State-owned power utility NTPC Ltd has set up a committee to examine the impact its 600MW Loharinag Pala hydropower project in Uttarakhand would have on the Bhagirathi river in the wake of allegations that the project would harm the river’s flow.
Under scanner: An NTPC power plant in Unchahar, Uttar Pradesh. The committee set up by the utility to look into issues surrounding its Loharinag Pala project in Uttarakhand will submit a report within three months.
“It (the project) has affected a bit of a landscape and NTPC, which is the project developer, has set up a committee to study the impact,” power secretary Anil Razdan told Mint.
A senior NTPC executive confirmed the development. “The people in the area and several sadhus have demanded that there should be sufficient flow in the river after the project is commissioned,” he said on condition of anonimity. “A committee has been formed to look into the issue and will submit its report within three months.”
The Loharinag Pala project will generate electricity from the natural flow of the Bhagirathi, an important tributary of the Ganga.
The project will comprise four units of 150MW each and cost Rs3,282.9 crore. It is located near the Gangotri temple and envisages building a 115m-long, 15m-high barrage across the Bhagirathi.
“It is extremely important to have project-affected people on board. The problems are not insurmountable provided there is proactive involvement,” said K. Ramanathan, a distinguished fellow at the New Delhi-based The Energy and Research Institute.
According to power ministry data, Uttarakhand has a hydropower potential of 16,500MW. NTPC is also building a 520MW Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project located near Badrinath temple in the state, to be commissioned by 2010.
It is also constructing 800MW hydroelectric project at Koldam in Himachal Pradesh, which it expects to commission by end of this year.
It is easier to build a thermal power plant than a hydroelectric project due to issues associated with preparing detailed project reports, relocation and resettlement, and environmental surprises such as floods, all of which lead to delays.
Although the utility has bet big on hydroelectric power generation to diversify its fuel mix, it has faced problems with its projects.
For instance, despite lobbying by the Union government, Arunachal Pradesh has cancelled its contract to build two hydropower projects in the state at an estimated cost of Rs22,500 crore, as reported by Mint on 13 May.
NTPC currently has a power generation capacity of 29,394MW, which it plans to increase to 50,000MW by 2012. Of the 20,566MW it plans to add, 15,180MW will be through coal-based power generation, 4,550MW through gas-based generation and the rest from hydropower.