mamata Banerjee government would make the project area 803 acres, as against 706 acres the NTPC had planned initially.

According to the Eastern Regional Power Committee’s estimates, the 1,320MW Katwa project would need 858 acres, half of which have to be used to make an ash pit.

As the total land the utility has planned for the project will fall short by around 50 acres, the company intends to cut down on plots for housing and other infrastructure.

Officials said the central utility would allot 400 acres for its ash pit where ash can be dumped for about 30 years.

Asked about the plan to buy the remaining land, a state power department official said: “The cost of the land will come to around Rs 22.5 crore. That is a nominal sum for a project in which the main plant alone would cost around Rs 8,000 crore.”

The official added that the NTPC would also repay Rs 182 crore it owes the state-run generation utility on account of taking over the project from it in early 2011.

“After we received a letter from the Bengal government about the 97.1 acres it will give us, the initial plan was to buy the remaining 53 acres (of the 150 acres). Our target then was to make the total plot size 706 acres. But after the board of directors cleared the proposal to buy the entire 150 acres, the land size now will become 803 acres. The ash pit will be built on 400 acres, which will be enough for the next 30 years,” the official added.

NTPC sources said the company already had letters of consent from around 98 per cent of the plot owners.

State power secretary Gopal Krishna said the project in all likelihood would get environmental clearance as the NTPC planned to use super-critical technology.

A super-critical plant uses steam generators that transform water into steam much quicker than generators used by old plants. The steam rotates turbines to generate electricity. Super-critical plants also use less fuel and emit less of harmful gases like carbon dioxide.

The Katwa plant, which is expected to generate around 2.7 million tonnes of ash annually, will now have to submit a roadmap for the next 20-30 years to the Central Pollution Control Board and the Union ministry of environment for clearance.

“With the resized ash pit, the clearances will not be a problem. For the first time in years, the project appears feasible, at least on paper,” a power department official said.

The problem of coal linkage for the project has been taken care of by the state government, which has said the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited will supply 7.5 million tonnes of coal annually from the 2,102-million-tonne Deocha-Pachami block in Birbhum.

In return, the state has asked for 85 per cent of the power the 1,320MW plant would generate at a subsidised rate.

Krishna said the plant would start generation by 2019.