Trash plant project hits another hurdle

The state government’s order making the approval by a local-level monitoring committee (LLMC) mandatory for converting paddy land into dry land has come as yet another blow to the Kochi Corporation’s waste-to-energy (WTE) project.

It was in around 20 acres, mostly paddy land, where the waste-to-energy project was to come up and the conversion of the paddy land would now prove difficult for the corporation. Though the land has already been reclaimed, it still remains paddy land in village records. Earlier, the state government had exempted the project from securing approval from the LLMC, which was supposed to give permission for reclaiming wetland or converting the reclaimed land into dry land in village records.

It was last month that the government issued the order making the approval from LLMC mandatory for the project. “The waste-to-energy project is yet to get the clearances from agencies like the pollution control board. If the LLMC sticks to norms, it can never give approval for land conversion,” said C R Neelakantan, AAP state convener and environmentalist. “Even if the LLMC grants permission for land conversion, it wouldn’t stand before the law,” he said.

Meanwhile, the corporation has found itself in a spot after the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission (KSERC) questioned it over the exorbitant electricity tariff fixed by the firm, which was supposed to construct the plant to generate electricity from the garbage.

The high tariff would cause losses to the state if it is agreed as such. It is up to the engineering consultancy organisation Kitco, which has been appointed as the transaction advisor, to give a reply to the regulatory body on behalf of the corporation. “However, the period of the transaction advisor has expired. So, it has approached the government for extending its term,” sources with the corporation said.

As per the project report, the electricity generated at the proposed plant would be sold to the Kerala State Electricity Board Limited (KSEBL). It is up to the KSERC to fix the tariff at which the KSEB would purchase the electricity. If the local body fails to give a convincing reply, the KSERC won’t be able to fix the tariff.

Though TOI contacted Kitco officials to clarify the need to get extension for clearing the doubts raised by the KSERC, the officials were reluctant to reply. At the same time, V K Minimol, chairperson, health standing committee, Kochi Corporation, said the private firm, which won the bid to construct the plant had sent a reply to the KSERC. As per norms, it is up to the corporation or its transaction advisor Kitco to reply to the KSERC.

The state government has been planning to give a thrust to the decentralized treatment of garbage under the Haritha Kerala project. The government has asked all the local bodies in the state to implement it. “As per the agreement between the private firm, entrusted with the construction of the plant and the corporation, the local body should provide at least 300 metric tonnes of garbage a day,” said Poornima Narayan, LDF councillor and chairperson, a standing committee for education.

“Even now, the waste collected from the corporation and neighbouring local bodies hardly come to 280 tonnes a day. So, it would be difficult for the corporation to provide 300 tonnes of garbage a day. In such a scenario, the corporation will have to pay a huge sum as compensation to the firm,” she said.
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