History was made by exporting 250 MW of electricity to Bangladesh and it has the option to buy 250 MW more from the open market in India, if it needs the same
National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has an installed power generating capacity of 41,684 MW, for which 160 million tonnes of coal is required. Around 90% of this requirement is being obtained from Coal India Ltd and Singareni Collieries. The power generated in NTPC plants are based on coal, gas and hydro supplies. The balance 16 million tonnes of coal are imported from three main suppliers: Indonesia, Mozambique and Australia.
It may be recalled there were serious problems in regard to quality of coal supplied by Coal India due to dispute on caloric values, for which payments were withheld by NTPC. These issues have been fortunately resolved.
After resolving the quality issues, the FSAs (fuel supply agreement) have been signed between NTPC and Coal India. There were other relatively smaller problems such as delays in transporting coal from pitheads to NTPC sites, shortage of rakes etc. In any case, many of the NTPC power generating units are located close to mining centres so as to avoid these headaches.
As a matter of interest, it may be noted that in the case of imported coal, price of which is higher than its indigenous coal, the new and unexpected development has been the depreciating value of the rupee, resulting in higher landed cost. The dollar-rupee ratio had almost touched the psychological barrier of Rs70 before rebounding to Rs61 now.
In case of imported coal, however, no quality issues, such as the thermal caloric value, have been noticed, except for the negative aspect of the price due further to depreciation, as mentioned above.
To overcome a large number of such problems NTPC wants to investigate the prospects and develop the coal mine blocks allotted to it. It has received 10 coal blocks, six of which have a total of 53 million tonnes per annum (mtpa), and four with an estimated capacity of 45 mtpa. Work on some of these has been in progress for sometime now.
At the moment, however, none of these 10 captive coal blocks are operational. It will take a few more years before these become operational so as to ensure fuel security. Also, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has given clearance and work has begun at Talaipalli, Chatti Bariatu, Kerendari and Pakri Barwadih.
This will reduce the dependence on imported coal at a high price and NTPC has now planned to set up its own coal mining units to ensure fuel security, and gradually eliminate the imports.
It may be recalled that NTPC did not utilise its full power generating capacity and about 5,000 MW of power generation remained idle, as the consumers were unwilling to pay higher tariff, caused by the high priced imported coal. While the capacity was idle along with adequate coal supplies on hand, some parts of the country remained starved for power.
Two important developments have taken place in the meanwhile. The first refers to the successful export of power to Bangladesh. History was made by exporting 250 MW of electricity to Bangladesh and it has the option to buy 250 MW more from the open market in India, if it needs the same. This power supply was followed by the signing of a contract between NTPC and the Bangladesh Power Development Board to set up a 1,320 MW thermal power unit in Khulna.
The second major development relates to the final touches being made to the grid work in the form of Raichur-Sholapur single circuit line (765 kV), which will interlink the
western grid to the southern grid, when it becomes operational in January 2014.
This will facilitate NTPC to ensure that the full installed capacity of its plants is used and supply of power effected to rest of the country as well.
NTPC's plans to add 14,038 MW capacity by 2017 are likely to be met because of its high cash reserves (Rs18,738 crore), duly supported by its captive coal blocks, which would be fully operative by then, supported by its own fully trained technical teams.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
At Pune’s headquarters of the food supply department, the tehsildar is ignorant, even arrogant about proactive disclosure under Section 4 of the RTI Act
Since the last one week, I have been following up with the Food Supply office of the Pune district collectorate to gather information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. I am seeking information on the number of shopkeepers, in two particular zones, where women have complained that they have not been getting their rightful food grains, sugar and kerosene under the Public Distribution System (PDS) scheme, since several months and years.
While the newly launched Food Security Bill (FSB) has already run into controversy with a leading TV news channel portraying how wheat under this scheme is already being diverted into the open market in Delhi. The PDS scam has been going on brazenly for last several decades. Since no political leader or officer at any level bothers to address this issue, the PDS scam is a perennial news story for a journalist and perennial campaign for an activist.
Last week, the public information officer (PIO) of one of the zones of the food supply office in Pune was totally ignorant about Section 4 of the RTI Act itself. As mentioned in my last week’s column, she relented to give information after I educated her on Section 4. I had asked for information between 1 January 2012 and 30 September 2013, month wise, of the supply of wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene to the shopkeepers that fall under her zone.
However, the next day, when I went to collect the information, she proudly said that she had promptly bought a book of the RTI Act, which I appreciated. However, her next statement was that, “You have wrongly said you can get information instantly under Section 4. It is only under Section 7 that you can get information in 48 hours.’’ So, another round of explanation had to be done.”
I told her that the information I require comes under 11, 12, 13 sub-sections of the Section 4 of RTI Act. These states:
(xi) the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all pans, proposed expenditures and reports o disbursements made;
(xii) the manner of execution of subsidy,
(xiii) particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it. She nodded in agreement.
The issue of my inspecting files under Sec 4 of the RTI Act, triggered off last fortnight after some women in a chawl in Bhavani Peth expressed their agony. However, on a visit to another chawl in Yerawada, I found that the women there too had a similar complaint. Hence, I decided to gather information of supply to all the eight zones from the food supply headquarters.
