Mine planners truant, two UMPPs hang fire
CMPDIL says it’s overburdened, MECL says can do only next year — for Chhattisgarh and Orissa projects
Two proposed ultra mega power projects (UMPPs) in Chhattisgarh and Orissa may take longer than expected to come into being.
That’s because mandatory exploratory geological studies have not commenced so far and the agencies tasked to conduct them — the Central Mine Planning & Design Institute Ltd (CMPDIL) and Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd (MECL) — have expressed their inability to do so, saying they are already overburdened with similar assignments elsewhere.
In the past, CMPDIL had conducted exploration work for four ongoing UMPP projects. MECL said it can conduct the studies only next year.
With long delays looming, the power ministry, it is learnt, has instructed Power Finance Corporation (PFC), the nodal agency for UMPPs, to id
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entify an external agency instead to finish the studies and also apply for the necessary prospecting licence (PL).
(State-owned MECL is exempted from the requirement to obtain PL. State-owned CMPDIL could have also got the exemption had it sought one from the coal ministry by invoking section 4(1) of the Coal Bearing Act.)
Apparently, the power ministry’s senior officials are keen to obtain clearance from the forest ministry as well, and have asked PFC to do the needful.
But, PFC chairman Satnam Singh said PFC’s core competence is in selecting technical and financial bids for power projects. It has no experience or expertise in seeking environment clearances for power projects or in obtaining PLs. Hence, PFC is unable to specify a timeframe for completing the unfamiliar tasks assigned to it, he said.
Identifying and appointing an alternative agency would take a long time. Besides, exploration activities and preparation of geological reports would take at least 24 months, depending on the location. All this will delay the UMPPs considerably, said the CEO of a project management company.
At this rate, preliminary work (like filing the geological report) cannot finish before mid-2015. It will take another three years to construct the thermal plant. Conceivably, the proposed UMPPs would commence operations only after mid-2018, he added.
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