The government wants to expedite work on three hydro power projects in Sawalkote, Pakal Dul and Bursar on the Chenab and its tributary in Jammu and Kashmir after it reviewed the Indus Waters Treaty on Monday following the Uri attack and deterioration of ties with Pakistan.
The three projects can potentially generate 3656 MW of energy which experts say will give a huge boost to the power-deficit state.
HT spoke to government officials and assessed the status of the three projects, all of which fall in the Jammu region of the state. The officials also added that the work on the projects would not violate the principles of IWT or hamper the flow of water to Pakistan.
The biggest of three is the Sawalkote project in Ramban district on the Chenab river with a 192.5-metre dam and an expected power generation capacity of 1856 MW . The project is being constructed by Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (JKSPDC).
JKSPDC Limited says on its website: “The project is under appraisal by Central Electricity Authority (CEA). The project is included in the priority projects monitored by CEA on regular basis. The necessary techno economic clearance is expected soon.”
A top government official in the project told HT: “Of the 30 clearances necessary for the project, 20 have been received. The ultimate clearance will be given by CEA. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 18,560 crores.”
He added: “We had started the process for obtaining clearances in 2014 and it is expected that by the end of this year we will get all the clearances.”
He said that the pre-construction stage of the project is underway with work going on for developing roads, bridges and staff colony at the site.
The official informed that the project would in no way affect the flow of water to Pakistan. “According to the treaty, we would start storing the water, after the dam’s construction, during June and August period when the water level remains very high and does not affect the flow. The process would be obviously monitored by Indian commission of IWT,” he said.
The Pakal Dul project has an estimated capacity of 1000 MW and is to be constructed on the Marusudar, the main tributary of the Chenab at village Drangdhuran about 45kms from Kishtwar town. It is being constructed by Chenab Valley Power Projects Limited, a joint venture of JKSPDC, NHPC and Power Trading Corporation (PTC).
The project envisages a 167-metre high dam and an underground power house near village Dul.
“All clearances have been received for this dam but there was a problem with the first tender submissions and we may go for re-tendering. The approved cost of the project is Rs 8112 crores,” said a top official of the project.
The official added that the project also would not impact the flow of water into Pakistan.
The Bursar Hydroelectric Project, with an estimated capacity of 800MW which is to be constructed by the NHPC, is a “storage project” planned in Kishtwar district but is currently under survey and investigation for preparation of a detailed report.
The NHPC website says that the project will allow the regulation of the flow of water and thus benefit itself and all other downstream projects by enhancing their potential.
“The storage provided is intended to be used for additional power generation during lean flow months and releasing regulated flow in the downstream,” the website adds.
Sources say the estimated cost of the project will be over Rs 8,000 crore. Experts explained to HT how the projects will boost the state’s power generation.
Dheeraj Gupta, Jammu and Kashmir’s commissioner/secretary power, told HT that the expediting the work on the three projects will obviously benefit the state.
He said, “In the joint ventures by the JKSPDC and the NHPC, the state will get 49% of the total power generated. On the projects done solely by the JKSPDC, the state will get the total power generated. Power is money.”
Power department officials added that the state receives 12% royalty (in terms of power) from the projects being constructed by the NHPC.
An expert on the IWT, Lt Gen Pramod Grover (retd) said that fast-tracking these under-construction dams on the Chenab will reduce J-K’s energy deficiency.
“J-K buys 12,000 MW a year. Right now the state is tapping only 1/8 of the power generation potential of the river under the Indus Waters Treaty. That means an opportunity loss of Rs 40,000 crore a year,” he said.
Prof Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, professor and head, department of earth sciences, University of Kashmir, pointed out that these projects will help the government “kill two birds with one stone”.
“On one hand, these projects will help national economic growth and on the other, the grievance of the state’s people that such projects do not help them will also be addressed,” he said.
On the projects, turning on the heat on Pakistan, the professor agreed with what government officials told HT.
He said, “No, these projects will definitely not affect Pakistan. These are run-of-the-river projects which are very much provided for in the IWT.”
The Indus waters treaty is one of the most liberal water sharing pacts in the world. The agreement covers six rivers — the three eastern rivers of Ravi, Beas, Sutlej and their tributaries and the three western rivers of Indus, Jhelum, Chenab and their tributaries.
Water from the eastern rivers has been allocated to India, and New Delhi is obligated to let 80% water from the western rivers flow to Pakistan. The treaty gives the lower riparian Pakistan more “than four times” the water available to India.