The PIO there asked me to meet the Tehsildar who heads the department. When I told her what I wanted, she got aggressive and said this information is not available here and that I would have to visit each of the eight zones to get it. I argued that being the headquarters, information on supplies to shopkeepers in all eight zones, must be made available here itself. In fact, it should have been posted on the website www.pune.gov.in . In any case, even if it is on the website, it is mandatory for the public authority to provide the information if a citizen visits it and demands it in the form of hard copies. She argued, “Yes, of course, it is all there on the website’’ and summoned the PIO to her cabin. The PIO muttered that it is in some other website and gave me the link – Egrains.nic.in/sinc. I checked the website but it does not seem a relevant one.
She then continued that it is not possible to keep such vast information in her office. I said it is her duty to upload it in the public domain. I gave her an example that if I require information about accidents from 10 different police stations under RTI, then I should get it at the headquarters of the traffic department and I, as a citizen, do not have to run from one police station to another. When she tried to be adamant despite my explanation, I told her that I would file a complaint with the State Information Commissioner in Pune as this amounts to denying information. She said OK to prove her point but then relented and asked the PIO to give the entire information. I would be collecting the documents on Thursday. Here too, the PIO insisted on Rs10 court fee stamp with a request letter for the information. I again had to explain to him that you need the court fee stamp only if you ask information under Section 6. He smiled.
My point is, even after eight years of the RTI Act, should a citizen be fighting it out to get his or her rightful information under Section 4 of the RTI Act? If this is the treatment given to a seasoned journalist/activist, then one can imagine what a common person is going through. The reason for this personal narration is to inspire citizens to visit offices to get the information they need and not be cowed down by excuses or arrogance of officers. Please read Section 4 carefully; if required take a printout of it when you visit the office. Share your experiences with Moneylife. I would be happy to answer your difficulties.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has failed to set up a body that would make recommendations on how to deal with rising seas
The US Congress did something unusual last year. It passed a bill that acknowledged that sea levels are rising — i.e., that climate change is happening.
The measure in question, buried near the end of a 584-page transportation funding bill, also required some modest action: That the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) use “the best available climate science” to figure out how the flood insurance program it administers should handle rising seas.
FEMA’s first step was supposed to be to set up an advisory body, the Technical Mapping Advisory Council, that would make recommendations on how the agency could take the effects of climate change into account in its flood insurance maps.
But more than a year later, FEMA hasn’t named a single member to the council. Without any members, it has been unable to meet or make any recommendations. In July, the council missed a deadline set out in the law for submitting written recommendations for how the flood insurance program might deal with future risks related to climate change.
FEMA had developed a charter for the council by the end of August and was in the process of finalizing letters to solicit council members, according to the agency. Dan Watson, the FEMA press secretary, said he was unable to provide more up-to-date information because much of the agency’s staff has been furloughed under the government shutdown.
Few areas of the federal government are more directly affected by climate change than the flood insurance program and its maps, which determine the premiums that 5.6 million American households pay for flood insurance. The program fell deeply into the red after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy last year. It’s currently $25 billion in debt.
Many of the maps are decades out of date and therefore don’t reflect the rise in sea levels since the time they were drawn.
FEMA released a report in June estimating that sea levels will rise an average of four feet by 2100, increasing the portion of the country at high risk of flooding by up to 45 percent. The number of Americans who live in those areas could double by the century’s end, according to the report.
The law requires the council to outline steps for improving the “accuracy, general quality, ease of use, and distribution and dissemination” of the maps. Josh Saks, legislative director for the National Wildlife Federation, which pushed for the legislation, said that might include figuring out how to better take into account the way new development along a river, say, worsens flooding for those who live downstream.
Jimi Grande, the senior vice president for federal and political affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, a lobbying group, said the council would “absolutely” help make the flood maps more accurate.
“We need to know what the risks are to have an intelligent conversation as a country” about development in areas that are vulnerable to flooding, he said.
The measure was part of a broader package of reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program that phased out many of the government subsidies that had kept flood insurance premiums artificially cheap for many homeowners. The full-risk rates phased in for many policyholders on Oct. 1, despite vocal protests against them.
An operational mapping advisory council wouldn’t fix everything that’s wrong with the flood insurance program. As ProPublica has reported, some of the maps FEMA has issued in recent years have been based on outdated, inaccurate data, giving homeowners a misleading impression of flood risk and, in some cases, forcing them to buy insurance when they were not at great risk of flooding.
Taking climate change into account when setting flood insurance rates is also a complex task.
“That’s why we put the council in charge,” said Saks, from the National Wildlife Federation. “I can read the science and say storms are happening more often, and I can read the numbers and see that sea-level rise is happening. But I’m not an actuary, and I don’t know how you then translate that to” setting insurance rates.
The risk-modeling companies that private insurers rely on have struggled to take climate change into account in their models, but they are making progress.
“I wouldn’t be too surprised if within the next five years we could credibly start to incorporate climate change into aspects of the modeling,” said David F. Smith, the vice president of the model development group at Eqecat, a risk-modeling firm.
Michael B. Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, said he wasn’t surprised FEMA had been slow in setting up the council.
“It’s the rule, rather than the exception, that federal agencies miss the rule-making deadlines” set out in laws, he said. “Often they have to be sued to get back on schedule.”