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Power plant a poll issue in Chandrapur

india Updated: Oct 05, 2009 17:02 IST
Pradip Kumar Maitra
Pradip Kumar Maitra
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Call it a ‘power play’ in the real sense in Ballarpur Assembly constituency in Chandrapur district. And many players are involved – the Adani Group (a fence-sitter as of now) that was mired in controversy over obtaining permission to operate mines in Lohara for their power project, to villagers of Lohara coming out openly in support of the mining project and wildlife conservationists opposing the project on the ground that it may threaten the habitat in the famous Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve.

The union coal ministry had allotted a coal block at Lohara village to Adani Group in 2007 to meet the coal requirement of its proposed 1320-MW power plant at Tiroda in Gondia district.

Now it has become an issue in the Ballarpur Assembly elections where Lohara village falls. Dayanand Bawankule, sarpanch of Lohara village, claimed that the villagers were in support of development and wanted the mining project. “However, some people, who are not from the village and are from cities, are opposing the project. We have no objection to the mines,” he said.

The coalmine would create direct and indirect employment for the unemployed youths of the village and in the vicinity and bring about all-round development in the area, he added.

Who will emerge winner in this power play, only time will tell?

If Adani Group gets the mines, it would cater its power plant at Tiroda. The Adani Power Company Limited (APCL) will supply 1,320 megawatt (MW) from the plant to Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) at Rs 2.64 per unit from the proposed thermal power plant. The first unit of the power plant is expected to start production by 2011-12.

The proposed tariff works out to be the lowest among all agreements executed by the MSEDCL with private sector companies in two years. The tariff from the plant is lower than even the generation cost of the upcoming projects of Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (Mahagenco), claimed Sanjeev Dokey, general manager, Adani Group.

The APML will supply power to the state at the same rate for 25 years. Hence, the purchase cost will remain steady over a prolonged period of time for the state power utility and will keep the average cost in check, benefiting the consumers, added Dokey.

Reacting to claims that the mines would affect wildlife, especially in the Tadoba tiger reserve, Bawankule said that other mines were operating near the reserve. There are five coal mines operating in and around Chandrapur city adjacent of Tadoba, but nobody ever opposed them, he said.

According to the Lohara sarpanch, “outsiders” had no right to oppose a project in the village, and warned that the residents of the village and its nearby hamlets would vote against anybody who opposed the project in the ensuing Assembly elections.

However, Kishore Rithe, a wildlife expert and secretary of Satpuda Foundation has strongly opposed the project. “How can locals decide the fate of forest and wildlife? Nobody is above law and hence the existing rules would take its own course in this connection,” he further said.

The mine will need 1,750 hectare of land and of which about 1,600 hectares is forest land, and this has triggered a controversy. The proposed coalmines were opposed by a section of NGOs and environmentalists.

Virendra Meshram, who runs a NGO, said that now almost all the candidates from the leading parties assured the villagers that they would support the project.

“We have told them that the villagers want the project so that the locals get jobs. On the same time, we are also in favour of ecological balance in the area. The Adani should give an undertaking that they would ensure the conservation and protection of forest and wildlife in the area,” he said.

The BJP candidate from the area and former Maharashtra minister, Sudhir Mungantiwar, asserted that the villagers were misled by a section of people. “It is not a major issue in the elections and we will certainly do whatever the locals want,” he added.

The Congress nominee and the immediate rival of the BJP candidate, Rahul Pugalia said that the proposed opencast mine would adversely affect the flora and fauna of the area. “If the company operates an underground mine and ensure forest and wildlife conservation we have no objection,” he said.

Who will emerge winner in this power play, only time will tell?

BOX ITEM

If Adani Group gets the mines, it would cater its power plant at Tiroda. The Adani Power Company Limited (APCL) will supply 1,320 megawatt (MW) from the plant to Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) at Rs 2.64 per unit from the proposed thermal power plant. The first unit of the power plant is expected to start production by 2011-12.

The proposed tariff works out to be the lowest among all agreements executed by the MSEDCL with private sector companies in two years. The tariff from the plant is lower than even the generation cost of the upcoming projects of Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (Mahagenco), claimed Sanjeev Dokey, general manager, Adani Group.

The APML will supply power to the state at the same rate for 25 years. Hence, the purchase cost will remain steady over a prolonged period of time for the state power utility and will keep the average cost in check, benefiting the consumers, added Dokey.