Championing the cause of all coal bearing states, which have been demanding allocation of a portion of the power produced by the thermal projects coming up their respective states free of cost, the Odisha government has urged the Planning Commission to take a call on the issue at the earliest.
Odisha had demanded 25 per cent free power from coal-based project while its claim for such largesse from the plants based on coal washery rejects was pegged at 33 per cent.
The state government, however, had scaled down its demand for plants based on washery rejects later to 13 per cent in line with the provisions of the National Hydro Policy.
"The decision for free power is emerging as a major concern for the state to facilitate land acquisition both for power projects as well as for coal mining as this has several adverse impacts on the state and its people. Realizing the same, all the states present at the last meeting had requested the Planning Commission for expeditious decision on the matter. But unfortunately, nobody has corresponded or consulted with the state government on the subject”, P K Jena, secretary (energy)-Odisha wrote to Sindhushree Khullar, secretary, Planning Commission.
At the last meeting of the Planning Commission held in August 2012 under the chairmanship of member B K Chaturvedi, The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) -New Delhi was advised to conduct a study with due consultation from various states and submit a report to the commission by December 31.
Two years have elapsed since the state had demanded free power in September 2010 but the Centre is yet to respond. Chief Minister NaveenPatnaik had sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union minister for power for allocation of free power. The Odisha government had pointed out that while the states consuming power and coal produced in the mineral rich states get benefited, the host state gets a nominal advantage of limited employment opportunity and a very low royalty on coal.
Both coal mining and power generation being in the manufacturing sector, hardly any ancillary industry gets developed around these activities.
The above situation leads to an inequitable sharing of cost and benefits from coal mining and power generation.
The host state also suffers severe adverse impacts, which includes huge quantum of land acquisition and consequential displacement and rehabilitation of the locals, mostly tribals. Besides, these projects lead to progressive depletion in forest cover posing a threat to preservation of flora and fauna, great risk of environment pollution, strain on water resources, over utilization of the state's existing infrastructure and other resources like roads and railways, unfilled mine voids and un-reclaimed land.