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NTPC Karanpura plant to be relocated

Sudheer Pal Singh  |  New Delhi 

The government on Thursday decided to relocate the Rs 10,000-crore Karanpura power plant, being set up in Jharkhand by NTPC Ltd, and laid the blueprint for faster environment clearance for two coal blocks of private power producers.

The decisions were taken by a 12-member Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The blocks, Mahan and Chhatrasal, had been hanging fire for the past two years as they fell under the “no-go” regions demarcated by the environment ministry when it was headed by Jairam Ramesh. The blocks are for Reliance Power, Aditya Birla Group and Essar. “The GoM,” said an official who attended the deliberations, “directed the environment ministry to revisit the two blocks and submit a report within the next 10 days for speedy clearance.” No decision was taken on other blocks on Thursday, he added.

The decision comes at the backdrop of the recommendation of a committee appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office for taking up green clearance for the blocks at the earliest. The other decision — to relocate the NTPC plant to an area within the North Karanpura coalfields — will set to rest a decade-old inter-ministerial tussle.

NTPC had for long been trying to set up the super-critical plant at Chhatra district. The coal ministry kept objecting to the proposal, arguing that the plant would sterilise over 6 billion tonnes of reserves beneath the site. The GoM decided that the plant site be shifted to an area where the coal seams are at depth of 400 meters.

The Mahan coal block was allocated to Hindalco — a flagship Aditya Birla Group — and Essar Power for setting up an independent power project for Essar and a captive power plant for Hindalco. The Chhatrasal block is linked to the 4,000-Mw Sasan ultra-mega power project being set up in Madhya Pradesh by Anil Ambani-led Reliance Power.

The Aditya Birla Group had asked faster forest clearance for Mahan coal block. The block fell in no-go area. Substantial investments have been made and the end-use projects are ready for commissioning.

The NTPC decision implies that the coal ministry will have to let go of some of the reserves, but the loss would be less severe.

The issue had become complex, as NTPC has already made some headway in the development of the project — and has made some investments. The company argued that relocating the plant to a far-off site, as suggested by the coal ministry, would throw back its efforts by 3-4 years. NTPC has already received forest and environment clearance and has also acquired land at the site.

In another decision, the GoM laid the blueprint for faster green clearance for two coal blocks of Reliance Power, Aditya Birla Group and Essar. The blocks, Mahan and Chhatrasal, had been hanging fire for the past two years, as they fell under the “no-go” regions demarcated by the environment ministry when it was headed by Jairam Ramesh.

“The GoM,” the official said, “directed the environment ministry to revisit the two blocks and submit a report within the next 10 days for speedy clearance.” No decision was taken on other blocks on Thursday, he added.

The Aditya Birla Group had asked faster forest clearance for Mahan coal block, which was jointly allocated to Hindalco — a flagship Aditya Birla Group company — and Essar Power for setting up an independent power project for Essar and a captive power plant for Hindalco. While, the block fell in no-go area, substantial investments have already been made and the end-use projects are, in fact, ready for commissioning.g.

The other block, Chhatrasal, is linked to the 4,000-Mw Sasan ultra-mega power project being set up in Madhya Pradesh by Anil Ambani-led Reliance Power. The project requires an investment of close to Rs 20,000 crore, and is scheduled to start generation by January next year. Chhatrasal is one of the captive blocks allotted to Reliance Power in addition to Moher and Moher-Amlohri Extension blocks.

The ministerial panel was set up in January last year after the environment ministry’s no-go policy barred mining in heavily forested areas. As per the coal ministry, 203 coal blocks linked to power projects with a production capacity of 1,30,000 Mw had been stuck in no-go areas. The policy also impacted projects in the steel and cement sectors which had linked captive blocks falling in the no-go list.

First Published: Fri, March 02 2012. 00:52 IST
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