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Bengal’s fragmented land holdings a roadblock for solar power projects: Minister

The absence of big and continuous stretches of land has frustrated the drive for industrialisation in Bengal over the past several years.

kolkata Updated: Aug 17, 2017 15:18 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times
Solar Power,West Bengal,Land
The Centre’s focus is on setting major solar parks that can generate 500 MW or more.(HT Photo)

The absence of big stretches of land in Bengal that has proved to be an obstacle to industry in the state is also becoming a roadblock to solar power projects too, admitted state power minister, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay.

“The Centre is keen to provide funds for solar parks of 500 MW capacity or more. But a 500 MW solar energy park would require around 2,000 acres of land. The land holding pattern in West Bengal is such that it is impossible to get such huge plots of land at one go. This is where Bengal is missing out on central funds,” Chattopadhyay said while speaking on the sidelines of “Energy Conclave- 2017” organised by CII on Thursday.

Read: Farming to factory and back: Rust turns green in Singur Nano plant

Currently there are around 25 such solar parks each with generation capacity of 500 MW or above in the country. Most of these are located in states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab.

The Tata Motors project in Singur was the most telling example of the problems of fragmented land holdings in Bengal. The government had to deal with thousands of farmers and landowners for a plot of about 1,000 acres and it snowballed into a major political controversy that eventually led to the cancellation of the landmark project. (HT Photo)

The drive for setting up industry in Bengal has suffered in the past several years due to the fragmented land holdings. Since 1994, when the Jyoti Basu government started to market the state to private investors, one of the biggest obstacles faced by successive governments is that investors needed to negotiate with too many landowners to buy even a small plot of land for setting up industry.

The minister remarked the fragmented nature of land holding often pushes up the land price needed for setting up solar energy projects. “Unless, we get the central funds for projects below 500 MW, it is not often financially possible for the state government to do the entire funding for the project,” he said.

Read: The land beneath their feet

Chattopadhyay said the state power department bosses are in constantly lobbying with the Centre so that the norms for central funding are eased.

“We have requested them to make smaller projects eligible for central funds. If it is allowed, West Bengal can surely make progress in solar energy projects.

“We are encouraging and funding projects of smaller capacities starting from even 10 MW. Currently the total installed capacity of solar power in West Bengal is just 22 MW and we expect it to increase it to 300 MW within the next two years,” Chattopadhyay order to achieve 100% electrification to households in two years, the state government has chalked out an ambitious plan of setting of 215 sub-stations within the same time.

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 15:18 IST