The fate of power projects of nearly 26,000 Mw in the economically fragile Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts of Maharashtra hangs in the balance.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests has told the state government that its clearance to these power plants in the two coastal districts, which entail an investment of close to Rs 2,00,000 crore (Rs 2000 billion), will be possible only after the state carries out a comprehensive carrying capacity analysis.
Carrying capacity analysis is a study of human activities that can be sustained without any adverse impact on the environment.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told Business Standard that his ministry would not compromise on issues involving environment. "The Maharashtra government can do the capacity analysis of Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts by engaging National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur. Similar analysis are carried out in Sikkim and Uttarakhand. My ministry is ready to be a partner in the analysis."
The statement is crucial as the state government has neither done the carrying capacity analysis nor the cumulative impact assessment of these districts.
The project list includes 15,000-Mw Jaitapur nuclear project, 4,000-Mw imported coal-based ultra mega power project, 1,600-Mw imported coal-based project, 1,500-Mw gas-based project at the existing site of the Dabhol project, 1,000-Mw imported coal-based project near Ranpar, 1,200-Mw gas-based project at Bhopan, and 1,980-Mw imported coal-based project at Ajgaon.
Ramesh admitted his ministry had given site clearance for a 1,5000-Mw project by Nuclear Power Corporation. However, the final clearance, Ramesh said, would be given only after the completion of the analysis by the state government. Ramesh's tough stand may hamper the state government's target of achieving a load shedding-free Maharashtra in the next five years.
Meanwhile, mango growers, represented by Ratnagiri Zilla Jagruk Manch, welcomed Ramesh's announcement. Vivek Bhide, the chief, said the manch had been pursuing this demand for a long time.
On the Rs 10,000-crore international airport project in Navi Mumbai, Ramesh said environment clearance would be possible only after City and Industrial Development Corporation submitted additional terms of reference to his ministry. Thus, the completion of the project won't happen by the planned date of 2011.
"Cidco filed ToR with the ministry for the environment impact assessment of the proposed airport in August last year. Subsequently, a team appointed by the ministry visited the area in the middle of January and submitted its report in February. Accordingly, Cidco has been asked to submit additional ToR for carrying out the EIA. It's quite clear that mangroves at the present site should be protected and there should not be any damage to the environment," he added.
Ramesh said Cidco had been asked to take the assistance of the Gujarat Ecology Commission to protect these mangroves.
On new coastal regulatory zone regulations for Mumbai, Ramesh said these should be in place by April. "The ministry has accepted the report submitted by the Swaminathan Committee in this regard. One of the recommendations is that housing for economically weaker sections be exempted from the proposed new CRZ regulations. The Maharashtra government is yet to send its opinion. The issue will certainly figure during my March 15 meeting with Chief Minister Ashok Chavan."