Best quality coal being used, says UPCL

The Nandikur Janajagriti Samiti on Saturday said ash generation in the thermal plant of the Udupi Power Corporation Ltd (UPCL) at Yellur in Udupi district has tripled to 4,50,000 tonnes a year from the proposed 1,78,000 tonnes and the use of seawater has gone up to 2,40,000 cubic metres a day from 1,48,800 cubic metres.

This was because the plant capacity was increased to 1,200 MW, substandard equipment had been appended, and poor-quality coal was being burnt to generate power, the samiti said.

Samiti executive president Balakrishna Shetty, in a press release, said the UPCL had managed to convince the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and had obtained environmental clearance on September 9, 2009 for its new project, flaunting a Chinese design, with 2x600 MW capacity.

Mr. Shetty said the UPCL had procured the clearance on the grounds that although the coal burnt would increase from 3.2 million tonnes to 3.7 million tonnes a year, the corporation would use superior-quality coal, with only 4.75 per cent ash content, which would bring down the annual ash generation to about 1,78,000 tonnes from 3,84,000 tonnes, generated from the earlier project, which employed BHEL equipment, with 1,015 MW capacity.

The UPCL had said that the Ground Level Concentration of Sulphur Dioxide would decrease and additional land would not be required. The use of seawater was to increase from the approved 6,200 cubic metres per hour to 10,000 cubic metres per hour.

However, in response to subsequent request by UPCL, the MoEF had granted a final “Comprehensive Environmental Clearance" (CEC) on September 1, 2011. There was no provision for the issue of such a clearance in the Environment Protection Act 1986 and its subsequent notifications.

Mr. Shetty said the grant of this CEC had made a mockery of the very system of granting study based Environmental Clearances for projects.

The clearances had been granted by the MoEF without following the procedures laid down in the Environmental Impact Notification issued under the Environment Protection Act.

By issuing the CEC, the MoEF unfortunately had completed the dilution of all the stipulated safeguards, which were insufficient to begin with, solely to protect the economic interests of the proponent without considering the hardship of the impacted people or the fragile ecology of the region.

Ever since 2003-04, and more so after the takeover of the project by Lanco Group in 2006, all the proposals of the project owners were approved by the authorities without considering the impact of such changes on the livelihood and health of the people of the region.

Neither was the ecological impact of utilising large quantities of seawater and increasing ash generation in a plant located in the midst of agricultural land and human habitation comprehended nor was the mandatory public hearing conducted, he said.

Unfortunately, the elected representatives in the area had turned a blind eye to the issue. The samiti had taken up the issue legally and the cases had been transferred to the National Green Tribunal as directed by the Supreme Court, the release added.

Company’s Reaction

Speaking to The Hindu, K. Kishore Alva, Vice-President (Corporate Affairs) of UPCL, denied all the charges made by the samiti. Best-quality coal was being used in the plant. The MoEF had given the necessary consent, he said.

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