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Lack of land delaying plans: Power official

Calcutta, Aug. 12: Land acquisition problems are coming in the way of the state-run power transmission utility’s capacity augmentation, its managing director said today.

Plans to build at least 70 substations and expand several existing ones have not taken off because of unavailability of land, the MD of the West Bengal State Electricity Transmission Company Limited (WBSETCL) said at a session titled “Transforming the Distribution and Transmission Sector” at the CII’s Energy Conclave 2014. The programme was held at a Calcutta hotel.

MD Susanta Kumar Das said land was posing a hurdle in even setting up basic infrastructure such as transmission cables and poles.

“We need to build 70 substations in the next couple of years…. Several substations have to be modernised and expanded. But because of land issues in this state, that process has slowed down,” Das said. “We are talking to the stakeholders to mitigate this challenge, but when there are land acquisition problems even for setting up cables and poles, things take time.”

Power department officials said WBSETCL was facing problems getting even a few cottahs for a pole or 1.5 acres for a 60KV substation because of opposition from landowners.

“The government’s hands-off land policy has come in the way of constructing substations. The utility has to directly acquire land. This is a lengthy process as discussions have to be held with landowners,” a power department official said.

“If WBSETCL is able to pull off the planned infrastructure upgrade and capacity augmentation, transmission losses can be reduced by at least 2 per cent in the next few years, which translates to Rs 300 crore,” the official said.

For smaller substations, the project cost is about Rs 7 crore each, inclusive of the cost of land. Sometimes, the official said, landowners demand Rs 50 lakh an acre when the actual price is no more than Rs 12 lakh.

“Be it a plot of 5 cottahs or 25 acres, landowners resist acquisition, demanding absurdly steep compensation and permanent jobs,” he said.

According to Nabanna sources, the chief minister had said it was “up to the utility” to sort out the land issues with the help of the districts’ administration. “The government won’t get involved directly, she has said,” a source said.

Hydel project

Power minister Manish Gupta today said on the sidelines of the conclave that two hydro-electricity generation facilities of 1,000MW and 900MW would be set up on the Ayodhya Hills in Purulia.