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Jobs-and-water row stalls NTPC mega project

NTPC claims Chattisgarh is denying them the promised quantity of water to run the supercritical steam turbines, reports Samiran Saha.
Hindustan Times | By Samiran Saha, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 13, 2008 10:57 PM IST

An ambitious Rs 15,000-crore power project by NTPC in Chhattisgarh is jammed after a generous grant of land by the young state to the public sector giant because of a tug-of-war between the two parties.

The 2,980- megawatt high-tech project cannot quite generate the jobs the state wants while NTPC is unclear about sourcing water critically needed for the plant. NTPC was to commission the first 500 megawatt unit in October 2007 but had to put it on hold following the Chhattisgarh government's decision to revoke the sanction of water for the plant.

“It has been eight years since the project took off. We have been asking NTPC to roll out the promised relief and rehabilitation programme for the project affected persons. In the name of relief and rehabilitation only 43 have been employed so far and NTPC has promised to employ another 117 persons as ‘peons’ once the plant comes into full steam,” an NTPC official told Hindustan Times.

The Sipat super thermal power plant would have been first of its kind to use the supercritical steam technology that will operate at higher pressures and temperatures, improving efficiency and reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide.

While NTPC blames the state government for non-cooperation, Chhattisgarh government officials say the state was “magnanimous” ever since NTPC expressed an interest to set up the power plant in the state. “They (NTPC) asked for 4,300 acres of land for the project. We provided that. They asked for relocation of 3,016 families, We did that. But on their part the NTPC has failed to honour their commitments," a state government official said.

NTPC’s chairman T Sankaralingam told Hindustan Times that barring 79 families most of the 3,106 project affected families have chosen to accept land in exchange for land as compensation.

"We had advertised for filling the vacancies and received 16,000 applications of which 53 were project affected persons and they were given preference," he said of jobs offered.

NTPC claims Chattisgarh is denying them the promised quantity of water to run the supercritical steam turbines, but the state government it had committed the water from Hasdeo river from its Bango dam. However, NTPC has not drawn water in four years. Neither has it paid about Rs 2.16 crore for providing the water, the government said.

“They should have paid by February 25, 2007 but have not paid as yet following which our commitment to provide them water stands cancelled as there was no legal commitment from our side,” the Chattisgarh government official said.

It says nearly 4 lakh hectares of farm lands need the Hasdeo water and has suggested NTPC lift water from the Mahanadi river, adding the river is barely 50 km from the proposed project site. However, NTPC claims the Mahanadi is 150 kms from the site.

The state government is also of the opinion that in case they lift the required quantity of water from Mahanadi river their per unit cost will remain “nearly unaffected”.

“NTPC’s water allocation has been diverted to farmers and now we cannot deny them suddenly. It would adverse affect food security in the state,” the official said.

“As much as 26,000 million cubic metres of water per day of from the Mahanadi river flows into the Bay of Bengal. It is just wasted or floods Orissa. They can easily lift the water from the Mahanadi,” he felt.

“What they need to do is lay a pipeline and lift water from Mahanadi instead of hasdeo Bango, at an estimated cost of Rs 150 crore and this is a very workable arrangement,” the official added.

However, Sankaralingam said NTPC would need Rs 700 crore more if it were to draw water from Mahanadi.

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