Both required fresh clearance as coal availability was an issue

The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Union Environment and Forests Ministry has reiterated its recommendation, given three years ago, for granting environmental clearance for the Rs. 8,400-crore Udangudi supercritical thermal power project.

The committee has also recommended environmental clearance for the proposed Cheyyur Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP), which would produce 4,000 MW.

Unlike the Udangudi case, for which bids have been floated for execution, in respect of the Cheyyur project, only land acquisition is still under way. The Power Finance Corporation, a company of the Union government, has floated a subsidiary - Coastal Tamilnadu Power Limited – for Cheyyur.

Once the EAC communicates its decisions to the Ministry, the Udangudi and Cheyyur projects are expected to receive the environmental clearance, critical to execution, says an official here.

The EAC met in New Delhi last month and the minutes of the meeting have now been published on the website of the Ministry.

Udangudi

To be located in Tiruchendur taluk of the Tuticorin district, the Udangudi project was originally to be taken up as a joint venture project, involving the erstwhile Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL). It was to have two units of 800 megawatt (MW) each.

As there was no progress in the project implementation, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, in February 2012, announced that the project would be executed wholly by the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco). It would have two units of 660 MW.

Earlier, the project was not given clearance formally because it did not get approval for domestic coal linkage.

As the Union Coal Ministry’s nod for coal linkage was not forthcoming, the State government, as part of its revised decision, came to the conclusion that imported coal would be used completely for the project.

The Tangedco informed the EAC that a revised environment impact assessment (EIA) study had been carried out for the 100 per cent imported coal and all emission factors, according to the study, were within the limits prescribed by the E&F Ministry.

As such, there would not be significant impact in the project area due to the change in fuel mix. Also, MMTC, a Union government organisation, would import coal for Udangudi. There would be no problem in getting guaranteed quality and quantity of coal. Besides, the Tangedco would periodically test coal samples for ensuring quality.

Stringent measures

To be set up in the Cheyyur taluk of Kancheepuram district, the UMPP project would also use imported coal. Since December 2012, the EAC examined the project.

Laying down an elaborate set of stringent measures to be followed, the committee directed the project proponent, Coastal Tamilnadu Power Limited, to set up the proposed UMPP as a model plant “where ecology and development co-exist in harmony.” The Coastal Regulation Zone clearance for permissible activities should be obtained. Solar power should be harnessed. A stack of 275 m should be provided with continuous online monitoring equipment for emission.

Apart from asking the project proponent to keep a close watch of surface water quantity and quality, the committee wanted the Coastal Tamilnadu Power Limited to monitor continuously the quality of water of the Cheyyur lagoon, said to be a home to a large number of migratory birds, and maintain records.

If any mangrove in the study area becomes degraded, the authorities should regenerate it. A well-designed water harvesting system should be put in place within six months.

At least three nearby villages, particularly fishing villages, should be adopted for development.

There should not be any contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by sea water in and around the project site, the committee added.

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