CHENNAI: The proposal to build a 4,000 MW ultra mega power project — the largest in the State — at Cheyyur in Kancheepuram district has been rejected by the Union Environment Ministry after the fuel source for the plant was changed from imported to domestic coal.
An expert appraisal committee of the ministry returned the application for the Rs 30,000 crore project also because more land needs to be acquired. It has asked the project proponent — State-owned Coastal Tamil Nadu Power Limited (CTNPL) — to carry out the process of obtaining environment clearance from scratch.
Express has accessed the letter written by CTNPL project in-charge PC Hembram to the environment ministry dated January 15, 2019. The letter seeks amendments in environmental and CRZ clearance for the proposed plant as the source of fuel had been changed. The environmental and CRZ clearances for the project were issued in 2012 and is set to expire in September 2020.
In the letter, Hembram has informed that the decision to switch to domestic coal was taken at a meeting held under the chairmanship of the Secretary of Ministry of Power. The coal requirement would be around 18-20 MTPA but the coal block is yet to be allocated by the Ministry of Coal.
Additional land needed
At the EAC meeting held on January 23, 2019, CTNPL had submitted that there was an additional requirement of 767 acres of land to build the ash dyke. The land acquisition process has been initiated, the company submitted at the meeting.
Considering the number of changes made to the project, which clearly deviate from the conditions under which the environmental clearance was issued, the committee is of the opinion that a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment and public hearing may be required, said the Expert Appraisal Committee headed by chairman Navin Chandra.
“The environmental impact of using domestic coal for a large sized power project would also change significantly,” the EAC observed. “Besides, the land required has also increased from 1,058 acres to 2,007 acres -- nearly double the requirement approved in the environmental clearance. Physical construction activities are also yet to begin, even after five years,” Chandra observed.
“In those five years, the baseline status in the area may have changed, new industries may have come up. The current EC is valid only till September 2020 and it may not be possible to complete the construction activity within that period, or even within the next three years considering an extension is given,” Chandra said.
CTNPL officials said application citing modification in environment clearance for main plant and captive port was submitted after taking opinion from environment ministry. “As per the General Condition No.8 (x) of the environmental and CRZ clearance, in the event of change in project profile or change in the implementation agency, a fresh reference shall be made to the ministry,” officials said.
Official documents reveal that the State government suggested Power Finance Corporation to explore feasibility of the conversion of project as domestic coal based UMPP and government assured that it will take measures to arrange additional land for required for ash dyke. As a lead procurer, TN was not in favour of shifting the project outside the State.
The coal is likely to be made available from Mahanadi coalfield in Sambalpur, Odisha by coastal shipping. Meanwhile, city-based environmentalist Pooja Kumar said the choice of project site in Cheyyur itself is riddled with controversies.