New Delhi: India’s push to try and improve its decrepit infrastructure is being hampered by the abysmally poor capacity of existing roads and bridges, threatening to put to shame grand plans to showcase the country’s emergence as a world power with the Commonwealth Games next year.
Two turbines for the proposed phase III of the 1,500MW Pragati Power Corp. Ltd (PPCL) in Delhi’s Bawana area got stalled 40km before Rewari in Haryana as a bridge threatened to collapse under their weight.
While work to move the advanced class frame 9FA gas turbines from General Electric Co. (GE) was still under way at the time of going to the press, the incident will delay the commissioning of the first block of 750MW by at least one month.
Heavy load: A file picture of a truck carrying a turbine. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
The turbines have been stuck “for almost a month now. This cannot keep on happening if the country’s power projects are to be commissioned on time,” said a senior official at the Central Electricity Authority, India’s apex power sector planning body.
The Bawana plant will be key in meeting Delhi’s power deficit and ensuring that the capital’s lights stay on during the Commonwealth Games scheduled for 3-14 October, 2010.
The Rs3,588 crore contract involving the supply and commissioning of these advanced class turbines was placed with Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) and were to be the first such units installed in the country. Bhel had given the contract to move the equipment from Mumbai port to the project site to the state-run Shipping Corp. of India Ltd (SCI).
Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit has already expressed her dissatisfaction over the slow rate of the plant’s progress.
“The first block will be delayed by a month. The new route will be through Jaipur-Rohtak-Hissar-Bawana. We expect the turbines to be moved shortly,” said Viney Kumar, director, technical, at PPCL.
GE referred Mint to Bhel and PPCL when asked for comment.
SCI denied that the equipment was stuck. “There were some hiccups, but the cargo is moving now. The power project is not getting delayed,” said S. Mukherjee, a senior vice-president at SCI.
The stalling of the PPCL turbines is the latest in a series of similar incidents that show up the lack of planning and design in logistics for major projects.
NTPC Ltd’s Sipat power project turbine was stuck at Kasara Ghat on National Highway 3 between Mumbai and Nashik for around six months because the road wasn’t able to take the load.
Last month, a trailer carrying a 350MW turbine crashed into the Shetrunji river in Bhavnagar taking the bridge along with it. It was meant for the 700MW Pipavav project of Gujarat State Petroleum Corp., or GSPC.
Bhel is now trying to find a way to transport the equipment so that it doesn’t get washed away en route.
“We are looking at an alternate route that involves no movement over bridges. With the recent incident in Gujarat we have become very careful,” said K. Ravi Kumar, chairman and managing director, Bhel.
Mint had reported on 27 May 2008 that India could miss 13,855MW of its Eleventh Plan (2007-12) target because of poor transport infrastructure. The slip will hurt the country’s ability to meet the power needs of the world’s fastest-growing major economy after China. While the first 250MW unit at Bawana is to be commissioned by March, the 750MW block was expected to be commissioned by July 2010.
“There is a problem in moving the equipment. Who will certify and who will justify that the bridge is capable of carrying a certain load? After the Bhavnagar incident we got worried. It’s a case of once bitten, twice shy,” said a Bhel executive who did not want to be identified. “The country’s infrastructure should be strengthened. The alternate route will involve twice the distance now. Also there is scarcity of axles which can take this kind of load. The axles have reached the site and are being assembled.”
From a current demand of around 3,500MW, Delhi’s electricity requirement for 2010 is expected to be around 6,000MW. The major reason why the state continues to suffer from power shortages is because only about 995MW is generated by plants owned by the Delhi government. This leaves the state vulnerable, especially, in peak usage periods, when all other states are also scrambling to buy power.
P. Manoj contributed to this story.