Firms’ failure to respond may put hydro project clearances at risk

In a meeting held last month on hydropower projects, power minister R K Singh stated that ‘partial clearances’ given to companies will be ‘rescinded’ if they do not respond to the Central Electricity Authority’s comments on detailed project reports in 2-3 months.

Written by Deepak Patel | New Delhi | Published: October 18, 2017 2:30 am
hydro policy, hydro projects, hydel power, power ministry, hydel project, hydel projects india, hydro power policy, hydel power projects, india news, indian express, indian express news, business news Total eight projects are pending with the CEA for approval. (Illustration: C R Sasikumar)

Five hydroelectric projects that are in the advanced stage of getting pre-project clearances, and which have submitted their detailed project reports (DPRs) to the power ministry’s approval body Central Electricity Authority (CEA), are not responding to the CEA’s subsequent comments related to their respective DPRs. Last month, a meeting was held to take stock of hydropower sector projects, wherein Union power minister R K Singh stated that the companies developing these five projects should be asked to send their response “within 2-3 months time”, otherwise their DPRs “would be returned” by the CEA and the “partial clearances” given to the projects would also be “rescinded”.

However, two companies that are handling three out of the five projects have told The Indian Express that they have been regularly communicating with the CEA and submitting all required information. The other two companies, which are handling the remaining two projects, did not respond to the queries. The central government is pushing hydropower projects currently as their progress have been impeded by issues such as high tariff, long-drawn process in getting green clearances, excessive upfront costs, etc, for last few years.

Total eight projects are pending with the CEA for approval. Two out of the eight projects — Jelam Tamak and Bowala Nand Prayag — are pending because the Supreme Court has put a stay on them. The DPR of third hydro project Luhri-1 was received by the CEA in January this year and it has already received 17 out of 178 clearances.

The five projects, which are not responding to the CEA’s comments, are Dagmara, Umngot, Subansiri Middle, Attunli and Mago Chu. Subansiri Middle and Attunli projects are being developed by Kamala Hydro Electric Power Company Ltd (KHEPCL) and Attunli Hydro Electric Power Company Ltd (AHEPCL), respectively. Jindal Power Ltd (JPL) has 74 per cent stake in each of the two companies — KHEPCL and AHEPCL. Mago Chu project is being developed by Hyderabad-based Sew Mago Chu Power Corporation Limited (SMCPCL).

Dagmara project and Umngot project are being developed by two state government companies Bihar State Hydroelectric Power Corporation (BSHPC) and Meghalaya Power Generation Corporation Ltd (MePGCL), respectively.

R K Singh took charge as the Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Power and Renewable Energy on September 5, 2017. The next day, he held a meeting in New Delhi on the topic of ‘hydro power development in the country’. Senior officials of the power ministry, CEA, the Bhakra Beas Management Board, THDC India Ltd, NHPC Ltd and NEEPCO Ltd attended the meeting.

The minutes of the meeting state: “Five cases (Dagmara, Umngot, Subansiri Middle, Attunli and Mago Chu) are of either state government or private developers on allotment by the state government and in all these cases, the developers are not responding to CEA on their comments (on DPRs). The minister desired that in each case, respective developers and the state government be requested to respond within 2-3 months and should also be informed that if the response is not received, these DPRs would be returned by CEA and the partial clearances also should be rescinded.”

BSHPC’s Dagmara project, which would be of 130-MW capacity, is going to be built on Kosi River. When asked for the reasons for not responding to the CEA’s comments, BSHPC stated that it has “regularly submitted the desired information to the CEA”. The company said that at the beginning, the CEA directed it to submit “apprisal of revised cost in prescribed format” and “apportionment of flood control benefit”. This information was submitted to the CEA.

Thereafter, BSHPC requested the CEA to re-examine two cost components — pile foundation and computation of free board — which it found to be “unnecessarily increasing the cost of the project”. A free board is the distance from the waterline to the upper deck level of the boat. Pile foundation construction is required when soil bearing capacity is not sufficient for the structure to stand stable under loads.

“After that, in last meeting held on July 27, 2017, the CEA reviewed the status and directed to submit the following information: first, detailed calculation of free board (indicating the equation used); second, submergence map for calculating fetch; third, formal letter from the Bihar government to the CEA in respect of assurance to bear the cost towards flood modernisation component. The information regarding first and second has been sent to the CEA with a letter dated October 12, 2017,” BSHPC stated. Regarding the third direction of submitting the formal letter, the company stated that the re-examination of the two cost components is still pending with the CEA.

BSHPC told The Indian Express that it has not received any intimation from the CEA or the power ministry after September 6 to send any response within “2-3 months time”.

BSHPC has stated on its website: “This (Dagmara) project besides yielding energy benefits will also serve to prevent the devastating floods that are a tragic but recurrent feature of north Bihar. It will also facilitate the construction of a further 17 smaller but significant projects downstream to Dagmara.” About the Dagmara project, it submitted the following information with the CEA: the total cost of the project is Rs 2,344 crore, average annual flood damage cost is Rs 118 crore, cost allocated to flood benefit is Rs 296 crore and the tariff would be Rs 10.66 per unit.

Regarding Subansiri Middle and Attunli projects, JPL spokesperson said: “We have been continuously communicating with the CEA for both KHEPCL and AHEPCL for concurrence and clarification of our projects, and have always replied to them in a time-bound manner. DPR concurrence is an ongoing process and it involves clearances from 24 directorates of CEA/CWC (Central Water Commission)/GSI (Geological Survey of India)/CSMRS (Central Soil and Materials Research Station) /MoWR (Ministry of Water Resources). The progress of both the projects were discussed in detail in a review meeting organised by CEA in July-end, chaired by member (hydro) CEA.”

Subansiri Middle project is also known as Kamala hydroelectric project. The JPL spokesperson added: “Attunli hydroelectric project of AHEPCL is in final stages of concurrence wherein all the concurrences have already been obtained, barring validation of two concurrences. All design concurrences from various directorates of CEA/CWC for Kamala hydroelectric project of KHEPCL have been obtained and currently, the plant planning aspects of the project is being reviewed by CMC (Construction Machinery Consultancy) Directorate. The KHEPCL has had a discussion with CMC Directorate regarding Kamala hydroelectric on September 15, 2017, and September 19, 2017. AHEPCL received a letter from CEA on September 13, 2017, regarding the validation of concurrence/observation from CSMRS Directorate, which was duly replied on 19th September 2017. A consultation meeting is scheduled this week for the same.”

Kamala as well as Attunli hydroelectric projects is of 1,800 MW and 680 MW capacity, respectively. Both of the projects are being developed in Arunachal Pradesh only.

SMCPCL, which is developing the 96-MW Magochu project in Arunachal Pradesh, and MePGCL, which is developing the 210-MW Umngot project in Meghalaya, did not respond to the queries of The Indian Express.

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