Three districts of Maharashtra - Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Raigad - on the western coast are set to become the power hub of this part of the country.
State-run and private sector companies plan to set up projects adding to 33,943 Mw in these three districts, known for agricultural and horticultural production.
Most of these projects are to be based on imported coal. There will also be two gas-based projects, which include the existing one at Dabhol, and another in Raigad district, to be built by Reliance Power. Nuclear Power Corporation has a 10,000-Mw project at Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district.
The list of private developers includes Tata Power, Reliance Power, JSW, GMR, Tiana, Finolex and Harihareshwar Power. Ratnagiri Gas & Power Pvt Ltd (RGPPL) is currently operating a 2,200-Mw gas-based project at Dabhol and has proposed an addition of 1,500 Mw.
RGPPL is a joint venture of NTPC, GAIL India, MSEB Holding Co Ltd and four lenders.
NTPC, the country's largest power producer, has planned a 3,200 Mw imported coal project at Dhopawe. Tata Power sources said the company was keen to develop a coal-based project in Raigad district and had formulated a comprehensive relief and rehabilitation package.
The developers of these projects received a big boost after Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh made it clear his ministry would not stop giving environment clearances while it completed a capacity study and cumulative environment impact assessment for these districts.
The minister said environmental protection was crucial, but he'd prefer the middle path for giving clearances to upcoming projects.
The 10,000-Mw Jaitapur project has been cleared by his ministry.
Most of these projects would have long-term power purchase agreements, while a few are merchant power plants.
"It is obvious why developers selected the three districts - they are situated on the western coast. Coal import will be easy while for gas-based projects, LNG transportation through sea or road will be possible. Jairam Ramesh and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan have assured that environment conservation will be given top priority," a state government official said.
The official said opposition to these projects was also obvious, as local residents felt they would damage agriculture, horticulture and marine life.
However, safeguards are being provided by the environment ministry.
Critics contend the government should encourage non-polluting industries such as food parks, fishing industry, information technology parks and engineering units.