Construction of Thermal Plant brought to a halt

08 May 2008, Chennai/Salem: The Environment Appellate Authority on 6 May, 2008, dismissed Chemplast Sanmar's appeal and ordered the company to stop all construction and operation at the controversial coal-fired thermal power plant in Mettur.

The Authority upheld an earlier order of the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) directing the company to stop construction at the site, and directed Chemplast Sanmar to seek fresh consent from the board. This order has materialised after a prolonged battle by the local villagers against the illegal construction of this thermal plant. Chemplast Sanmar had earlier in 2006 obtained consent from the TNPCB for a fuel conversion project, where it claimed that the project was merely to switch their existing power plants from diesel fuel to coal without changing the 48.5MW capacity. The TNPCB had given the consent overriding villagers concerns. A local villager G. Madeshwaran had, in a public interest petition challenged the Consent given by the TNPCB. However, the petition made no progress in the High Court. In this petition, Madeshwaran had pointed out that the contents of the project proposal made it clear that the company was fraudulently claiming that this was a mere fuel conversion project. It pointed out that what was really a new coal-fired thermal power plant, was fraudulently being passed off as a fuel conversion project to escape the rigours of an Environmental Impact Assessment, public hearing and central level environmental clearance.

TNPCB claims that it discovered this fraud only in December 2007, nearly a year after it was first pointed out to it. The officials discovered that Chemplast was constructing a new power plant without obtaining the necessary clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest. A show cause notice was issued to the company followed by an order in January 2008 to stop construction and operation at the plant. The matter was brought to the Environment Appellate Authority on February 5th 2008 when Chemplast Sanmar filed an appeal with the Environment Appellate Authority to vacate the orders of the TNPCB. On March 24th 2008 the TNPCB appealed to the Appellate Authority seeking directions that the appeal filed by Chemplast be dismissed.

"Since January 2007 the local villagers have repeatedly informed the authorities of the illegal construction of the thermal plant. The Coal based thermal plant is a new project. It is even located in a new area away from the old captive plant. And they have no clearance for construction of this new power plant" , says G.Madeshwaran of Gonur West Agriculturist's Development Union, who was recently impleaded in the matter between Chemplast and TNPCB at the Appellate Authority