Even as big hydel projects continue to be a no-no, thanks to environmental concerns, the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) ‘coal dreams’ also remain mired in uncertainty.
The state-run power utility is anxiously awaiting a court verdict on its petition protesting against the de-allocation of the 602-MT (million tonne) Baitarani coal block last December by the Union Coal Ministry.
Prospects of Kerala being allocated the Kudanali-Luburi block in the Talcher coal fields - the second block in which it had shown an interest - remain even remote, according to KSEB officials.
The KSEB, along with Odisha Hydro Power Corporation Ltd and the Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd, had moved the Supreme Court after the Coal Ministry de-allocated their joint share in the Batarani coal block citing lack of progress in coal block development.
“We are pinning our hopes on the verdict. We’ve also been given to understand that Odisha has taken a strong stand on the restoration of the block,” KSEB chairman M Sivasankar said. After the Coal Ministry de-allocated the block in December 2012, the KSEB had placed a request before the Ministry to get it restored. However, the KSEB does not really meet the norms set by the Ministry for getting the block restored.In the meantime, the KSEB had also placed an application for allocation of the Kudanali-Luburi block, which is estimated to have coal reserves to the tune of 306.10 MT.
In the case of Baitarani, KSEB’s problems had, in reality, begun even before the de-allocation. With its project to establish a coal-based thermal power plant at Cheemeni, Kasaragod, biting the dust, the KSEB had tried to set up a thermal power plant in Odisha by partnering with that state.
After that too failed, the KSEB had made efforts to find a buyer for its share of coal. But land acquisition issues had prevented the mining in Baitarani, soon after which the de-allocation came.