The Narendra Modi government has decided to go ahead with the setting up of an ultra mega power project (UMPP) in Chhattisgarh, which was cancelled by the UPA-II government.
The proposed UMPP in the state’s Surguja district was cancelled on the ground that the two coal blocks linked to the project — Pindrakhi and Putaparogia — in the Hasdeo Arand coalfields fell in the ‘inviolate areas’ which has rendered the project unviable.
With the NDA in government at the Centre, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has taken up the issue of reviving the stalled UMPP.
On June 6, he wrote to Modi seeking his intervention in re-starting the project. If the two blocks cannot be retrieved from the inviolate areas, then his government is willing to settle for alternate mines to help the project take off, Singh wrote.
The chief minister is keen that the project gets commissioned as it would lead to huge ancillary industrial activity in the otherwise backward region, a top Chhattisgarh government official told this newspaper.
Six days later the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) wrote to power minister Piyush Goyal suggesting that ways needed to be explored to revive the project. Goyal is learnt to have asked “the authorities concerned to explore the possibility of reviving the project”.
A letter sent by the power ministry to the PMO on June 18 said, “…Power ministry has sought comments of the Central Electricity Authority, coal and environment ministries. No comments except those of CEA have been received. Coal and environment ministries is being reminded again to expedite the same.”
But a coal ministry official argued that it may not be easy to allocate alternate blocks for this UMPP as existing provisions would have to be scrutinised that whether this can be allowed.
If such a thing is allowed, then there could be similar requests pouring in from other states, who too may be facing similar problem.
Bidding process for the Sarguja UMPP began in June 2010, when the Request For Qualification (RFQ) was issued.
But the Union environment ministry classified the two blocks as part of the inviolate areas last May, which meant that mining could not take place due to the impact on the environment.
An empowered group of ministers under the UPA regime, decided three months later, to drop the project in the absence of any project-linked blocks.
Subsequently, the Power Finance Corporation was asked to withdraw the request for qualification for the proposed UMPP.
Four UMPPs, Sasan in Madhya Pradesh, Mundra in Gujarat, Krishnapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Tilaiya in Jharkhand have already been awarded to the identified developers so far.
All the five units of Mundra UMPP have been commissioned and first two units (2×660 MW) of Sasan UMPP have been commissioned.