In soup, OPG Power offers new tech to ease pollution fears

In an attempt to broker peace, OPG Power's chief executive has said the company is willing to spend an additional Rs 100 crore to install new technology to reduce water requirements for its proposed power plant near Mundra in Kutch.

OPG's planned 300-MW coal-fired power plant has faced stiff legal and on-ground resistance from local fishermen who fear, among others, that the plants use of sea water for cooling would adversely affect the marine life. Power plants circulate water to cool machinery and discharge warm water back into the sea, causing water temperatures to rise.

"OPG is willing to change its technology from wet water cool process to air-cool process that would eliminate the need for sea water. Water required would be miniscule and negligible," said OPG's managing director Arvind Gupta. "We also know fishermen fear we would increase the plant's capacity in future. But we are not looking at expanding the capacity beyond 300 MW at this site," he said.

Officials from the Indian subsidiary of the UK-based firm said it has already lost crores of rupees on account of delay in commencing operations.

Local fishermen, salt-pan workers and farmers have formed into a union called Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS) and have virtually stalled the project for more than three years through litigation and complaints to the Union environment ministry.

Reacting to Gupta's proposals, MASS said its reservations were not only about effects on sea water but also other issues.

"In Bhadreshwar, we dry the fish (the main catch is Bombay Duck) in the open. Dust and smoke from the plant would dirty the drying fish. We will not be able to sell them," said Hussein Kara, a MASS member whose petition in the National Green Tribunal was recently disposed of.

Kara says while salt-pan workers fear their salt-pans would be polluted by discharges into the air, farmers fear in the area fear the trucks carrying coal to the site would damage their crops.

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