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Now land acquisition for West Bengal's aerotropolis project runs into rough weather news
07 October 2008

Kolkata: West Bengal seems to be having a bout of ill luck when it comes to industrial and development projects in the state. After putting Singur and Nandigram on India's map for all the wrong reasons, Andal, near Durgapur looks set to join the list.

The land acquisition programme for the Rs10,000-crore Aerotropolis project in Andal seems to have hit some rough weather, with the discovery that the 3,500-acre site, on which the airport city is planned for construction, sits atop coal reserves worth over Rs2.35 lakh crore.

Coal India Ltd (CIL) has already raised serious objections to the site of the proposed Aerotropolis, on the grounds that any permanent structure on the site would ''affect the energy security of the country''.

Additionally, sources say the actual land demand for the project could well exceed 3,500 acres. Land acquisition was to start at the end of the month. They also say that if the Aerotropolis was to come up at the site, the West Bengal government would also lose Rs50,000 crore in terms of cess over a 30 year period, which is around Rs1,500 crore per annum, or the cost of the recently lost Tata Nano project.

At present, the state earns around Rs450 crore per annum in terms of cess on coal.

The state government is reported to have taken up the matter after Dr Partha Sarathi Bhattacharya, chairman of Coal India Limited had sought the state government's opinion regarding the project. The site where the project is to come up sites on an area where has an underground leasehold for coal extraction.

CIL says that at least 2,300 million tons of B and D grade high quality coal reserves lie beneath the project site. Bhattacharya also said that neither the civil aviation ministry nor the state government ever felt the need to discuss the project with the coal major, even though it holds the lease for coal extraction on the site. In the meanwhile, the state government has issued a notification for the project to help land acquisition.

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Now land acquisition for West Bengal's aerotropolis project runs into rough weather