While Maharashtra grapples unsuccessfully with an acute power crisis worsened by a 4,500 MW shortfall, two major private-sector power generation companies - Tata Power Company (TPC) and Reliance Energy Ltd (REL) - are locked in a cold war over land acquisition for their proposed plants in Shahapur near Alibag, some 120 km north east of Mumbai.
The row is expected to delay both projects, which are situated close to each other. REL plans to build a 2,800 MW gas-fired plant and a 1,200 MW coal-fired plant, while TPC plans a 1,600 MW thermal plant.
The bone of contention is 1,000 acres of land. REL says the revenue and forest departments agreed 'in principle' to allot about 3,490 acres under the Land Acquisition Act, but has now given 1,000 acres of it to TPC.
The earmarked land – part of REL agreement with the state for setting us 4,000 MW projects in Maharashtra - is spread over nine villages in Raigad district. REL has already paid Rs 50 crore, two-third of the cost of the land, to the state.
REL identified the said land after six other private companies, including TPC, had signed MoUs with the state government in 2005. Under its new power policy, the State had extended all support to independent power producers.
"The allotment to TPC would affect speedy acquisition of land and further result in delay in setting up the project," said Pramod Gupta, point person for REL's mega power plant.
He said REL has completed environmental impact analysis studies, geo-technical investigations and layouts in the identified land. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board has given its 'consent to establish' the plants last year, he stated.
Meanwhile, TPC anounced that it would set up a coal-based 1,600 MW plant in Vile–Bhagad, 80 km east of Shahpur.
Replying to Hindustan Times's questionnaire, a TPC spokesperson declined to comment on REL's charges, but said that the government was in the process of acquiring land through the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) for its project.
"The requisite government notification dated November 9, 2006 has already been published in the State Government gazette. The total land requirement is about 527 hectres (1302 acres)," she said.
However, REL fears that the cumulative impact of the adjacent location of two power projects with 4,000MW and 1,600MW capacities may result in complications, with the environmental load exceeding permissible limits and thereby scuttling both projects.
"We raised objection to MIDC's allotment to TPC," added Gupta. MIDC is an independent agency authorised to give its land to industrial projects.
MIDC Managing Director Rajeev Jalota said, "The land in question has been notified for acquisition under relevant acts. The land hasn't been given to TPC as yet."
Principal Secretary (Forest) Neela Satynarayan and her Revenue Department counterpart SS Hussain said they would check the matter before commenting. Raigad collector DS Zagade was not available for comment.