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Reliance Dahanu plant to operate only for a year

Meena Menon

Mumbai , April 27

RELIANCE Energy's (formerly BSES) five-year consent to operate its 500 MW thermal power plant in Dahanu, has been restricted to one year by the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA).

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had passed an order on March 23 granting a five-year consent to operate the 500 MW coal-fired power plant at Dahanu, 120 km from Mumbai.

Mr Justice (Retd) Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari , Chairperson of the DTEPA, told Business Line that on April 23, the authority had restricted it to a year, subject to the progress in installation of a flue gas desulphurisation plant (FGD), to take care of the sulphur dioxide emissions. The order was passed after an application made by Ms Kerban Anklesaria, lawyer for farmers' groups in Dahanu, who have been complaining of pollution.

Local organisations such the Dahanu Taluka Environment Welfare Association (DTEWA) and the newly-formed Dahanu Parisar Bachao Samiti have stated that there was a 50 per cent decline in crop production due to pollution from the power plant since it was commissioned in 1996.

In a submission to the MPCB, before the company's consent was renewed, farmers had demanded that Reliance install an FGD to take care of the sulphur dioxide emissions and switch to a cleaner fuel like gas.

Ms Anklesaria, who represents both groups, has also filed an application to DTEPA demanding that Reliance deposit Rs 300 crore towards the cost of the FGD. She also submitted that the company was adopting tactics to delay and evade the orders passed by the authority. DTEPA will pass an order on this matter on June 4.

``The DTEPA focused on the non- compliance with its order on FGD which was passed first on May 12, 1999,'' said Mr Dharmadhikari. The DTEPA, a statutory authority appointed under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, to oversee the development in the eco-fragile Dahanu taluka of Maharashtra, has wide-ranging powers and its orders are binding.

In its order of May 12, 1999, the authority had said, ``It would be necessary for the BSES to install the FGD plant for environmental safety and protection as well as the well being of people of Dahanu. For that purpose, the BSES should start installation of the FGD plant within a period of six months and should complete the work within a reasonable time.''

However, BSES filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court asking for a review of this order. The high court directed BSES to install the FGD plant and dismissed the company's petition in August 2000. BSES then filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court which was also dismissed in November 2000.

According to the authority, BSES was obliged to start installation of FGD within a period of six months at least from the date of the final order of the Supreme Court, that is, November 6, 2000. BSES was taken over by the Reliance group in 2003 and later renamed Reliance Energy. However, the company once again requested the DTEPA on July 18, 2003, to consider the issue of setting up the FGD, though the authority has no powers to review its own decision.

Dahanu was notified as an eco-fragile area by a Central Government notification of June 20, 1999, and industries are restricted in this area, famous for its orchards, vegetables and marine life. The thermal power plant was given permission before that but with stringent clearance conditions. In an order dated October 14, 2003, once again directing the company to install an FGD immediately, the DTEPA said one of the conditions of licence granted to the BSES for setting up the thermal power station was that it will install an FGD with 90 per cent efficiency.

``Even the environmental clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment and forests on March 29,1989 was subject to installation of an FGD with 98 per cent efficiency, in view of the good horticultural potential of the area.'' A Reliance Energy spokesperson said that it had invited global tenders from renowned manufacturers for FGD plants and it was doing the needful. He also said that linking the power plant and the drop in horticultural yield was baseless and not substantiated by any scientific study.

More Stories on : Environment | Power | Maharashtra

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