Power projects vulnerable, one in three not protected

Power projects vulnerable, one in three not protected

New Delhi: Several power projects face a threat from terrorists, but almost one in three power plants in the country is not protected by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).

“Some of the power projects that are under constant terror threat include Nathpa Jhakri (1,500MW), Salal Hydro (690MW), Kishan Ganga (330MW), Almatti dam (290MW), Nagarjuna Sagar (815.6MW) and Srisailam (3,600MW)," said Hari Shankar Brahma, Union power secretary, while addressing a conference on the “Challenge of Terrorism to India’s Infrastructure and Economy" in New Delhi.

After last year’s terror attacks in Mumbai, the country’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) had informed the government that power plants could be targeted by terrorists looking to cripple India’s economy.

India has an installed power generation capacity of 154,000MW and around 300 government-owned projects. Of this, nuclear and hydropower plants account for 4,120MW and 36,885MW, respectively. These and transmission projects—some of which are in areas near India’s geographical boundaries—have been on the terror threat list.

“Thirty per cent of these projects do not have CISF cover and work with their own guards and security arrangements. We expect all the projects to get CISF cover within three-five years," Brahma said.

With rising demand for its services, CISF is looking to hire 10,000 people every year between now and 2012. It currently employs 112,000.

Referring to Ratnagiri Gas and Power Pvt. Ltd’s (RGPPL) Dabhol power plant, Brahma said, “After asking for CISF cover for RGPPL, we got it only last week. The power sector is a target and people who are behind it are very determined. There is a need to go beyond human shield. If three-four power stations with a capacity of around 7,000MW are targeted, the entire grid can collapse. This will disrupt economic activity. We have solutions in place but they are not enough."

“Shutting down a grid is not that difficult," added Charles Barlow, president of Canada’s Occidental Intelligence Group.

At present, there are five regional grids in India and all of them, except the southern grid, are interconnected. A grid collapse is the worst-case scenario for any transmission utility. If that happens, states that draw electricity from a particular grid will have to go without power.

In a related development, Gopal Pillai, India’s home secretary, said while speaking at the same conference that the country’s information technology firms, too, were prime targets for attacks by militant groups.

India’s best-known software services firm Infosys Technologies Ltd retained the services of CISF in August to protect its Bangalore headquarters, becoming the first private sector firm to seek and get cover from the government paramilitary.

AFP contributed to this story.