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Four states to take over 100,000 acres

December 24, 2006 19:05 IST

Over 1,00,000 acres will be taken over by the Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal governments or government agencies, as state administrations attempt to kick-start development by getting investors to put up smokestack industries.

The West Bengal government faces the unenviable task of acquiring more than 35,000 acres using the state land acquisition machinery for special economic zones in the state, besides 1,600 acres for the Tata projects, 6,500 acres for the Jindal Steel project and 1,000 acres for the Reliance Retail initiative.

The task will not be easy. The government headed by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is still reeling under the political agitation campaign and hunger strike launched by Mamata Banerjee against the acquisition of 997 acres at Singur near Kolkata for the Rs 1,00,000 car project of Tata Motors.

The Salim group is developing a chemical SEZ and a multi-product SEZ over 22,500 acres at two contiguous locations in Haldia.

The Videocon group will be developing two multi-product SEZs at Kharagpur and Kalyanvil near Taki road in North 24 Parganas district, for which the combined land requirement will be close to 5,000 acres.

The land requirement for three other cleared SEZs - to be built by Ramky, Salarpuria and SEZ Infrastructure - will be 500 acres each.

Besides, 2,500 acres will be required for the proposed SEZ at Kulpi as part of the minor port project.

The situation in Orissa is a little better, but the demand for land has already started shrinking in the face of local opposition.

Over the past two years, memorandum of understandings have been signed by the Orissa government for a total of 18,000 acres required for 50 projects in sector such as steel, alumina/aluminium, power, IT and cement.

Posco India has proposed to set up a 12 million tonne steel plant at Paradip at an estimated cost of $12 billion. It had initially asked for 5,000 acres for the project, which would have displaced some 2,000 families. Posco has since reassessed its land requirement to 4,000 acres, including 3,500 acres of government land, excluding some large villages.

The result: the number of families to be displaced has come down to 450. Although the Orissa government had issued 4/1 notification for land acquisition in May no private land has been acquired yet.

Tata Steel has been allotted 2,000 acres at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur district of Orissa for setting up a 6 million tonne steel plant at an estimated investment of Rs 15,400 crore (Rs 154 billion).

The Tata Steel project site has, of course, become infamous for the clash between protesters and the police on January 2 this year, in which 12 agitators were killed in police firing and one policeman was hacked to death. The land requirement for another major project - Hindalco-promoted Utkal Alumina - has been hanging fire for over a decade.

The picture in Chhattisgarh is equally fluid. Major steel players such as Tata and Essar groups have signed MoUs with the government to invest in the state, but the process of land acquisition is yet to start.

Tata Steel plans to invest Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion) to set up a 5 million tonne per annum steel plant over a 4,500-acre site covering 10 villages in Lohandiguda block in Bastar district. Essar Steel has sought about 1500 acres in two tribal villages - Dhuli and Bhansi - in Maoist revolt-hit district of Dantewada, for a 3.2 mtpa, Rs 7,000 crore (Rs 70 billion) steel plant.

Iffco will invest Rs 6,500 crore (Rs 65 billion) for a 1,300 mw power plant in Sarguja district, for which it has sought about 1,000 acres in five villages near Premnagar.

Jindal Steel & Power is also looking for about 500 acres for its 1,000 mw power plant and expansion of its existing steel unit in Raigarh district. The Vedanta-owned Bharat Aluminium had completed Rs 5,000 crore (Rs 50 billion) expansion plan to increase its production from 1 lakh mtpa to 3.45 mtpa, but it has been hauled up by the state government for allegedly grabbing 1,000 acres.

The state of Jharkhand had a lot of catching up to do, as the previous NDA government led by Arjun Munda had signed 44 MoUs with prospective investments including foreign investment-funded projects worth Rs 2,00,000 crore (Rs 2000 billion). The groundwork on the proposed projects was yet to start because of non-availability of required land and raw materials.

The installation of a new ministry led by independent legislator Madhu Koda and backed by the UPA coalition in power at New Delhi led to a complete change of the situation. As a result, there was complete uncertainty over the total land requirement. However, proposed projects included plans for major steel plants and pithead-based, coal-fired power generating stations.

The investors included Mittal Steel, Tata Steel, Jindal Steel & Power and Essar Steel, and they will need around 20,000 acres.
BS Reporters