NTPC steps up work on hydel project to pip China

State-owned NTPC Ltd has wrapped up the pre-feasibility report for a proposed 9,750 MW Siang Upper hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh. It is moving fast on the strategic project since India realises it is urgent to speed up building dams on the Brahmaputra and establish “lower riparian right”. This will help New Delhi create a strong bargaining position to detract China from building hydel projects on the upper reaches of the river.

The completion of the pre-feasibility report sets the ball rolling on what could be the country’s largest hydel project and the second biggest in Asia after China’s Three Gorges. The Siang Upper project — part of a shelf of hydro stations the Centre hopes to build on the Brahmaputra — entails an investment of nearly Rs 1,00,000 crore over a 10 year period.

Efforts to harness the Brahmaputra comes amid reports of Chinese plans to construct hydro-electric projects on the upper reaches of the river involving the setting up of a massive dam on the bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo — the Tibetan name for the Brahmaputra. The Centre is also simultaneously trying to convince Arunachal to allot at least one storage hydroelectric project in each of the sub-basins of Siang, Lohit and Subhansiri rivers.

“NTPC has submitted the PFR (pre-feasibility report) to Arunachal. It focusses specifically on avoiding submergence of important towns in the region,” a government official involved in the exercise told The Indian Express. The project would mark a big jump in hydro sector exposure for the predominantly thermal power major, which is currently working on a shelf of around 1,700 MW of hydel capacity. Of this, NTPC plans to commission its much-delayed 800 MW Koldam project in Himachal Pradesh next fiscal, which will be its first hydro project to be commissioned.

According to analysts, if India harnesses the Brahmaputra in Arunachal through the proposed projects, it will strengthen its case against China’s building of a reported mega-dam at Metog. But, it will have to do it before China does its project as under the doctrine of prior appropriation, a priority right falls on the first user of river waters.

“Under the doctrine of prior appropriation, a priority right falls on the first user of river waters. It favours the upper-riparian state or the first appropriator of water. A priority right, however, can fall on the first user of river waters, even if it is located downstream. The right of the ‘first appropriator’ to meet its water requirements takes precedence over the entitlement of a ‘later appropriator’ to draw water from a river. The central legal element in prior appropriation is the diversion of water from a watercourse for “beneficial” applications, including irrigation, industrial or mining purposes, electricity generation, and municipal supply,” Dr Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Centre for Policy Research said.

The Tsangpo flows through 1,625 km in Tibet, and then enters Arunachal Pradesh, where it is known as the Siang. Further down, the Siang is known as the Brahmaputra. India is thus, on the downstream side of all the developments being planned in China on the river.

So far, India’s success rate in executing large-sized hydro projects has been dismal.

“Road and rail links, a prerequisite for transporting equipment to project sites, are lacking desperately in the North-East. A key transmission link that was to come up for strengthening linkages with the region during the current Plan period is still held up for funds,” an official with the Central Electricity Authority said. Projects such as the 3,000 MW Dibang have been stuck for over three years now. Just two projects — NEEPCO’s 600 MW Kameng and NHPC’s 2,000 MW Lower Subhansiri — have a realistic change of coming up on the Brahmaputra over the next six years. Additionally, the stated position of the Arunachal government to avoid storage projects involving big dams is a hurdle.

The Siang Upper project is to be completed in two stages — a 6,000 MW Stage I and a 750 MW Stage II. Currently, the 1,500-MW Nathpa Jhakri project is the largest operational hydropower station in India.

 

Source: Indain Express

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