Within days of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa writing to the Prime Minister on the issue, the Union government has granted environmental clearance to the second stage of the North Chennai Thermal Power Plant to enable the 2x600 MW facility to become operational by mid-2013.

Talking to reporters here on Saturday, Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan said the day she learnt about the issue she asked for the files and granted permission. “There were technical problems. After seeing the files, I passed an order [the same day] and handed over [the environmental clearance] to them [the State government] the next day,” she said. “I have given the clearance treating it as a special case as it is from Tamil Nadu,” she added. This gesture could come in handy for the power-starved State, which is reeling under a deficit of over 4,000 MW and witnesses load shedding in rural areas ranging from 12 to 18 hours a day.

On November 23, Ms. Jayalalithaa wrote to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention, as the MoEF secretary wanted the State government to apply afresh for environmental clearance (EC) under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006. The project was originally granted clearance under the EIA Notification of 1994. The MoEF secretary also contended that the EC could not be extended beyond ten years and the transfer of EC (from Videocon, the original project proponent) could be considered only when there was a ‘no objection’ certificate from the transferor and for the same validity period.