Himachal Pradesh Hydropower Gets Cold Shoulder?
Himachal Pradesh’s plans to harness hydropower in a big way have received a jolt with investors reluctant to take up projects. The directorate of energy had invited global bids for 28 hydropower projects on a build own operate and transfer (BOOT) basis with June 19 as the last date for submitting and opening bids, but so far only three bid documents have been sold.
In the past, three attempts to allot these projects with a combined generation potential of around 2,000 megawatt (MW) have remained unsuccessful.
A majority of the projects are proposed in Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts. Himachal Pradesh has total identified potential of 27,400 MW of which only 10,519 MW has been generated so far. Sources said that inaccessible terrain, tough geographical and climactic conditions coupled with stiff opposition from local people and green activists have made the allotment of these power projects a challenge.
According to sources, bid documents have been sold for the 449 MW Dugar hydroelectric project on Chenab river in Chamba district and 400 MW Seli hydroelectric project, again on the Chenab. Though one more bid document has been sold, the project has not been identified.
Accepting that there was little response, the state’s energy director, Dr Ajay Sharma, said, “We would hold interactions with bidders for allotment.” Among the districts identified for hydropower generation, Lahaul-Spiti is going to have the bigger projects where locals are already up in arms against the government.
“We will not allow projects beyond 5 MW capacity in Lahaul-Spiti as mega projects would damage the fragile ecology of the tribal district that otherwise falls in seismic zone IV and V,” said Prem Chand Katoch a resident of Sissu village and president of Save Lahaul-Spiti Society. “We would only allow micro and mini hydro projects on nallahs.”
He added that all gram sabhas would be told not to issue no objection certificates (NOC) to any mega project.
Jispa Baandh Jan Sangarsh Samiti (JBJSS), Lahaul-Spiti, convener, Rigzin Samphel Hayerpa believes mega hydro power projects are not feasible for areas like Lahaul-Spiti as these will not only displace people but also end the scope of tourism and agriculture.
He said that instead of hydro projects, the state government should promote solar and wind energy. “A 1,000 MW solar power project was proposed for Spiti valley but never came up,” he says.
Activist Manshi Asher of Himdhara Collective says that of the major rivers, only the Chenab and Satluj in Upper Kinnaur and Spiti remain free-flowing. She said that given that these are high altitude regions and are ecologically fragile, these should also be declared eco-sensitive zones and no-go for major construction.