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Government puts 23 mega power projects on fast track

NEW DELHI: The government has put 23 big-ticket power projects, which were stalled for want of fuel supply linkages and environmental clearances on fast track. These projects are estimated to generate 23,000 MW of power capacity across the country.

In addition, over 1600 km of power transmission lines in central India have also been taken up on a priority basis as part of the first set of private projects being pushed through by a special cell in the cabinet secretariat, which was set up recently by 
Manmohan Singh to expedite large investment projects and improve withering investor sentiment.

The special cell will strive to reach a 
resolution on the clearances holding up these projects, estimated to be worth around Rs 1.25 lakh crore, at two separate meetings this week with the coal and environment ministries."It has been decided that project developers would be allowed to attend these meetings so that they can put forward their points of view," said a senior government official.

"The discussions on these projects will also help us evolve a protocol on the best strategy for expediting such investments," he added. The strategy devised by the Cabinet Secretariat's special cell to resolve problem areas is to try and unravel last-mile implementation issues holding up each project through tripartite discussions between 'sponsor' ministries, under whose domain the project falls, and 'recipient' ministries such as environment, coal and home affair, where the hurdles may have originated from.

Six power projects and two transmission lines are going to be considered at the first such meeting of the special cell's 'environment sub-group', where all projects held up for want of forest and green clearances are to be discussed. The 'coal sub-group' would separately consider 15 power projects with a planned capacity of over 19,000 MW hat are held up for want of fuel supply agreements with Coal India.

The environment and coal sub-groups of the special cell are expected to meet every week, while other groups set up to expedite pending clearances from the ministries of railways, defence, home affairs, mines, petroleum and natural gas and the department of 
financial services are expected to meet less frequently. While the government hopes to push through some projects through these interactions, any issue that indicates a larger policy malaise will be flagged to the Cabinet Committee on Investments (CCI) set up earlier this year by the PM to resolve knotty policy issues holding up big-ticket projects.

Finance minister P Chidambaram has asked the special cell to try and unlock investments worth over Rs 7 lakh crore by reviving 215 projects that have hit implementation roadblocks. There are 341 projects worth Rs 10.5 lakh crore that are held up in red tape across India. The CCI has met a few times and pushed through some oil and gas exploration projects and some procedural simplifications in sectors like roads and highways.