Chamalapura Thermal Power Plant : Powering the State, Disempowering People
The State Government of Karnataka proposed to site a 1000 MW coal fired thermal power plant at Chamalapura, H. D. Kote Taluk, Mysore district in early 2007 as a BOO model public-private partnership. Right from the beginning, this proposal was met with stiff resistance from project affected people, environmentalists and social action groups.
ESG supported the efforts of the project affected communities through its research efforts, successfully demonstrating that crucial questions of techno-economic viability, socio-economic and environmental impacts and environmental guidelines of the Centre and the State had been ignored while arriving at the siting decision.
Rising resistance of the local people to the project forced the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) to take serious note of the petition filed in October 2007 by M/s.Mysore Grahakara Parishat (a non profit initiative) under Section 86(2) of the Indian Electricity Act, 2003 urging the Hon’ble Commission to enquire into the desirability of setting up a 1000 MW coal fired TPP at Chamalapura. In an unprecedented move, the KERC initiated a public hearing process on the basis of the issues raised in this petition in order to enquire into the desirability of the proposal, in March 2008. ESG participated in the public hearing process, and made a written submission strongly arguing against the site selection process of the State Government.
Taking cognizance of the submissions made by project affected villagers, Gram Panchayat members, social action groups (including ESG), environmentalists and concerned citizens in the course of the Public Hearing, the KERC in its order dated 19th May 2008 , observed that the “bidding process lack(ed) transparency” and was carried out in “an extremely casual manner.” The KERC also recommended that the State Government should take a de-novo decision on the Chamalapura proposal, after looking into all relevant aspects like “environment and heritage, land acquisition, fuel linkage, water supply… … and so on.” To read ESG’s submission to the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission, click here. To read the full text of the KERC order, click here.
The State Government of Karnataka, soon after, deferred the proposal to establish a 1000 MW power plant at Chamalapura. However, no further official announcement has been made indicating the project status – it is unclear at present if the proposal will be revived or cancelled.
The Karnataka Government announced its plans for locating a 1000 MW coal fired thermal power plant at Chamalapura, H.D.Kote taluk,Mysore district in early 2007. The development of this project, proposed under the BOO model of public-private ventures, was to be coordinated by the Power Company of Karnataka Ltd(PCKL), a Special Purpose Vehicle of the State Government.
On 08 August 2007, the PCKL issued a Global Invitation for Request for Qualification (RFQ), inviting bids for setting up a 1000 MW power plant at Chamalapura. Bids from a number of companies including Reliance Power and Tatas are said to have been received in response to the RFQ, according to newspapers.
Chamalapura, the epicenter of the group of villages proposed as a site for the thermal power plant, is 20 kms. to the Southwest of Mysore city. This region with its verdant agricultural lands is sandwiched between the Kabini and Cauvery rivers, and has a wide network of lakes. There are about 80 lakes (perennial and non perennial) lying within 8 km radius of Chamalapura. The proposed power plant is expected to result in land acquisition of 3000 acres (including 600 odd acres of forest lands) and displace at least 13,000 people, in Chamalapura & its neighboring villages.
In addition to the loss of rich agricultural lands, displacement of people and adverse impact on the ground water table in the region, the power plant, if set up, would threaten two crucial wildlife habitats- Rajiv Gandhi National Park at Nagarhole is only about 14 km away and Bandipur National Park is a mere 30 km from the project site.
Right from the time the government’s plants became public; the project faced stiff resistance from people of the project affected villages, their elected local representatives, farmers’ groups, environmentalists and citizens’ groups from Mysore. In fact, the local Gram Panchayat and the Zilla Parishad passed a resolution opposing the setting-up of a power plant at Chamalapura.
It is important to note that Chamalapura is just one of the many large power plants that are slated to come up in and around Karnataka. The commitment of the government to supply power to all by 2012 has led to a growing trend of pushing large power plant projects within the country. The 11th and the 12th plans will be geared towards this purpose. With regards to TTPs a Committee to recommend next higher size of coal fired thermal power station was setup by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) in order to decide the next required step to meet the power requirements of the country. After a deliberation of two years the Committee presented in its conclusions that “… (t)he committee recommends that the next higher units adopted in the country should be from 800- 1000 MW.” These they elaborated were more efficient and environmentally viable.
