Private windmills in TN operate without local body permit, say panchayats
Sources said the windmill installations have doubled in the past year, with one of the leading companies alone installing more than 800 turbines.
THOOTHUKUDI: The village panchayat presidents in Thoothukudi expressed concern over the private windmill farms functioning without obtaining permission from the civic bodies. Activists allege that windmill operators have failed to comply with the High Court order directing them to get licenses under section 160 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act, 1994.
According to a recent RTI response, as many as 865 windmill turbines with a generation capacity of 1404.5 MW are installed at Kayathar, Ottapidaram, Vilathikulam, Srivaikuntam, and Ettayapuram taluks in the Thoothukudi district. Of them, 416 are connected to the central grid, while 449 turbines are connected to the state grid.
Sources said the windmill installations have doubled in the past year, with one of the leading companies alone installing more than 800 turbines. Renewable energy generators like solar panels and windmills are encouraged nationwide.
Despite being an industry of multi-crore investments, which is encouraged by both the union and state governments, renewable energy companies do not remit any tax to the panchayats where they are installed. If the taxes are paid, the villages would get a good source of revenue that could boost the economy of the village, the residents say.
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in an order dated August 8, 2019, had directed the private windmill farms installed at Kurumalai of Kayathar Union and Keezhakottai of Ottapidaram Union to submit applications for licenses under section 160 of Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act, 1994, to the Block Development Officer (BDO) concerned, along with all relevant documents, within a period of one week from the date of the order. However, the windmills could resume operations if the BDO does not dispose of the applications within a period of 4 weeks, the order reads.
“It has been four years since the HC ordered the windmill companies to file applications to get permission from the civic bodies as per section 160 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act, 1994. But the wind energy companies have failed to comply with the order,” alleged the petitioner Arumairaj.
Kayathar BDO told TNIE that the windmill companies have not filed any applications with the office of BDO till date. Similarly, the Kurumalai panchayat president also confirmed that the companies have not submitted applications.
Federation of Panchayat presidents district president Rajesh Kumar told TNIE the panchayats are cash-starved and do not even have sufficient funds to cater services to people. “While all the industries, factories, and commercial establishments pay professional and industrial tax to the panchayat, why can’t these windmill companies do the same,” he questioned. If these companies obtain permission from the panchayat, the civic bodies will earn industry and other taxes, which will turn out to be a great bonanza for the rural public, he added.
A representative of a windmill farm told TNIE that they get all statutory permissions from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy paying all necessary charges, and added that the ministry has not mandated them to get licences from the panchayats, he said.