Rajasthan could cancel 4GW World Bank solar project

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The Indian state of Rajasthan’s 4GW mega solar power project could be cancelled.

The chief minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje has written a letter to the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) to oppose the World Bank-backed project.

The state government has raised the objection based on the 4GW solar site being developed on ecologically and environmentally sensitive land, according to Business Standard.

The proposed solar project site spans 23,000 acres of land owned by the government-run salt source manager, Sambhar Salts Limited.

However, Raje has contested that due to migratory birds that could be affected, the project is unviable, and is also part of intergovernmental treaty to protect wetland areas, the 1971 Ramsar Convention.

But it is suspected that political reasons are the actual cause of the objection.

In January Raje directed Rajasthan’s tourism board to develop Sambhur Lake as a tourist attraction.  

The 4GW project was proposed by the former Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot of the Congress Party, the main opposition party to Raje’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the current ruling party recently elected in India.

The project is also part of the ‘United Progressive Alliance-II’ plan, a political alliance plan from the 2004 coalition government.  

The new Bharatiya Janata Party government is unwilling to go ahead with the UPA-II.

Instead, Raje, who is currently touring, is reported to want a different solar programme. Rajasthan is currently redrafting its 2011 solar energy policy, with the deadline for commentary passnig last week, on 16 August. The 2011 policy stated an ambition of 25GW total of solar to be installed by public and private entities by 2018/2019.

However senior MNRE official told Business Standard the land proposed for the 4GW project avoided the 5,000 acre Ramsar Convention wetlands reservation area.

The MNRE run Solar Energy Coporation of India (SECI) is seeking new land for the mega solar project.

Indian officials said last year that they hoped to have the 1GW first phase of the Sambhar Ultra-Mega Green Solar Power Project complete by 2016.

The plans for the project were unveiled in September last year, with the project to be built by a joint venture of six bodies – Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, Solar Energy Corporation of India, Hindustan Salts, POWERGRID, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited and Rajasthan Electronics and Instruments Limited.

The six organisations signed a memorandum of understanding on the project last January, and in February the Indian government sought a US$500 million loan from the World Bank to initiate construction of a planned 4GW solar project in Rajasthan.

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