While the debate regarding the propagation of coal fired plants which are a major hazard in the face of global climate change is long, it is more pressing a need to recognize that Chamalapura would set the precedent to a large extent on how the new mega power plants the government is planning to setup across the state will be sited and managed. For a detailed understanding of the controversial site selection process surrounding the Chamalapura power plant, read our representation to the KERC.
Action on the Issue
In response to a petition (OP18/07) filed by the Mysore Grahakara Samiti, the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission initiated public hearing proceedings on the 06 March 2008, to look into the matter of the desirability of establishing 1000 MW coal based power projects at different places in Karnataka, including one at Chamalapura, Mysore District. The initial hearing on the 06 March 2008 was followed by a site visit by the members of the KERC to the project affected villages on 20 March 2008 and a final hearing on the 03 April 2008.
Along with residents from project affected villages and citizens’ groups, ESG was also a part of the public hearing proceedings.
In its submission before the KERC challenging the State’s decision to site a coal fired thermal power plant at Chamalapura, ESG raised the following key concerns:
- The Chamalapura project was initiated without following the clearance procedure prescribed under the law. The advertisements inviting the Global Invitation for Expression of Interest from investors interested in the project were floated in February 2007, but the project received in-principle clearance from the State High Level Clearance Committee headed by the Chief Minister of Karnataka, only on the 29 September 2007.
- The Government of Karnataka has granted in-principle clearance to the allocation of 3.9 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) of water for use by three power plants (including the one at Chamalapura) from the Cauvery River Basin. However, data accessed from the Karnataka Water Resources Department and the Cauvery Neeravari Nigama Ltd. for the decade of 1997-2008, clearly demonstrate that the Kabini River (which is in the Cauvery Basin) does not have even 1.56 TMC of water that is claimed to be needed for the 1,000 MW Chamalapura power plant and its ancillary facilities.
- Chamalapura as a site for a 1000 MW coal fired thermal power plant does not satisfy the requirements prescribed by the Guidelines for Siting Thermal Power Plants, 1987 of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) or the Siting Standards prescribed by the Karnataka Dept of Ecology & Environment & the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).
To read ESG’s submission to the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission, click here.
Taking cognizance of the submissions made by project affected villagers, Gram Panchayat members, social action groups (including ESG), environmentalists and concerned citizens in the course of the Public Hearing, the KERC in its order dated 19th May 2008 , observed that the “bidding process lack(ed) transparency” and was carried out in “an extremely casual manner.” The KERC also recommended that the State Government should take a de-novo decision to set up on the Chamalapura proposal, after looking into all relevant aspects like “environment and heritage, land acquisition, fuel linkage, water supply… and so on.” To read the full text of the KERC order, click here.
- KIADB Follow up RTI letter – 11 June 2008. Translated in English.
- Karnataka Udyog Mitra – Follow up RTI – June 2008
- KERC Order dated 6 May 2008
- Representation to the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission challenging the siting of a coal fired thermal power plant (presently 1000 MW) at Chamalapura, Mysore District, Karnataka – March 2008. Annexures to Representation – Annexures A-H, Annexure J, Annexures K-L, Annexures M-Q
- Related educational material: Understanding Coal fired Thermal Power plants
- Greens want project to be dropped Thursday – 19 June 2008 – New Indian Express
- Involve experts in power projects: environmentalists – 20th June 2008 – The Hindu
- Chamalapura power plant may not take off – 20th June 2008 – The Hindu
- June 17, 2008: Chamalapura power project likely to be dropped.(Download in Kannada here)
- April 4, 2008: No water in Kabini for Chamalapura Coal Fired Power Plant
Chamalapura Chaluvali Adhyayana Shibira – October 28, 2007
Chamalapura Meet at Mysore – September 12, 2007