Monday, September 29, 2008

Govt mulls Katwa power plant shift

Govt mulls Katwa power plant shift
- Tatas can bear losses, we can’t: Minister

Durgapur, Sept. 28: If the anti-land acquisition agitation continues in Katwa, the government will shift the project to Sagardighi or some other “suitable place”, power minister Mrinal Banerjee said today.

“The Tatas can afford to suffer a loss of Rs 1,500 crore in Singur (if they shift after getting over 80 per cent of the plant ready), but we can’t afford any financial loss. If the trouble continues in Katwa, we will have to shift the project to Sagardighi or some other suitable place,” the minister said.

West Bengal Power Development Corporation officials said it was committed to a Rs 100-crore compensation package in Katwa.

“Now if we find that we might not be able to start building the project even after dis- bursing the compensation, we will suffer heavy financial losses, which we can’t afford. We may give the compensation and go ahead with the acquisition but, if a Singur-like situation crops up, we will lose money. So we are discussing various options,” said an official.

Officials said Sagardighi could be a good choice as the power company has 2,000 acres there. “We have built two 300MW thermal plants there and have decided to set up two 660MW units. There is space for another 800MW unit there,” the official said.

The power development corporation said there would be a huge demand for power by 2014 and construction of plants could not stop.

Power minister Banerjee’s statement today comes a day after two Trinamul Congress MLAs and a Naxalite leader held a rally at one of the mou-zas identified for the Katwa project and pledged support to the farmers resisting land acquisition there.

The farmers urged the leaders to bring Mamata Banerjee, whose siege had stalled the Singur project, to boost the agitation in Katwa.

“If the power minister is really contemplating shifting of the project, it is good. Vast tracts of farmland will be saved. We don’t know what will actually happen, but we won’t give our land at any cost,” said Rabindranath Roy, the president of the local Save Farmland Committee.

The CPM’s Burdwan secretary, Amal Haldar, was confident that the project “would happen” in Katwa. “Local people are happy that such a project is coming up. Only a handful of farmers are unwilling. You cannot please everybody.”

However, during the hearing for the first phase of acquisition, only 55 of the 403 farmers gave their consent to the acquisition.

Plots of over 4,500 farmers are to be acquired for the 1,320MW plant spread across 1,000 acres.