MahaGenco solar plant runs into forest dept hurdle

| | Updated on: Oct 14, 2011

The 125-MW Shivajinagar Sakri solar plant, one of the largest solar projects in the country, under construction at Dhule in northern Maharashtra, is in jeopardy. The Forest Department of Maharashtra has now put a claim on that land.

The Rs 1,987-crore project is being implemented by Maharashtra State Power Generation Company (MahaGenco). It received all major clearances and was announced with great pomp by the Chief Minister Mr Prithviraj Chavan in May. German development bank KfW has already given a250 million euro reduced-interest loan for the project.

MahaGenco is the power generating company of the State Government.

Construction stalled

Construction activity at the project site has been stopped and some of the equipment vendors have been asked to move their equipment. The project was to be implemented with dual technology, with 75 MW power to be generated using crystalline technology based photovoltaic cells, while 50 MW power from thin film solar cells. Lanco Solar of the Lanco Group had been awarded the Rs 884 crore contract for crystalline technology.

Mr Subrat Ratho, Managing Director of MahaGenco told Business Line that the Forest Department is now staking claim to over 180 hectares out of the total 350 hectares. The Department had initially given all the necessary clearances, but “now the Department is saying that in a Supreme Court affidavit filed in 2008, it declared the land parcel as forest land, therefore MahaGenco cannot construct there,” he said.

“We have been taken aback by the Forest Department's decisions. Their decision has come at this late stage, where all work orders have been given. The project had even received clearance from the Cabinet,” Mr Ratho said.

Now, MahaGenco is considering either shifting the project entirely to Chandrapur district, where some land is available, or undertaking compensatory forestation in Dhule and hand over that land to the Forest Department in lieu of the land on which it is making the claim. Final decisions are yet to be taken in the matter, Mr Ratho said.

Mr Bharat Agarwal, Secretary of the Dhule-based Laghu Udyog Bharti, an SME industrial association said that the project could have provided a new direction to the local economy. The project would have provided direct employment to hundreds of local youth and business opportunities for local industry. The project would have given some relief from power cuts, he said.

Published on October 14, 2011

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