Charged panels at the Badarpur power plant are likely to pose a fire hazard once officials leave.
New Delhi: Delhi’s biggest but “worst-performing” coal-based thermal power plant in Badarpur, run by the state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), will finally shut down Monday, after years of temporary closures and court orders.
The plant was not only deemed vastly inefficient in a 2015 study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), people living in areas nearby have blamed it for stoking a wave of cancer and TB cases, as reported by ThePrint earlier this year.
While contributing a relatively meagre share to Delhi’s power – 7.9 per cent during April to October 2015 – this plant contributed 80-90 per cent of the particulate matter, sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides (all major pollutants) from the city-state’s energy sector, the CSE study found.
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The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) had ordered the permanent closure of this plant to curb air pollution in the national capital in October last year.
But it was allowed to function temporarily by the EPCA from 1 March till July, when a new 4,000 MW service station at Tughlaqabad was to be made ready to supply power to south Delhi.
The Tughlaqabad power station is set to be declared ready for commissioning once it clears some tests, setting the stage for the closure of the one at Badarpur.
A fresh risk
However, even after it shuts down, the plant may remain a fire hazard, an NTPC official involved in the closing process told ThePrint.
The power plant will still have charged electric panels that could prove to be a fire risk in the absence of officials to monitor them, the source added.
“Once the coal in the pipeline is completely burnt up, we will shut it down to prevent any fire,” the NTPC official told ThePrint.
However, he added, “There are a lot of possible areas within the plant that can catch fire, because a lot of electric panels will still have charge.
“We haven’t been given exact technical instructions on how to shut down the plant,” the official said, adding, “The NTPC has its own fire brigade but we have to retract those, since we are no longer responsible.”
The official said the Delhi government had asked the NTPC to put up boundary walls and pumps around the premises, but added that it was no longer the agency’s responsibility. “The NTPC invested Rs 300 crore in the project, which has come to a standstill. Who is going to get the money? Our responsibility is over.”
What lies ahead
A tender has been floated for maintaining the land, but while the technical bidding has already taken place, the final bidding is yet to begin.
“In the end, it is planned to become a smart city,” the official said, but did not disclose the source of information.
“The DDA (Delhi Development Authority) will be in charge of the land until an agency wins the bid, but the DDA doesn’t have the money to maintain it either,” he added.
Asked about the future of the plot, V.S. Yadav, director of land management at DDA, said, “It could be that some land is under the DDA but I don’t have any records at hand.”
The NTPC official added that the ownership of the land was a contentious matter.
“There are a lot of tussles in the (Supreme) Court regarding the land,” he said. “The land was leased from locals with a very meagre compensation so they were also bound to move court. The builders who will win the bid will have to handle that.”
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The NTPC official also said the closure had caused personal crises for several employees working at the Badarpur power plant on account of “arbitrary transfers” to other NTPC-run power plants.
“They are sending everyone far away from Delhi because the other plants are far,” he said, “It is especially very difficult for the women employees because their husbands and children are here.”