Unviable Arunachal hydro projects have been dumped on Central PSUs, say experts 

Arunachal Pradesh Government on August 12 signed agreements with the NHPC, NEEPCO, and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam for taking up 12 projects private firms gave up on

Published - August 13, 2023 06:51 pm IST - GUWAHATI

An Assam-based hydrologist said these projects should not have been taken up in the first place.

An Assam-based hydrologist said these projects should not have been taken up in the first place. | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

The 12 hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh that were officially handed over to three Central public sector undertakings (CPSUs) on August 12 are economically unviable, water resources experts said.

Private companies had given up on these projects with a total installed capacity of 11,523 megawatts, which would require at least ₹1,42,000 crore to be executed by the CPSUs.

The Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam and the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO) have been awarded five of these long-stalled projects each, with a total installed capacity of 5,097 MW and 2,626 MW, respectively. According to the agreement, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) would handle two projects (3,800 MW).

“The private sector no longer sees these projects economically viable and that is why they did not develop them even after putting in a lot of resources over the years. In the end, they sold it to the PSUs, at a loss in many cases,” Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams told The Hindu on Sunday.

“The public sector has no accountability and so they can implement unviable projects,” he added.

An Assam-based hydrologist, who did not want to be quoted, said these projects should not have been taken up in the first place. “Apart from being unviable, these guarantee disaster for Arunachal Pradesh and downstream regions in Assam,” he said.

‘Meeting net-zero goal’

Arunachal Pradesh’s Power Commissioner, Ankur Garg, signed the agreements with the heads of the three CPSUs on behalf of the State government in Itanagar in the presence of Power and New and Renewable Energy Minister, R.K. Singh, State Chief Minister Pema Khandu, and his Deputy CM Chowna Mein.

Mr. Singh assured the State that the CPSUs would start work on at least seven of the 12 projects by March 2024. He justified the government’s push for hydropower as it would contribute to the objective of net-zero carbon emissions by 2070, besides creating employment opportunities.

“The development of these projects will help achieve the declared nationally determined contribution target of India’s non-fossil energy capacity to reach 500 gigawatts by 2030,” Mr. Singh said.

In 2008, the Arunachal Pradesh Government came out with a Hydro Power Policy that entailed payment of upfront money per MW for projects to be set by private and public sector firms. The government was then headed by Dorjee Khandu, the father of the incumbent Chief Minister.

During Khandu senior’s tenure, the State government signed a total of 233 memorandums of understanding with 159 private and public companies for projects with power generation capacities of 47,000 MW.

In September 2019, the State government said in the Assembly that ₹1,495.6 crore was collected as upfront money from these firms.

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