Controversial plant to be commissioned in due course
For long a controversial project, the Yelahanka power plant’s highly delayed commissioning was jinxed in its first attempt with the fire accident. Though the Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd. (KPCL) is treating this as a one-off incident, residents and environmentalists who have been fighting against the plant are even more riled up.
Simmi Kumar, resident of Heritage apartments, which is close to the power plant, said their worst fears had been confirmed. “There was a blast around 3 a.m. Residents saw fire tenders. We didn’t know what happened. In the morning we got a message saying there was a blast. This has always been a major fear,” she said.
She pointed out that they live across the road from the plant. “Gas leakage and a blast can be fatal as they can cover a good distance. This is not a small scare. There is a bird conservation reserve. The loud noise is going to impact their habitat. We have some rare birds in the reserve,” she said.
In 2013, the closure of the power plant was announced as it was a diesel generating unit at the time. The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) had issued a show-cause notice to the then 20-year-old plant, alleging violation of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The board’s officials had alleged that the plant was fuelled by cheap, polluting Low Sulphur Heavy Stock (LSHS), and not diesel. Around 40 MW power was being generated at the plant.
Later, work on a combined cycle power plant – the only power plant in the city – was launched by the then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in June 2016. The plant was supposed to be ready by May 2018, but faced delays.
Abdul Azeem Kalebudde, the advocate for the Yelahanka Puttenahalli Lake and Bird Conservation Trust and Heritage Estate Apartment Owners’ Association, has alleged that KPCL obtained the Environmental Clearance (EC) from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) by “suppressing the fact that the lakes are declared as Bird Conservation Reserve”, and hence, the Environment Clearance granted by the SEIAA is “void and illegal”.
“Moreover, no information is provided as to the construction and functioning of the power plant. People in the vicinity have been experiencing vibrations continuously. There is frequent discharge of froth from the plant. Residents are exposed to some unbearable emission of gas, which is let out during the day and unknowingly at night as well. This has already created a fear psychosis among the people staying in the vicinity,” the advocate alleged. He claimed that no steps have been taken despite the matter being brought to the notice of the KSPCB and BBMP.
This July, the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered serving a notice to KPCL based on an application filed by the Trust seeking nullification and cancellation of the EC granted by the SEIAA.
V. Ponnuraj, Managing Director, KPCL said the plant will be commissioned in due course. “Generally, we keep two to three commissioning dates, and this was our first attempt. Before we commission the plant, we will wait to learn the root cause of the accident and set it right,” he said.