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Power plant to pose land test

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 10.09.13

Calcutta, Sept. 9: Land hurdles have forced the NTPC to shave 280MW off its proposed plant in Burdwan’s Katwa but the scaled-down plan has set up a litmus test for the Mamata Banerjee government.

The central power utility still needs the state government to acquire 150 acres for the 1,320-MW project. The original capacity envisaged was 1,600MW.

With 565 acres in hand, which were acquired for the project by the Left Front government, the NTPC would approach the Mamata government to acquire the rest of land.

In June 2011, the chief minister had refused to acquire “even an inch” of land for the project.

But the NTPC says it has taken consent in writing from 99 per cent of the owners of the 150 acres, who would “voluntarily” part with their plots for the project.

“The 99 per cent we are talking about approached us, voluntarily, to part with their land for the project…. The project now appears more probable,” said utility chairman Arup Roy Chowdhury in the city this afternoon.

Government intervention in such a scenario becomes less unpalatable. The government had allowed the West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBIIDC) to acquire land for developing industrial parks.

If the land is acquired for the power plant through the same route, it will mean that the state government is willing to show some degree of flexibility.

“If necessary, we will approach WBIIDC with the consent letters, if that’s going to be the nodal agency,” said the NTPC chairman.

For the 1,600MW plant, the utility would have needed 1,100 acres. Last year, the NTPC decided to scale down the project, from two 800MW units to two 660MW units. But even for that, more land is required.

The scale-down is expected to pull down the investment from around Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 8,500 crore.

Earlier this year, the company managed to get written consent from a vast majority of landowners in Katwa.

“If the NTPC manages to convince the government that no force would be necessary in Katwa and if the chief minister relents, this could prove a watershed moment,” said a senior government official this evening.

According to him, the project, which was to be completed by 2015, could be delayed by three years because of the delay in the acquisition process.

The project, conceived in 2006, was handed over to NTPC in December 2010 after state-run generation utility WBPDCL was hobbled by funds crunch and resistance from Trinamul-backed Katwa landowners.

Roy Chowhdury said that after the resolution to the land issue, the question of coal linkage for the project would also need to be addressed. The project would need around 7 million tonnes of coal annually.

The West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL) has returned the Damagoria coal block, which was to be linked to Katwa, since the Bengal government was unwilling to either relocate six villages or move the Grand Trunk Road around 7km for a proposed mining project.

Coal linkage has come in the way of starting work on the utility’s other proposed 1,320MW thermal plant at Purulia’s Adra.

The 800 acres of land required for the project has been sanctioned, because the land belongs to the railways and the project is a joint venture between NTPC and the railways. But the Railway Board is yet to get a coal linkage for the project from the Union ministry of coal.

“Adra is a non-starter at the moment due to the coal linkage problem. The Railway Board is trying to get the linkage,” said Roy Chowdhury.

The Adra plant, to be set up at an investment of around Rs 8,500 crore, will require 7 million tonnes of coal annually.

State power department sources said the project, originally planned for completion in 2014, was unlikely to be completed before 2017.