NEW DELHI :
The government is trying to suitably divide the electricity generated from hydropower projects by Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corp. Ltd and NHPC Ltd between the two Union territories, created after the bifurcation of the Himalayan state.
With the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act set to take effect on 31 October, allocating free electricity generated from these projects is a complicated issue given the sensitivities involved, two government officials involved in the process said on condition of anonymity.
India’s power minister Raj Kumar Singh visited Srinagar last month, as the government plans to fully utilize its share of water under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. Building hydropower projects on rivers originating in China and Pakistan is part of India’s strategy to establish its prior-use claim over the waters.
“An advisory council has been constituted for the appropriation of assets. One of the issues before it is how to allocate the free power from NHPC’ hydropower projects that earlier went to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. These are not easy questions (to answer)," said a government official aware of the deliberations, also requesting anonymity.
The Union government may take recourse to the Gadgil formula for sharing of electricity, which is based on the investment made by the Centre and various states.
Singh, who also holds the portfolio of new and renewable energy ministry, had earlier said in an interview to Mint: “I have already told my ministry that the objective is to utilize all the water in our share and whatever scheme needs to be set up to utilize 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 utilize our share."
According to the Indus Waters Treaty, whoever builds the project first will have the first rights on the river waters. Also, for many decades, India has allowed its share of water to go to its hostile neighbour. The Modi government is now keen to reclaim its share.
In the run-up to Haryana state assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday promised the farmers of Haryana that the river water, which belongs to India but is flowing into Pakistan, will soon get diverted to the fields of Haryana and Rajasthan and will benefit farmers.
Apart from raising objections on the 330 megawatts (MW) project on the river Kishanganga, a tributary of Jhelum, Pakistan had also raised objections on the 1,000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnai hydroelectric projects on the Chenab.
Chenab is a western river which originates in India and flows into Pakistan. The Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, inked after nine years of negotiations, says: “India shall be under an obligation to let flow all the waters of the western rivers, and shall not permit any interference with these waters, except for the following uses" such as domestic use, non-consumptive use, agricultural use and generation of hydroelectric power.
As part of India’s plan to expedite strategically important hydropower projects, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Himachal Pradesh recently inked agreements entailing an investment of ₹25,000 crore with central public sector units (PSUs), such as NHPC and NTPC Ltd, for setting up hydropower projects on the Chenab.
Queries emailed to the spokespersons of the ministries of home affairs and power and NHPC on 14 October remained unanswered till press time.
Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla and J&K chief secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam have been regularly meeting to lay the groundwork for the two Union territories.
NHPC is the main supplier of electricity to J&K and the largest investor in the region with 2,339MW under operation, and plans to develop projects totalling 3,814MW on its own and through joint ventures. It has invested ₹20,778.38 crore in the erstwhile state and has been supplying electricity to J&K despite unpaid dues.