The government's ultra mega power dream appears to be grounded, at least for now. Tillya in Jharkhand could well be the last of the ambitious ultra mega power projects (UMPPs) the government would invite bids for, sources in the ministry of power said.
To begin with, the government has identified five sites for setting up the ultra mega power projects that were to be allocated to winning bidders from the private sector for setting up power plants with a capacity of 4,000 mega watt and also to provide a fillip to its plan of adding 78,577 mega watt of power during the 11th Plan.
The government had set a target of finalising all the bidders before the end of this calendar year. It has, however, managed only three with the fate of the rest hanging in balance.
The number of sites for the projects kept going up as the government continued to allocate sites without carrying out proper techno-feasibility studies, demographic patterns, displacement issues and alternative site for rehabilitation.
Sources said site selection for the ultra mega power projects has been “very dismal” and, other than the three already allocated to the winning bidders, the rest were just not feasible for UMPPs with issues like the displacement or rehabilitation of people, accessibility to ports or coal pitheads not being addressed before the sites were finalised.
In a report, the government’s standing committee on energy on the ultra mega power project had severely indicted the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) for “not having given a serious thought” before selecting the project sites for the 10 proposed 4,000-mega watt ultra mega power plants to be set up by private firms.
Of the sites already selected for the power projects, only Sasan in Madhya Pradesh, Mundra in Gujarat and Krishnapatanam in Andhra Pradesh have been allocated to the winning bidders.
Power ministry sources said that the rest of the sites -- identified at Akaltara in Chattisgarh, IB Valley in Orissa, Cheyyur in Tamil Nadu, Tardi in Karnataka and Girye in Maharashtra -- were not been found to be “conducive” for UMPPs.
“The due-diligence conducted for the sites by government authorities does not look up to the mark. They have failed to identify and appreciate local problems and there seems to be lack of communication between the government agencies which could lead to problems for the perspective bidders,” an official with one of the private power companies bidding for UMPP said.