State-run NTPC has said it would go ahead with the 1,600 Mw (2x 800 Mw) Katwa project in West Bengal. It, however, added it had shelved plans to purchase the land directly.
Earlier, NTPC had, for the first time, decided to buy land directly from farmers. However, owing to hurdles in the involvement of middlemen and the high prices quoted by farmers, the company decided against it. Now, NTPC has written to the state power department, urging it to acquire land for the company. The state government is yet to decide on NTPC’s request.
Chairman and Managing Director Arup Roy Choudhury confirmed the company planned to proceed with the project. The Rs 9,600-crore project would need about 1,030 acres, of which West Bengal Power Development Corporation (WBPDCL) has already acquired 575 acres.
NTPC’s initial plan to buy land directly was prompted by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to stay away from land acquisition for industrial projects. “We are currently stuck with the project. We are yet to be handed possession of the WBPDCL land. Due to the high prices quoted by farmers, we are unable to acquire the remaining land. We need help from the state government. If we pay and take WBPDCL’s 575 acres, and are unsuccessful in acquiring the remaining land, what would we do?” asked a senior company official.
NTPC is also ready to carry out structural changes in the project. “For every mega watt of power, you need at least 0.7 acres. We are ready to develop the project in even 900 acres, compared with the earlier figure of 1,030 acres. We can also adjust with 0.6 acres of land for every mega watt. But the state government has to ensure it in some way,” the official added.
Initially, the project was scheduled to be set up by WBPDCL. However, after protests by the Trinamool Congress-backed ‘Krishak o Khet Majoor Bachao Committee’, an association of farmers who lost land to the project, it was handed over to NTPC in 2008. Later, a memorandum of understanding for power purchase was signed with the former Left Front government.