Special Correspondent

This follows Pakistan’s plan for a hydro power project across the Jhelum

Pakistan awards contract to a Chinese consortium

India to revise cost estimate for the project

NEW DELHI: After Pakistan’s move to put up a 969 MW hydro power project across the Jhelum, the Central government has decided to revive the almost defunct 18-year-old 330 MW Kishen Ganga hydro power project on the same river in the Kashmir valley.

The Jhelum, known as the Neelum in Pakistan, originates in India and flows across the border. According to the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, whoever builds a project first will have the first rights on the river water, a matter that has evoked strong concern in the government circles here. Interestingly, the Pakistan government has already gone ahead and awarded the work contract for the project to a Chinese consortium.

Sensing the strategic importance of the project, the Union Power Ministry has swung into action. The newly appointed Minister of State for Power, Jairam Ramesh, said the project was of strategic importance to India. “We will shortly take the Cabinet approval for the revised cost estimates of Rs.3,700 crore for the project. We have to ensure commissioning of the project on fast track.”

Priority

Mr. Ramesh said he had taken up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who shares the view that the project has to be taken up and completed on a priority basis.

The Power Ministry will be seeking fresh approval for the project, which has witnessed a cost escalation of 68 per cent and will be built by the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC). The increase in estimates is due to the higher risk associated with the project due to difficult geology and its proximity to the border with Pakistan.

“It is a very positive move on the part of the government. This initiative was needed as we need to get going with such projects that form part of strategic or sensitive areas. The focus has to be on projects such as Kishen Ganga and Bhagliar. This is certainly a very important move for the Jammu and Kashmir region that is starved of power,” a senior Power Ministry official said.