New Delhi: In an attempt to expedite strategically important hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir following the proposed reorganization of the terror-hit state, India’s power minister Raj Kumar Singh is visiting Srinagar today, said several people aware of the development.
This visit comes in the backdrop of India’ plan to fully utilize its share of water under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. According to the Indus Waters Treaty, whoever builds the project first will have the first rights on the river waters.
Mint reported on 7 August about India looking to speed up state run NHPC Ltd’s hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir in the context of China developing the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of its showpiece One Belt One Road (OBOR) infrastructure initiative.
“The importance of this trip can be gauged from the fact that the meeting on J&K projects is being taken by the minister himself in Srinagar," said an Indian government official requesting anonymity.
NHPC Ltd is the main supplier of electricity to J&K and the largest investor in the state. It has invested ₹20,778.38 crore in the troubled state and plans to develop projects totalling 3,814 megawatts (MW) on its own and through joint ventures.
The reorganization of the state into two Union territories will give the union government direct control over J&K’s affairs, which in turn is expected to speed up the process of granting approvals for infrastructure projects. This is also a litmus test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration as it begins to restore normalcy in the region against the backdrop of unrest in the valley.
Singh who also holds the portfolio of new and renewable energy ministry had earlier told Mint, “I have already told my ministry that the objective is to utilise all the water in our share and whatever scheme needs to be set up to utilise our share of the water should be done. In some cases, we are allowed non-consumptive use and in some cases we are allowed consumptive use. In either case, I have said that we have to go ahead and utilise our share."
NHPC has 2339 MW under operation in the state. The new projects that it wants to develop include the 800MW Bursar project and the 850MW Ratle project. NHPC is also implementing the Pakal Dul (1,000MW), Kiru (624MW) and Kwar (540MW) hydropower projects in a joint venture in the state. Apart from raising objections on the 330MW project on the river Kishanganga, a tributary of Jhelum, Pakistan had also raised objections on the 1,000 MW Pakal Dul and 48 MW Lower Kalnai hydroelectric projects on River Chenab.
With the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill that scraps Article 370 and Article 35A in Jammu and Kashmir being passed by the Parliament, decks have been cleared for bifurcation of the state into two Union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, which will have a legislature, and Ladakh, which will be without a legislature.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government also plans to develop solar power projects in Ladakh and built transmission systems. The government has identified deserts for exploring the possibility of setting up of solar and wind energy projects. India is also exploring setting up storage projects in Leh-Ladakh.
NHPC has also been supplying electricity to J&K despite unpaid dues of ₹1,512 crore. The public sector unit is now confident of an early settlement of its bills. Out of a total ₹4,438.47 crore that various states and UTs owe to the publicly-listed company, Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corp. Ltd (JKSPDC) alone accounts for more than a third or ₹1,512.19 crore. Of this, a sum of ₹1,091 crore has been due for over 45 days.