Centre likely to give nod to small hydro projects in hill states

Dehra Dun : The Uttarakhand government in collaboration with IIT Roorkee, recently held a three-day workshop on the advantages of hydel power and to press home the point to all environmentalists and anti-hydro power generation that the devastating Kedarnath tragedy of June 2013 in which almost 5000 lives were lost, was not due to them.

Obviously after having lost the 14 years that it came into existence and not having exploited its over 29,000 MWs of hydro-power potential even though the founders had envisaged to make Uttarakhand a power state so that it could generate and export power and make it economically self-sufficient.

But somewhere in between when the state came into existence in November 2000 and the Kedarnath tragedy in June 2013, the chief ministers at the helm of affairs paid a Nelson’s eye to the need of exploiting the tremendous hydro power potential in the state. The efforts that were made, got bogged down in litigation and protests by pro-environmentalist lobbies.

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A small hydro project in Chamoli district

However, realizing that the state could make no headway and would continue to remain dependant upon the Centre for its financial requirements, the need for expediting the hydro power potential was felt. But the Kedarnath tragedy is now being cited as an example by environmentalists and even the Centre and hence the need of the three-day workshop.

Experts from India and abroad were all for exploitation of the hdro-power potential as they claimed that it is the least polluting and further claimed that the dam of the Tehri hydro-electric project actually saved the region downstream of Rishikesh from being devastated during the Kedarnath tragedy, as it was able to contain the water flow.

However, according to reports following the Kedarnath tragedy, the Centre is treading cautiously on exploiting the hydro power potential in the upper reaches and is all out for adopting the mini, small and micro model, rather than the big and mega projects that Uttarakhand has in mind. An announcement for the setting up of a National Mission on Small Hydro-projects could be made during the budget address.

Pindar stream Uttarakhand
Pindar stream Uttarakhand

The main logic for exploiting the hydro power is that it is cheaper to generate compared to thermal and  atomic power and can be environmentally friendly if smaller projects are made with the necessary precautions and measures in place. Besides developing the upper reaches of the hill states, they will also help meet the power needs of the country and reduce the gap between demand and supply.

Central government experts are of the view that the big and mega hydro power projects as they not only have an adverse impact on the ecology and environment of the region but a large number of people have to be evacuated from their hearth and homes and rehabilitated elsewhere which means added pressure on forest land to accommodate the displaced persons.

There is also a feeling that the private sector could be roped in a big way into taking up the small or mini hydro projects and the government may not have to do the funding. Past experience has shown that the private sector is keen to participate in the power sector, but so far it has been limited to the big players in big and mega projects. But with smaller projects being offered there could be bigger participation and the time period for commissioning the projects would also be less, which means more power in less time.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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