It took China four years to complete the 1,181 km long Gormu-Lhasa railroad line that crisscrosses hostile terrain, but in Himachal Pradesh's tribal Kinnaur district, which shares its boundary with China, implementation of project timelines is an altogether different matter. Even 17 years after work on the 150 km long power transmission lines in the area began the state electricity board has yet to complete the project.
Aimed at providing interrupted power supply in the tribal areas, particularly in the winter months, the state government conceived the project to install 66 kilowatt transmission lines in 1997. One of the objects was to provide uninterrupted power to remote regions in Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti districts.
However, ironically work on the power line has yet to be completed even though Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had ordered a high level probe into the delay in laying the power lines on which the electricity board has already spent Rs 50 crore. "It's strange the work has not yet been completed," said Kinnaur legislator Jagat Singh Negi, whose is also the deputy speaker of the state assembly.
"Transmission towers installed by the electricity board are not of good quality and many of them collapsed during the winter," said Negi, adding time and again he had been raising the issue with the electricity department "The transmission lines could have eased the power woes of hundreds of tribals during the winter months," he added.
The issue had come to the fore last year during the monsoon session of the assembly. Soon after the session the government had asked the directorate of energy to ascertain the cause for the delay in completing the project. After probing the matter the directorate submitted its report to the government that was not satisfied asked officials to again look into matter.
The Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board has cited difficult terrain as one of the reasons for the delay, besides the losses it suffered during the Sutlej river floods in 2000. "It's not easy to lay power transmission lines in the difficult terrain," said Pratap Negi, chief managing director of HPSEBL, who claims the winter snow had damaged more than 80 towers.
"Transmission towers came down during the winter snow. This time the towers that are being installed are of high quality," Negi said, claiming the 2000 floods also hampered progress in the work. "The floods washed away an HPSEB store in Tapri village. The project is likely to be completed by May next year,", he added.
Meanwhile, area residents are once again worried about the problems they face in winter, particularly in absence of power supply. The 2 MW Rong Tong power project that supplies electricity to Spiti has been nonoperational for the past two years for want of repairs. HPSEB has been carrying out repair works but it would take another few weeks for the hydel project to start generating power.
"I've taken up the issue numerous times with the electricity board," said Ravi Thakur, Congress party legislator from Lahaul and Spiti and vice chairperson for the National Commission for "Schedule Tribes".