New Delhi: Cabinet secretary Ajit Seth has called a meeting on Tuesday to discuss issues relating to hydropower generation in Arunachal Pradesh.
With China planning to divert water from rivers that flow into the Brahmaputra to the arid zones of Xinjiang and Gansu, India is worried about the slow pace of work on projects awarded in the state that borders the neighbouring country.
“A meeting has been called,” a government official said, requesting anonymity.
Construction work on 88 hydropower projects totalling 33,154.5 megawatts (MW) awarded to private companies by the Arunachal Pradesh government hadn’t been started as of late last year, Mint reported on 23 October.
Any delay in the construction of hydropower projects in the region, particularly on rivers originating in China, will affect India’s strategy of establishing its prior-use claim, according to international law.
India has a power generation capacity of 211,766 MW, of which 18.6% or 39,416 MW is hydropower. Arunachal Pradesh boasts the highest potential for hydropower generation in the country. The potential of the north-eastern states and Bhutan in this regard is about 58,000MW. Of this, Arunachal Pradesh accounts for 50,328MW, or about 87%.
“Given the potential of Arunachal Pradesh and the number of power projects that are planned there, the concern is genuine,” said another government official, who also didn’t want to be identified.
Hydropower generation potential from the Brahmaputra is 15,000-20,000MW, according to the Central Water Commission. While 60% of the water in the Brahmaputra comes from India, 40% comes from Tibet, an autonomous region of China.
India’s ministries of water resources and power had expressed their reservations over China’s ambitious $62 billion south-north water diversion scheme. China is building a number of projects on the Brahmaputra.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, minister of state for power with independent charge, told reporters on Friday his ministry is also trying to expedite the building of hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh.
To establish prior use claim, the Planning Commission recommended accelerated construction of hydropower projects in the North-East on rivers originating in China. The Indian government also decided to expedite environmental clearances for hydropower generation projects in Arunachal Pradesh, considering their strategic importance.
“In the last 90 days we could get environment and forest clearance for 2,500 MW of hydro projects across the board,” Scindia said.
Executing a hydropower project is time-consuming and tedious. It involves a thorough survey and investigation, detailed project reports, resettlement of the affected population and infrastructure development. On an average, it takes around five years to execute a hydropower project after it is cleared for construction.
Articulating the fears of companies developing projects in Arunachal Pradesh, Jaiprakash Hydro-Power Ltd had sought to raise tariff for power generated from its 2,700MW Lower Siang project in Arunachal Pradesh if the water discharge becomes limited.
“I don’t think there will be problems with the PPAs (power purchase agreements) that have been signed. It is important to get those (Arunachal) projects on-line and if there are issues I will be more than happy to resolve them,” Scindia said.