Power ministry backs Bilaspur project

Vol 4, PW 13 (02 Aug 00) Midstream & Downstream

Indias junior power minister Jayawanti Mehta has given the clearest indication yet of the government's determination to proceed with a controversial 1,980-MW Greenfield power project backed by National Thermal Power Corporation in Madhya Pradesh.

In a written reply to parliament on 27th July, Mehta rejected protests that have threatened to derail the coal-fired project at Sipat in the state's Bilaspur district and defended NTPCs role. NTPC has taken adequate care to avoid acquisition of homestead and minimise acquisition of agricultural land while selecting the site and finalising the plant boundaries, said Mehta.

Local villagers accuse NTPC of dishonesty in the acquisition of 4,200 acres of land. Their principle argument is that Indian law prohibits construction of industrial plants within 25km of an area with more than 300,000 people.

Bilaspur town contains 450,000 people and is located 7km from Sipat. They add that the project will displace 1,500 families and that NTPC has not drawn up a Rehabilitation and Resettlement programme required under Indian law.

On 17th May villagers met TR Baalu, Minister of Environment & Forests, to persuade him to revoke an earlier environmental clearance for the project. Former environment minister Suresh Prabhu refused clearance.

Mehta told parliament Sipat would be the first project in India where environmentally friendly supercritical technology will be adopted with the installation of three 660-MW units. She said the estimated cost of the project is Rs7,798cr ($1.8bn) at 1st quarter 1999 prices.