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Thermal power projects mired in controversies

Santosh Patnaik

MoEF under pressure to review clearances to units in North coastal Andhra


We are opposed to setting up of thermal power plants against public mandate: eco activist

Preference of investors to coal instead of gas, which is aplenty in KG basin, raises doubts


VISAKHAPATNAM: With growing criticism over North coastal Andhra turning into a pollution cauldron, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is under pressure to review clearances given to several coal-fired power projects in the region.

The Central Pollution Control Board has already identified Visakhapatnam as a highly polluted industrial cluster. With several pollution- causing units proposed in and around Visakhapatnam, environmentalists as well as pro-development lobbyists are engaged in a fight of sorts in support of their respective viewpoints.

Killing of innocent protesters in police firing in two incidents – at Sompeta and Kakarapalli, when they registered their protest against private power plants proposed at Sompeta and near Bhavanapadu, has revived the hope among green activists that the Centre would stop adopting a soft approach towards the project proponents.

Swamp lands

All thermal power projects, which have been strongly opposed by senior Congress MP V. Kishore Chandra Deo as well as former Union Power Secretary E.A.S. Sarma and others, are mired in controversies right from land acquisition to the manner in which public hearings were held and swamp land was shown as wasteland.

“We are not against development. But we are opposed to violation of rules by setting up thermal power plants in swamp lands and against public mandate,” Krishna Murthy, president of Paryavarana Parirakshana Sangham, told The Hindu. The sangham is spearheading the agitation against the power plant at Sompeta.

After the Sompeta firing six months ago, the National Environment Appellate Authority cancelled the environmental clearance given to 1320 MW power plant of NCC Power Projects Limited.

A day after another police firing killing two innocent fishermen at Kakarapalli, the MoEF on Tuesday gave a directive to suspend construction work of 2640 MW plant by East Coast Energy Pvt. Ltd (ECEPL). The Expert Appraisal Committee will review the criticism over thermal power projects at its meeting scheduled on March 7. The MoEF has asked the committee to study the compliance of conditions attached to the environmental clearance for the ECEPL's power project proposed with super critical technology.

Controversies are haunting the thermal power project because of the allegation that transportation of coal will lead to lot of pollution. The preference of investors for coal instead of gas, which is available in plenty in Krishna - Godavari basin, also raises several doubts. Already, there is a lot of criticism over damage caused due to ash-pond by power plants located in coastal areas, displacement of fishermen and violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) guidelines.

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