T. Ramakrishnan

The approval was received a couple of weeks ago The nod was received a couple of weeks ago

  • Pipelines should not disturb movement of fishing vessels
  • There should be no adverse impact on drainage

    CHENNAI: The Centre has given the much-awaited environmental clearance to the 100-million litres a day desalination plant to be established at Kattupalli, on the northern outskirts of Chennai. The approval has been given under the provisions of the 1991 Coastal Regulation Zone notification of the Union Environment and Forests Ministry. A senior official of the State Government says the nod was received a couple of weeks ago.

    Mooted to be implemented on the design, build, own, operate and transfer (DBOOT) mode during the previous regime of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the project, which will be executed by the Chennai Water Desalination Limited (CWDL), was embroiled in political controversy. Early this year, the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa blamed Union Minister A. Raja, who belongs to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, for "blocking" the project over environmental clearance. Eventually, on the advice of the Union Ministry, the project promoter approached the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) for further studies. The institute submitted its report four months ago.

    After the DMK came to power in May, the State Government took a second look at the issue of price of water. A committee of senior officials held negotiations with the promoter, who finally agreed to reduce the rate for a kilolitre of water from Rs.48.68 to Rs.48.66, besides withdrawing the demand for an increase of Rs.2.50 a kilolitre. The Cabinet gave its clearance a month ago. The Union Environment and Forests Ministry, in its October 26 order, laid down several conditions for the CWDL. It instructed the company to ensure that the pipelines did not disturb the movement of fishing vessels or fishermen. No sand dunes should be disturbed. There should be no adverse impact on the drainage and groundwater recharge.

    No groundwater should be tapped in the project area falling in the CRZ. The conditions fixed by the CMFRI relating to the discharge of saline effluent should be complied with. The official says the deadline for the company to achieve financial closure is January 2. By the Tamil New Year Day of 2008, the initial phase production of at least 15 MLD will be over, and by June or July that year, the entire project will be completed.