Jairam does flip-flop, clears 3 power plants

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 30 2011, 07:16am hrs
Backtracking on his decision to clear only one power plant in Orissa, environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday gave the green nod to three projects in the statea 4,000 mw Ultra Mega Power Plant (UMPP), 1,320 mw plant of Orissa Power Generation Corporation (OPGC) and NTPC's 1,600 mw plant.

The projects comprise six coal blocks, of which five are in the no-go region where mining is not allowed as it has over 30% gross forest cover or over 10% weighted forest cover.

Three coal blocks (Meenakshi-A, Meenakshi-B and Meenakshi Dipside) have been allocated to the Bedabahal UMPP while Manoharpur and Manoharpur Dipside have been allocated to OPGC. One coal block of Dulanga has been allocated to NTPC. Of these, only Meenakshi-A is in the 'go' area.

Since the UMPP had already advanced considerably and in response to persistent requests from it, discussions were held first with the power ministry and to see how the use of good quality forest land could be minimised in the UMPP-linked coal blocks, Ramesh said in a statement.

Ramesh had earlier stated that only one of the three projects would be cleared and that clearance for the UMPP would be on the condition that the power ministry would not ask the environment ministry to clear any other project near it.

Subsequently, NTPC and OPGC also came forward and offered substantial changes in their mining plans, the statement said, citing that all the power units would use supercritical technology and that the ministry's intervention had led to a saving in forest area to the order of 40% in case of the UMPP, 26% for the NTPC project and 20% for the OPGC plant.

In view of the above two factors, all six blocks will now be considered by the FAC (Forest Advisory Committee FAC) as go areas.

The additional condition is that the project proponents will bear the cost of regeneration of an area of open, degraded forest land equivalent to the amount of medium density forest land being diverted, the letter concluded.

The decision assumes significance as last week, Ramesh granted Stage-I forest clearance to three blocks in Chhattisgarh's Hasdeo Arand region a strict no-go area. Ramesh had earlier said that the Tara, Parsa East and Kante B coalfields of this heavily-forested, mineral-rich region would never be open to miners.