In Chandigarh, solar power seeds not for farm soil

CHANDIGARH: In a setback to Chandigarh Renewable Energy Science and Technology(CREST), the UT architecture department has turned down its proposal of allowing change of land use (CLU) for installing solar power plants on agricultural space.

On June 2, TOI had highlighted how a CLU could boost solar-power generation in the private sector especially. UT administrator VP Singh Badnore had asked CREST and the architecture department to study the neighbouring states’ policies for allowing solarenergy plants on farmland.The department has now shot down the CREST proposal on two grounds–shortage of land, and no provision in the Punjab New Capital (Periphery) Control Act, 1952.

A senior official said that for incorporating the CLU provision, the administration will have to get Parliament to amend the Periphery Act, which is a long, tedious process. Of the 22 villages around Chandigarh, nine are under the municipal corporation, and 13 governed by the administration. Over the years, only Kaimbwala, Maloya, and Khuda Ali Sher have retained their rural character to still do farming.

The administration favours preserving rural character of these villages by disallowing any commercial activities on their farmland. Chandigarh Master Plan 2031 also recommends continuing with their rural character protected by the original Periphery Control Act. In the absence of a policy for allowing CLU, the electricity department has had to turn down 15 applications for installing solarenergy plants of 300 kilowatt (KW) to 5 megawatt (MW) capacity in the periphery. Amit Mittal, proprietor GE Solar that secured 20acre farmland at Maloya and Daddumajra on lease for a 5-MW solar-energy plant, said that administration will have to find a way out, “if it is serious about promoting solar energy”.

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