Tata Power Company’s decision to switch from gas to coal to fuel one of its 500 MW units in Trombay Thermal Power station in suburban Mumbai has hit another roadblock.

Following the opposition by environmentalists, Shiv Sena too has jumped in to the fray. Sena on Friday organised a protest march from Mumbai’s suburban area of Chembur to the project site in Mahul, making it clear that party will not let the company to go ahead with its decision.

“The company has completely neglected the aspect of environment in its bid to switch to coal. Not only should the transition be stopped, but other two units currently working on coal should also stop using it,” said Sena leader Subhash Desai.

Chembur already hosts two oil refineries, a plant by Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers (RCF) and the thermal power plant in question, which has the installed capacity of 1580 MW. Deonar dumping ground is also situated in the vicinity of Chembur. “The people in this area are already suffering from respiratory problems. The level of pollutants has crossed its limit according to the tests conducted by Central Pollution control Board. There has been no clarity on where the ash will be dumped after the use of coal,” said Mr. Desai.

According to Mr. Desai, the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the present proposal was prepared by Tata Consulting Engineers (TCE), which has the same parent company as that of Tata Power. “How can you expect impartial EIA from them?” he asked.

The power station currently has five working units, out of which two run on coal, one each on gas and oil and one on gas and oil combined. Company’s ‘dire need for modernisation’ has risen due to unavailability of natural gas and shortage of low sulphur oil.

Debi Goenka, executive trustee of Conservation Action trust (CAT), who had filed a case against the company in Bombay High Court in 1980s when it proposed the coal based thermal power plant, said that he had predicted the similar situation. “Traces of Mercury have been found in the Tulsi lake, situated 10 kilometers away from the plant site. It is from the thermal plant, as there is no other source than the power plant. If another unit is switched to coal, the danger to Mumbai’s environment will undoubtedly increase,” he said.

The public hearing held for the project four months ago had to be cancelled abruptly after strong protest by locals. Mr. Goenka said that the final EIA submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has not answered most of the queries raised by locals and experts against the project.

S. Padmanabhan, Executive Director, Tata Power said, “For more than nine decades, Tata Power has served the city of Mumbai and has always continued to provide affordable electricity to customers while maintaining strong commitment to environment conservation. Tata Power’s Unit 6 modernization plan is an additional step in the same direction and we appeal to all stakeholders to support this customer and environment friendly move by Tata Power.”