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Samiran Saha, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 16, 2007
The sub-Himalayan water bodies in Nepal and Bhutan could hold the key to India’s power shortage. The government is examining the possibility of tapping the resources available in the storage dams of these countries to enhance energy supply. At present, power generation is skewed heavily towards thermal sources. According to Ministry of Power statistics, in India thermal power constitutes to about 64 per of the total power generating capacity while 25.2 per cent is constitutes by hydropower.

India’s total power generation capacity stands at 1,36,901 mega watts of which hydropower contributes about 34,390.76 megawatt or 25.2 per cent.

“Even if the remaining hydro potential in the country is fully harnessed in a time span of about 30 years, the thermal-hydro mix will still not be close to the ideal of 60:40 considering the increase in thermal capacity in the intervening period,” a senior official in the power ministry said.

India is currently importing power from 1,020 MW Tala Hydroelectric Power Project in Bhutan as part of the pact between India and the Druk kingdom. The project had started generation in July last year.

Though India has been exploring hydropower projects in Nepal, which also has immense hydropower potential, none of the big projects has taken off so far primarily due to political instability. “India,” according to the official, “is keen on Nepal developing its hydropower potential as the experience with Bhutan has shown,” the official said.

The official said development of hydropower project will ease India’s power woes to a very large extent especially in power deficient states of the northeastern region.

“With Nepal and Bhutan in proximity of the seven sister states, wheeling of power will be, easy and will not be fraught with huge transmission and distribution losses,” the official added.

Development of hydropower projects in the neighbouring countries, officials feel should be based on commercial principles where the host country, the project developer and the consumers in India share the benefits equitably.