Chandigarh : Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal today said that the shutting down of the loss-making and smoke-spewing Bathinda Thermal Plant will provide a windfall for Punjab, paving the way for the creation of the largest industrial park in Punjab.Addressing the media persons during a press conference here today, the Finance Minister said that while the Bathinda Thermal Plant was shut down three years ago due to environmental, economic, and administrative issues, the recently approved plan will revitalize and rejuvenate the economy of Southern Punjab.The Finance Minister also invited companies that are relocating from China to invest in the new Bathinda Industrial Complex, stating that this will emerge as another industrial hub.Additionally, Bathinda city will gain 164 acres of water bodies and lakes that were earlier a part of the thermal plant. Similarly, the vacant power colony that stretches across 280 acres will accommodate the entire civil and police lines. Moreover, Bathinda residents are already breathing free of pollution spewed by coal power plant, he said.The Finance Minister stated that the Bathinda Thermal Plant, which was initially established in 1974, was the oldest in Punjab, and it had outlived its original life of 25 years. According to Central Electricity Agency (CEA) guidelines, all non-viable thermal plants that have exceeded a 25-year life span are to be closed.
The cost of electricity generated at Bathinda was over Rs 7.70 per unit, while the Punjab government is nowadays purchasing power at rates ranging between Rs 2.30-2.70 per unit, he said, adding that the thermal plant was running at a plant load factor of only 7.23 per cent, which made it unviable. Also, the annual running cost of merely maintaining the thermal plant was over Rs 110 crore.The Ministry of Forests has already asked thermal plants to install Flue-Gas Desulfurization, Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM), and mercury control equipment, failing which they would have to pay a daily penalty of 18 lakh per day.
The state would have to pay this additional penalty.Moreover, after closing down the thermal plant, not a single employee – be it regular or contractual – was retrenched; and all employees were accommodated, he categorically said. Elaborating on the Punjab Cabinet’s new decision, Mr. Manpreet Singh Badal said that 164 acres of water bodies and lakes, established for the power plant, will now be connected to the water supply system. Bathinda relies on canal water for its water needs, and it has an existing storage capacity of 10 days of water supply. With the addition of these lakes, Bathinda will increase the water supply storage by another 60 days.Secondly, the 280-acres power colony of the thermal power plant will be used to accommodate the entire civil and policy administration, ranging from the Deputy Commissioner to Class-IV employees. Otherwise, these houses would have fallen into disuse. This shifting of civil and police lines will vacate 65 acres of land in Bathinda city, making way to a Central Commercial Complex that will be the envy of entire Punjab, he added.Thirdly, 1320 acres of land that was previously occupied by the defunct Bathinda power plant and ash-dikes, etc, will now be converted into an industrial park which will be the biggest in Punjab. The Punjab Government is approaching the Union Government to establish a pharmaceutical park in Bathinda, which could be one of the three such parks in the country. Alternatively, a full-fledged industrial park will be established at the site. Bathinda, an education and medicine hub, will also emerge as an industrial hub. Moreover, this park will also benefit from the existing railway line and carriage facilities that were earlier utilized by the thermal plant. This will emerge as the biggest boon for Bathinda since the independence of the country, the Finance Minister said.