SRINAGAR: Various J&K governments and civil society groups have been questioning the legitimacy of National Hydro Electric Power Corporation (NHPC) that has built, operated and operationalised most of the hydropower projects in the state. But what have they done themselves since 1905, when the state was second in the Indian subcontinent to have its own Hydro Electric Project (HEP)? It has only added about 40 percent to its total generation, created its own power development corporation where a decision to even procure an additional bolt has to wait months for the Chief Minster to take the decision, and not included even one course on hydro engineering, a knowledge essential to building an HEP, in any of the engineering institutes in Jammu & Kashmir.
According to the government’s economic survey report, the state till today has built projects that generate less than 1300 MW of hydropower, as against the 2009 MW generated by central-sector projects, most of the contribution coming from NHPC. This has happened despite the state having its first hydropower project, Mohra, in 1905, just 27 years after the world’s first hydroelectric power scheme was developed at Cragside in Northumberland, England, by William Armstrong.
The Mohra project was built under the so-called autocratic regime of the Dogra ruler, through a US-based company, General Electric (GE). The generation of hydropower was done through a run-of-the-river project, one of the best environment-friendly methods. The construction of a dam is not required in such a project, saving the major expense in constructing an HEP. This also enables the project to be constructed in less time, and the cost of energy generated is quite low.
Since the last one decade, when the debate over the ‘NHPC loot’ has gained the ground, the government despite its brouhaha on generating 6000 MW of its own, has finished not even it in single units. This poor performance has dashed the dreams of achieving nearly 6000 MW of hydropower by 2021. Omar’s government in 2013 had said that by 2021 Jammu and Kashmir will be an energy-surplus state, after giving the nod to nearly 6000 MW capacity of hydropower projects. In 2018, except for a little work on one power project, six are still undergoing paper work.
Details accessed by Kashmir Reader shows that the status of one of its smalls HEP has only 10 percent of the work added to the 48-MW lower Kalnai power project, which was scheduled to be finished by September 2017. The story about the rest is more or less the same except BagliharII.
Today, the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC) cannot even finalise its hydropower policy, for more than a year. An official told Kashmir Reader that the draft policy submitted to the state government has not even been approved.
The government has told the SPDC to prepare an approach paper that will stem the “bleeding losses” in the hydropower business. The SDPC has been asked to study “market trends” to prepare a new, commercially viable hydropower policy, taking in view the “fluctuating” market trends. This revision has been called for after the SPDC suffered losses with a series of hydropower projects, most recently with the Baglihar II.
The irony, the official said, is that the government is now thinking of exploring 16,000 MW “potential” of hydropower in the state even though the cost of generating one unit of energy is way higher than that of available market rates. The surplus power generation in India has led to low rates against which J&K’s hydropower has not been able to compete for several years now.
The state has not even established a hydro engineering department in the more than 10 engineering colleges in the state. Today, the SPDC cannot even study viability of any hydropower project, as there is no one competent enough in its ranks to do so. The official said that a lot of money is spent on hiring a consultant to do this assessment.