Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s recent lamentations over hydropower projects in NHPC control notwithstanding, his government on Monday happily set another plan in motion to allow the Government of India to generate 7500 MW of solar power in the Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir.
The J&K government on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Union Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) headed by Dr. Farooq Abdullah, the National Conference patron and father of Omar Abdullah, to set up Solar Power Projects with 5000 MW and 2500 MW capacity in Leh and Kargil districts respectively.
The project, pertaining to half of the solar power potential the state is estimated to have, has been announced vaguely to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without its terms and conditions being defined.
On the face of it, the MoU – and such MoUs around Kashmir have a habit of turning surreptitiously into irreversible agreements – seems to be an NHPC-like deal to sign away the state’s resources to New Delhi. It was announced the day the NHPC declared the 260-MW Uri-II hydel power project fully operational, puncturing the chief minister’s claim that it had been taken back by his government and was being run as a joint venture with the Corporation.
Adding Uri-II to his kitty, NHPC’s executive director, S Kalgaonkar, said that the project was one of the seven, with a total installed capacity of 2009 MW, the Corporation had undertaken in J&K. What does that make of the Chief Minister’s claims of giving no new projects to the NHPC?
Should Dr. Abdullah, who has rued, at least for public consumption, his decisions to sign agreements with the NHPC when he was Chief Minister, have brought this state yet more prospects of loss and exploitation? Before going ahead, the state government and Dr. Abdullah need to come absolutely clean on several questions.
What are the terms and conditions between the J&K government and the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy with regard to this new initiative? Who will own these projects? What will be the share of the revenue between the J&K state and the union ministry or any other executing? What benefits will accrue to local populations apart from electricity, if at all they are allowed this fruit of their resource? Are there any environmental implications, and if so, how will they be addressed?