Sunday, March 6, 2011

Memorandum Submitted by Dr.JP to C.M. on Thermal Power Projects

The following is the text of a memorandum to submitted by Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan President and other Lok Satta Leaders to Chief Minister Kiran Kumar at his camp office on Thermal Power Projects today (Sun 06, 2011).

6th March 2010

Shri N Kiran Kumar Reddy
The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh

Sub: Need for a rational power policy for Andhra Pradesh - land allocation for thermal power plants (TPPs) – reg.

The recent events in Kakarapalli village of Santabommali Mandal in Srikakulam District have resulted in tragic, and entirely avoidable, loss of innocent lives. These events are a virtual replay of the tragedy that took place in Sompeta last year. They expose the severe shortcomings in the Government’s power sector policy. This crisis is an outcome of the State Government opting to establish thermal power plants (TPPs) across the State indiscriminately; its decisions are taken unilaterally and imposed on the people against their consent and legitimate concerns.

The answer to this does not lie in blindly opposing the setting up of every project and industry, including power plants. Lok Satta Party recognizes the pressing need to promote economic development, generate gainful employment, strengthen vital public services and basic infrastructure and thereby lift people out of poverty. All these would be impossible to achieve without augmenting the power supply situation in the State. Already, farmers, rural and urban domestic consumers and industries - all, are suffering from several power shortages.

Therefore, the setting up of power plants in the State has to be done only after ensuring that the wider public interest and legitimate interests of all stakeholders are adequately protected – those of the local farmers, displaced families and affected residents, in particular. In other words, the need of the hour is to evolve and implement a rational and acceptable power sector policy for the State.

Towards achieving this, Lok Satta Party demands that the Government immediately act upon the following issues and thereby evolve a win-win solution:

1. White Paper by independent Experts on precise power needs of AP:

Credible studies have estimated that our State needs an additional 15,000-16,000 MW of power to meet its all-round developmental requirements. This is in contrast to the government’s plans to set up power plants generating a total of around 46,000 MW. Effectively, the state government has offered these merchant TPPs key benefits - direct access to sea, cheap land and other scarce natural resources even as they are allowed maximize their revenues by selling their power at profitable rates outside the State. On the other hand, thousands of local farmers, ordinary families and residents are left to bear the brunt of indiscriminate and callous land acquisition, forced displacement, inadequate compensation and serious environmental and industrial hazards.

Therefore, the government must immediately constitute an Independent Expert Committee composed of credible and renowned domain experts to go into the core issues of precise estimation of power requirement of the State, type of plants best suited to meet our power needs, site suitability for these plants and ensuring that State needs and public interest take precedence over indiscriminate profit-making by a few private parties.

Permits granted to merchant TPPs that do not serve the needs of the State should be reviewed and cancelled, if necessary. Preference should be given only to those private players who offer to meet our State’s power needs and whose power is available at rates offered by public power plants.

2. Independent, Statutory Authority for site suitability, land allocation and acquisition – amending Land Acquisition Act:

While setting up of power plants it is critical that only suitable sites should be considered and appropriate extent of land from such sites is allotted and acquired for power plants. To enable this, a thorough and scientific Site-Suitability Analysis (SSA) using the latest available remotely-sensed terrestrial data has to be performed at the conceptual stage itself. Simultaneously, a coherent and robust policy framework has to be generated to ensure that only waste and barren lands are identified, allotted and acquired for power plants in conformation with all statutory and regulatory norms; fertile lands and double-cropped farms should not be allotted or acquired under any circumstances. Land only to the extent required should be provided to a TPP, in order to ensure that power projects do not degenerate into real estate ventures.

To enable the above, an Independent, Quasi-Judicial Authority has to be set up to address land requirements, allotment, acquisition and compensation while setting up of power plants. The Land Acquisition Act should be suitably amended. This schema can be extended to the setting up of other industries and SEZs in the State.

3. Generous Compensation to all project affected people:

The authorities must ensure that generous monetary compensation is given to all displaced farmers on a priority basis – at or more than the prevailing market rates of the property acquired. Similarly, generous monetary compensation must also be ensured to all project affected families and people who are displaced or lose livelihoods due to the project. The identification of affected individuals and granting of compensation should be done in a timely, transparent and consultative manner to ensure that all genuine and eligible individuals are given due compensation.

In addition to monetary compensation, land in excess to the TPP requirement should be acquired and fully developed and then be handed over to the displaced farmers and adversely affected families. Shares in the industry too must be provided as additional compensation and to ensure their stake holding in industrial development.

Displaced people and youth in the project affected area should be given suitable training in employable skills to assure them gainful employment. Atleast one member from each project affected family must be provided such skill-based training.

4. Upgradation of technology status of TPPs in AP:

In order to improve the energy efficiency of TPPs and compliance with the pollution norms, the State Government has to ensure that the technology status of TPPs in AP is upgraded. We have to move to a Clean Coal Technology (CCT) regime involving Coal Gasification (CG), Combined Cycle (CC) and other advanced technologies to ensure higher energy efficiency and enhanced pollution control resulting in greater environmental acceptability. Full compliance to existing environmental standards by the TPP management should be ensured.

5. Comprehensive review of approved power projects – cancellation of permits if necessary:

Following Sompeta and Kakarapalli, The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has either cancelled clearances or issued ‘stop-work’ directives to concerned private TPPs. The State Government should immediately undertake a comprehensive review of all TPP projects in the State. Those projects which clearly violate land acquisition and compensation norms, environmental statutes and regulations or do not offer power to the State at favourable rates should be cancelled, if necessary. As mentioned earlier, permits granted to merchant TPPs that do not serve the needs of the State should be reconsidered and cancelled, if necessary.

Given the importance and urgency of the matter, we request you to use your good offices to ensure that the Government takes up and acts on the above items, on an immediate basis.

With warm regards

Jayaprakash Narayan

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