BENGALURU: Karnataka Power Corporation Limited’s gas-based thermal power plant is set to come up on a plot in Yelahanka – historically classified as an industrial zone – in North Bengaluru. However, land use patterns have changed over the years. According to the 2015 master plan, more land in this parcel is set aside for residential purposes than for industrial. But KPCL has obtained environmental clearance for the project without taking present-day demographics and public health concerns into account. This has vexed residents in the vicinity.
Today, residential units are located just 300 metres from the proposed plant site. Also in proximity are the eco-sensitive Puttenahalli and Yelahanka lakes, where new species of animals have been found over the years. But KPCL hasn’t considered alternative sites for the Rs 1,571-crore plant because the proposed site is duly classified as an ‘industrial’ zone.
The 370 MW plant coming up on the plot where a defunct diesel power plant – forced to shut down in 2013 due to environmental reasons – stands at present is meant to address the power woes of Bengaluru. The Gas Authority of India (GAIL) will supply natural gas to the plant from its terminal point near Kuvempu Circle on Outer Ring Road. Power generation is expected to start in two years.
KPCL has got approval from the State-Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority, constituted by the environment ministry, but it hasn’t allegedly mentioned the residential and environmentally sensitive areas in the vicinity in its plan. The power major has not even conducted any public hearings on the project because the site legitimately sits on an industrial parcel.
However, the BBMP map shows the proximity of these site to residential clusters. “We don’t know how KPCL secured the nod for the project despite residential blocks being located a few hundred metres away. Danger lurks when projects come up very close to residential areas,” said Balasundaram Athreya, a resident of the area.
The environment ministry says project-implementing agencies must provide details of the site, nature of land, waterbodies within 2-3km, population within 10km, forests, eco-sensitive zones and accessibility. The guidelines exempt agencies from giving these details if the proposed site is in an industrial estate – the very reason KPCL hasn’t held any public sittings.
Residents have also expressed concerns over the use of natural gas, which will arrive in liquid form and then get converted to gas. KPCL chairman G Kumar Naik said: “The old diesel plant was closed because of pollution. The gas-based plant is many times better and safer, and it won’t pollute.”
Siddharth Padi, another resident, argued against a big project coming up in the midst of residential zones and lake-conservation areas. “A buffer zone is absent here. We are not against a power plant but we value our safety more,” he added. Naik dismissed all fears, saying: “We’ll safely implement the project. We have the know how for it.”
Credits ET Energy World