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Mega power projects stuck in starting block

3 years after the UMPP programme was launched, environmental concerns, locational disputes and inadequate coal supplies continue to dog the much-fancied plan, writes Samiran Saha.

business Updated: Aug 17, 2008 22:20 IST
Samiran Saha

It seems that there is a dearth of land to produce power in India, if a power ministry official is to be believed.

Three years after the ultra-mega power project (UMPP) programme was launched, environmental concerns, locational disputes and inadequate coal supplies continue to dog the much-fancied plan.

An ultra mega power project is designed to generate up to 4,000 megawatt of electricity, enough to light up a city like Delhi. These projects are crucial to meeting the country’s growing energy needs and bridging the widening power deficit. Nine such projects are to be commissioned across the country through competitive bids from power generation companies.

But only three of them, at Mundra in Gujarat, Sasan in Madhya Pradesh and Kirshnapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, have so far been awarded to private developers through competitive bidding.

But states like Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Mahrashtra have yet to finalise the location and set aside land for these projects, despite repeated reminders from the central government, a top power ministry official told Hindustan Times.

So much so that, chief ministers of these five states failed to show up at an August 4 meeting called by the Centre to discuss progress on the projects, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Instead, they sent their power ministers to the meeting.

The centre had aimed to complete the bidding process by the end of this year, but most states have failed to show enough enthusiasm for the process to move forward, the official said.

State governments, however, contested the official’s comments.

“Land has already been selected for the 4,000 mw ultra mega power project near Bhedabahal in Sundargarh district,” said Suresh Mohapatra, power secretary, Orissa. “Land acquisition will commence shortly and there is absolutely no land related problem associated with this.”

Karnataka denied that land was an issue in the delaying the project. “We are in dialogue with the Centre. There’s adequate land and water, but we have to transport coal from Goa,” said K. Jairaj, principal secretary in the department of energy.

In Maharashtra, authorities blamed alphonso mango farmers in Girve, who are opposing the state’s plan to use their land for the proposed UMPP.