Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: In a fresh development, the Hinduja Thermal Power Corporation Limited (HTPCL) has given an undertaking to the Government to surrender the 1,122 acres of land near Visakhapatnam if it fails to set up the power project as originally planned.

The land was allotted in 1996 to establish a 1,040 MW power project based on imported coal but the company had not implemented it. However, the Hindujas, who were criticised earlier for working out the capital cost at Rs. 6 crore a MW, recently sought to retain the land with the offer to make available 25 per cent of the power to the State at around Rs 2 per unit on a par with the public sector NTPC.

The company made the conditional offer to surrender the land when the Government identified it as belonging to the Wakf Board and not to the Revenue Department as originally assumed. The Government asked the Wakf Board or the Minority Welfare Department to re-negotiate the price for the land.

Energy Minister Mohd Ali Shabbir told this correspondent here on Thursday that the Government would soon issue orders to transfer the land to the Wakf Board to clear the decks for price re-negotiation.

Meanwhile, the Government has decided to make an advance payment of Rs. 11 crore to Hindustan Petroleum, Visakhapatnam, to purchase 15,000 kilolitres of naphtha for use as fuel to operate power plants that are now lying idle for want of gas. A small portion of the Rs. 2,800 crore earmarked to purchase of power from external sources this year is likely to be spent on naphtha.

Mr Shabbir said it was proposed to generate 800 MW with naphtha as against a peak shortage of around 1,500 MW from November onwards. Agriculture load on the grid had gone up, with farmers switching on the pumpsets indiscriminately to take advantage of the increase in the groundwater table.