The Central Government in December 2020 laid with much fanfare the foundation stone of the country’s largest solar and wind park at an investment of a whopping Rs 1,50,000 crore in Kutch’s high-security Khavda region close to the Pakistan borders. Not a brick has been laid as yet for the project.
The reason, ironically, is the very location of the proposed project — besides being a high-security zone under the control of the Border Security Force (BSF), Khavda has hostile inclement weather where human habitation itself is tough.
Envisaged as the 30-gigawatt (GW) project was billed as a key catalyst in India’s shift from coal-fired power to renewable energy to mitigate climate change challenges, the place is a barren land today with not a single unit of power being produced there. There is no building either — essentially as of now the project is a veritable white elephant.
Khavda, located on the west of Pancham island in Greater Rann of Kutch is a restricted area and none can enter it without prior permission of the BSF. The remote desert area doesn’t have a single house. Here, the sun blazes relentlessly and the temperatures hover above 35 degrees Celsius. As strong winds blow through this area, it makes it an ideal place for a solar plant though only on paper.
“When the government officials were in our village to build a solar plant, we opposed it; in fact, the local governing body opposed it. As residents, we know the practicality of this land and so we knew beforehand that a project can’t succeed here,” a local villager told Vibes of India requesting anonymity.
During the launch of the project, Rajendra Mistry, chief project officer, of Gujarat Power Corporation Limited, said the project would start once the road is completed. Khavda still has unpaved roads.
To build infrastructure or to bring man force or even raw materials here, permission from the police and BSF is required. Even otherwise, because of its inclement weather, the area is not friendly or convenient to stay, commute or even work.
According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Gujarat’s share in wind power is 23%, and the State is second only to Tamil Nadu with a 24.2% share. While in total renewable energy Gujarat stands second with 15.3% share, which is second to Rajasthan with 16.5% share as of May 31, 2022.
“The government seems to have forgotten the barren land after the ribbon cutting. There is not even a brick in this desert. If BSF permission is provided and living conditions are improved the private players will soon come to make Gujarat’s biggest solar power plant possible. If this happens, even the living conditions and employability will improve. We are still waiting,” adds the villager.
A well-placed source from the Industries and Mines Department in Gandhinagar said, “Gujarat is doing well when it comes to renewable energy but our target is to be number one in India and therefore the government launched the Kutch solar power plant. It’s been almost two years and we have not generated power. The department is working to solve the technical problems and make way for a smoother functioning in Khavda.”