Decision taken after reports of protests over land acquisition for 2,640-Mw power project.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests on Tuesday directed East Coast Energy to stop construction at its 2,640-Mw thermal power project in Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh, owing to protests by farmers.
The ministry, in its letter, said, "the ongoing construction work related to this project be suspended forthwith."
The directive followed reports that police had fired at protesters in Kakrapalli village, which is close to the site of the project. The firing left two people dead and others injured. The protesters included farmers and fishermen protesting against the acquisition of land. The matter was raised in Parliament on Tuesday, with Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh facing a volley of questions over the killing of farmers.
East Coast Energy is developing a 2,640-Mw coal-based, thermal power project near Kakrapalli in Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh. The capacity of each phase is planned at 1,320 Mw, with two units of 660 Mw each. The company, in its website, has maintained that the "entire project land possession and all statutory approvals have been obtained."
The ministry had, on April 9, 2009, given its go-ahead to the project. However, the ministry received several complaints of the project being in a wet-land area, following which, it decided that the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) dealing with thermal projects should consider these factors in its meeting on March 7, 2011.
However, in the wake of reports of farmers being killed in police firing, the ministry asked East Coast Energy to stop construction work.
Besides, it also asked the company to submit a detailed report by March 6, 2011, along with details of compliance with the environment clearance conditions, issues of the project site being a wetland and other environmental concerns.
Meanwhile, the company, in a statement, said it had received the letter from the ministry and is confident of convincing the ministry of all the steps it has taken in compliance with the conditions of the National Environmental Appellate Authority (NEAA).
"The company is following all stipulations and guidelines given by the ministry", it said. The company also said it would make a presentation before the expert appraisal committee on March 7, as sought by the ministry.
According to the company, the delivery of equipment has already started and nearly Rs 1,500 crore has been spent on the project. All mandatory approvals for the project are also in place, it said.
The first two units (2x660Mw) under phase I are scheduled to be commissioned in mid-2013, and the other units after that. The project achieved financial closure in June, 2010.