Govt’s power boost for Andaman to make islands key hub of Indo Pacific

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Aug 12, 2020 10:19 AM IST

The proposed 50 MW gas-based power project is aimed at reducing the dependence of Andaman and Nicobar Islands on diesel, the predominant source of the islands’ electricity mix.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who launched India’s first undersea optical fibre project this week, has stepped up his government’s efforts to give Andaman and Nicobar Islands its first big power project as part of a continuing massive effort to upgrade infrastructure in the archipelago of over 572 Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

The government will build a Rs 10,000 crore port designed to turn Great Nicobar Island a major transportation hub(Twitter/Indian Navy)
The government will build a Rs 10,000 crore port designed to turn Great Nicobar Island a major transportation hub(Twitter/Indian Navy)

PM Modi had laid the foundation stone for the 50 megawatt gas-based power plant at Hope Town in South Andaman during his visit to the island in December 2018. One tender to establish the plant has been issued and the bids will be opened on 28 August; bids to set up the gas infrastructure and supply of gas will be opened on 18 August.

Senior officials said the different projects are part of the government’s overarching vision for the islands and use them as a springboard to open up new opportunities for India in South-East Asia. It was in this context, one official said, that PM Modi on Monday unveiled plans to build a transshipment port at Great Nicobar Island.

PM Modi said this would give ships an alternative to similar ports in the region.

Officials said New Delhi wants to pitch the proposed Rs 10,000 crore port to be built at Great Nicobar Island as an alternative to other ports in the neighbourhood including those in Sri Lanka and Indonesia’s Banda Aceh.

“The idea is to turn Andaman into a major transportation hub that is at the heart of India’s Look East policy,” a second government official said. Already, plans are afoot to expand the runway at the Campbell bay airport.

The proposed port lies at the mouth of the Strait of Malacca, the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. This is one of the most important sea routes. More than 90 percent of crude oil volumes flowing through the South China Sea transits the Malacca Strait.

The port is also located strategically near the proposed Kra Isthmus Canal, also known as the Thai Canal, that would connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea and shorten transit for oil shipments to Japan and China by 1,200 km.

Against this background, officials said the need for a steady and clean power source is crucial for expansion of infrastructure. So far, diesel is the predominant source of the electricity mix of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The 50 MW plant will supplement the 20 MW solar power project commissioned by the Neyveli Lignite Corporation. This plant has been integrated with an 8 MWh battery energy storage system. A 5 MW solar plant set up by NTPC is already in operation.

A power ministry official said the power distribution in the islands is already being privatized under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative. The transaction advisor has already completed discussions with the union territory’s power department and the ministry of power in Delhi and are expected to complete the transaction documents by September 2020.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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