The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stubborn farmers put power plant in doubt
- Minister asks villagers to choose what they want more

Durgapur, Oct. 3: Angry over the reluctance of a section of farmers to hand over land for a power plant in Burdwan, the government today said it will shelve the project if the villagers did not want it.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee said the 1000-mw plant in Burdwan's Katwa will have to be put off if the farmers continued to oppose the acquisition of about 3,000 acres.

A series of protests rocked the district administration last month, leading to uncertainty over the availability of land for the power plant.

Although the farmers did not use any political banner during their agitation, it is believed that they have the Trinamul Congress's backing. The party has been opposing conversion of farmland for infrastructure or industrial projects.

Mamata Banerjee has been leading Opposition protests against the takeover of land for an industry hub and a health city to be created by the Indonesia-based Salim Group in the two 24-Parganas.

'The power plant in Katwa is for the benefit of local villagers and the state as well. If the villagers are reluctant to provide land for it, the project will have to be shelved.

'The project was scheduled for completion in the 11th Plan period (2007-2012). We shall try to convince the villagers that if we do not increase power generation in the state, people will have to suffer as the demand for it has increased drastically with industrialisation and urbanisation,' the power minister told a news conference.

Banerjee also said that the demand for power in the state electricity board-served area alone has increased by 400 mw in the past year.

'The government is determined to cater to the growing demand for power by additional generation of 3,000 mw in the 11th Plan period. As part of the project, we had decided to install the plant in Katwa,' he added.

The minister today came to the Coke Oven plant of Durgapur Projects Ltd (DPL), about 180 km from Calcutta, to flag off repair work in a unit that was defunct for the past five years.

The repairing job will be completed by next year at a cost of Rs 6.75 crore. DPL will provide the money.

Banerjee expressed concern over the future of Coke Oven. 'The prospects of the Coke Oven plant will be at stake if we cannot create more market for the coke produced. SAIL is now giving us coal to convert them to coke for their steel factories. We want to forge a joint venture between SAIL and DPL to make the Coke Oven plant viable.'

He also said that the excess gas generated at the Coke Oven unit would be used in a new 15-mw power plant. 'The Alloy Steel Plant buys Coke Oven's gas, but we still have a surplus. We'll install another small power-generating unit in the plant at a cost of Rs 40 crore.'

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