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Tata Chem bio-fuel plant to be operational by year-end

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Eco impact study on Tanzania project

Hydrology studies are being undertaken and the Tanzania project would not start until Norconsult comes up with the report. – Mr Khusrokhan

Our Bureau

Mumbai, March 28 Tata Chemicals’ pilot bio-fuel plant is expected to become operational by the end of the calendar year, Mr P. K. Ghose, Tata Chemical’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer, said.

The pilot project, with a capacity of 30 kilolitres a day, is being set up at Nanded in Maharashtra. It would use sweet sorghum to make the bio-fuel, he added. Depending on the success of the pilot project, it would be taken to five other centres, he indicated. Investments will be limited, the official said, indicating that it is unlikely to be more than Rs 50 crore.

The company also has plans for a bio-fuel plant in Mozambique, he said, adding that they have a memorandum of understanding with the Government there. No further details were divulged.

The company, however, is treading with caution on its Lake Natron Project in Tanzania, where the plan was to set up a soda-ash plant at the lake site. The plan had raised protests from environmental groups, which said that the plant would adversely impact the site that was a breeding ground for lesser flamingos.

“We are clear that there are risks involved,” Mr Homi Khusrokhan, Tata Chemicals’ Managing Director told Business Line. Hydrology studies are being undertaken and the project would not get underway until Norconsult, the Norwegian agency appointed by the company, comes up with its environmental and social impact study, possibly in a couple of months, he said.

Tanzania project

Tata Chemicals has a joint venture with the Tanzanian Government called Lake Natron Resources Ltd and the company has in a previous communiqué said that it was aware that the project would be “in or close to an ecologically-sensitive area.”

However, Mr Khusrokhan added that they will wait till the boundary of the Ramsar wetlands are clearly defined. The company has, in the past, committed that the final location of the soda-ash plant will be at a distance from the lake and outside the Ramsar boundary.

Tata Chemicals shares were up over 6 per cent at Rs 288.95 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 29, 2008)
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