New Delhi: NHPC Ltd, India’s biggest state-owned hydropower producer, will submit a detailed project report in October to build the 1,200MW Tamanthi power plant in Myanmar to its government as India seeks to counter China’s influence in the resource-rich South-East Asian nation.
NHPC will also submit a detailed project report for the 642MW Shwezaye hydroelectric project by March, said D.P. Bhargava, director, technical at NHPC.
Myanmar borders China and India, the world’s two fastest-growing economies, and has natural gas reserves of 89.72 trillion cubic feet (tcf), of which 18.01 tcf can be easily extracted and tapped. China and India are competing with each other in Africa, Asia and Latin America in a race for resources to fuel their economies.
The delayed Tamanthi and Shwezaye projects, part of India’s economic diplomacy initiative to engage Myanmar, are located on the Chindwin river, the largest tributary of the Irrawaddy, Myanmar’s key commercial waterway.
The cost of the project, which requires the building of a transmission link to India, is estimated at Rs 25,000 crore. A power transmission link with Myanmar would help create an electricity grid of countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc). The Saarc grid envisaged meeting electricity demands and boosting economic and political ties in the region.
The detailed project report will be the basis for the execution of the two capital-intensive power projects, which involve resettlement of local residents and the ability to withstand unexpected floods.
India’s foreign ministry will underwrite Rs 40 crore that NHPC will spend on hydrological studies required to build the power plants.
“We will be submitting the reports to MEA (ministry of external affairs) and DoP (department of power) in the Myanmar government. Post the submission of the detailed project report, it is for the government of India to decide whether we should construct it or not,” said Bhargava.
The Chindwin river originates in the Kumaon range and has a catchment area of 115,300 sq. km. Tamanthi is in north Myanmar. Once completed, the project will help control floods and provide water for irrigation in the region. India will receive the bulk of the power generated. Myanmar has hydroelectric power potential of 39,720MW and an installed capacity of 747MW.
The embassy of Myanmar in New Delhi didn’t respond to phone calls. The spokesman of the Indian foreign ministry didn’t immediately respond to a message left at his office.
India is Myanmar’s fourth largest export market and its fifth largest trading partner with total bilateral trade of around $1.5 billion.
NHPC had earlier been criticized by the Indian ambassador to Myanmar over delays in updating the project reports for the strategic projects. the company had earlier submitted reviews of feasibility reports for the Tamanthi and Shwezaye projects to India’s foreign and power ministry and had highlighted some issues that had to be studied and updated.
Subsequently, the reports were accepted by the department of hydropower implementation of the Myanmar government. The feasibility reports of Tamanthi and Shwezaye were prepared by Switzerland’s Colenco Power Engineering Ltd and Japan’s Kansai Electric Power Co. Inc., respectively.