Explainer: The 624 MW Kiru hydroelectric project, its controversies and status | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Explainer: The 624 MW Kiru hydroelectric project, its controversies and status

Feb 27, 2024 07:28 PM IST

The project was in the spotlight after the CBI investigated the premises of former J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik last week

In river-rich Jammu and Kashmir, which has an estimated hydel power potential of around 20,000 megawatts, the spotlight is back on the 624 mega-watts Kiru hydroelectric project over the Chenab River in Kishtwar district, albeit for the wrong reasons.

The Kiru project is envisaged as a run-of-river hydropower scheme, in which dams are built, usually at a high point in the river’s flow, to create a pond(Photo via social media ) PREMIUM
The Kiru project is envisaged as a run-of-river hydropower scheme, in which dams are built, usually at a high point in the river’s flow, to create a pond(Photo via social media )

The union territory’s former governor Satya Pal Malik had claimed in October 2011 that he was offered 300 crores to clear two files, one of which pertained to the Kiru project, and that he had flagged the issue before Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Yet on February 22, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) searched 30 places, including three premises connected with Malik in Delhi, Gurugram in Haryana and Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, as part of its probe into the alleged corruption in the award of a contract for the Kiru hydel project.

“While Malik in October 2021 claimed he blew the lid off kickbacks being offered to him, the CBI has been probing if he had ever received any bribe. He is also among the list of suspects’” sources confided to Hindustan Times.

What is the Kiru project?

The Kiru hydroelectric project is being constructed on the Chenab River, near the meeting of the Chenab with its Singad and Bela tributaries, near Patharnakki and Kiru villages in the Kishtwar district in eastern J&K. It involves the construction of a 135-metre-high concrete gravity dam when measured from the deepest foundation level.

The Kiru project is envisaged as a run-of-river hydropower scheme, in which dams are built, usually at a high point in the river’s flow, to create a pond. Water is diverted from this pond to a powerhouse to generate electricity, then diverted back into the river. Kiru is being constructed between the existing Kirthai II (upstream) and Kwar (downstream) hydel power projects, is designed in accordance with the requirements of the Indus Water Treaty 1960, and will have an installed hydroelectric capacity of 624 megawatts. Once completed, the project would generate 2272.02 MU.

The project will include the construction of a 135-metre high concrete gravity dam near Kiru. The powerhouse will be located on the left bank of the Chenab near Kiru. A 182-metre-long, 23.6-metre wide and 51.2-metre-high cavern is being excavated for the powerhouse, which will include four vertical Francis turbines, each with a power generating capacity of 156 MW. A 137-metre-long, 17-metre wide and 15-metre-high transformer-cum-draft tube gate cavern will also be created as part of the powerhouse complex.

The project was awarded scoping (identification of potential environmental impacts) clearance by the ministry of environment forests and climate change in September 2008 and revalidated for an installed capacity of 624MW in September 2015. Environment clearance was issued in June 2016 and the project received approval from the state administrative council (SAC) in January 2019, when undivided J&K was under President’s rule through Governor Girish Chandra Murmu. At the time it was sanctioned, the project was estimated to cost 4,287 crore and the deadline for its completion was July 2025. The foundation stone for the Kiru hydroelectric power project was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 3, 2019.

What are the corruption allegations?

On June 13, 2011, Chenab Valley Power Projects Private Limited (CVPPPL) was formed at the initiative of the then J&K state government and the Union government to harness the vast hydropower potential of river Chenab. CVPPL is a joint venture between NHPC Limited (formerly the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd), a Mini Ratna public sector undertaking, which has a 51% stake, and Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (JKSPDC), with a 49% stake. CVPPPL had allotted the Kiru contract to Mumbai-based Patel Engineering Limited.

It has been alleged that guidelines regarding e-tendering were not followed while awarding contracts for civil works related to the Kiru project. In October 2021, Malik had claimed at an event in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan that he was told he would get a 300 crore bribe if he cleared two files belonging to “Ambani” and an “RSS-affiliated man” during his tenure, but he cancelled the deals, and praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for supporting his decision by saying there is no need to compromise on corruption.

“After going to Kashmir, two files came to me (for clearance), one belonging to Ambani and another to an RSS-affiliated man who was a minister in the previous Mehbooba Mufti-led (PDP-BJP coalition) government and who claimed to be very close to the prime minister,” Malik had said in Jhunjhunu. At that time, Malik was governor of Meghalaya.

“I was informed by secretaries in both departments that there was a scandal involved and I accordingly cancelled both deals. The secretaries told me that ‘you will get 150 crore each for clearing the files’ but I told them that I have come with five kurta-pajamas and will leave with that only,” Malik had told the gathering.

Following allegations of irregularities in the award of civil works, the CBI has since 2019 been probing the award of a 2,200 crore civil works contract for the Kiru project to a private firm. The investigative agency registered a case on April 20, 2022, against officials of CVPPPL, a private company and unknown others.

“Though a decision was taken in CVPPPL’s 47th board meeting for re-tender through e-tendering with the reverse auction, after the cancellation of the ongoing tendering process, the same was not implemented and the tender was finally awarded to Patel Engineering Limited. The terms of the contract were modified to suit the requirements of Patel Engineering Limited,” official sources alleged.

“The CBI in its probe has found that guidelines have been flouted during tendering the award for civil works,” said a senior official. “At the 47th board meeting of CVPPPL, the tender was cancelled after it was found inappropriate. Thereafter, it was modified and awarded to Patel Engineering at the 48th board meeting,” he added.

On April 21, 2022, the CBI conducted simultaneous raids at 14 locations including the residences of the then principal secretary agriculture development Navin Choudhary at Gandhi Nagar in Jammu and Darbhanga in Bihar, and former CVPPPL officers, after the agency registered two FIRs.

Besides Navin Choudhary, raids were also conducted at the houses of M.S. Babu, M.K. Mittal and Arun Kumar Mishra, all former officers of the CVPPPL and proprietors of Patel Engineers Mumbai.

What is the current status of the Kiru hydroelectric project?

“The CBI probe into charges of corruption is altogether a different issue and hasn’t impacted the project work. It is moving as per timeline and its deadline is end 2025,” said an official of the CVPPPL, who added that nearly 30% of the project work was complete, as of January 2024. However, other officials told Hindustan Times that the likely date of completion is March 2026.

“The work is going on at the project site and it is on course,” JKSPDC Managing Director Pankaj Magotra told Hindustan Times. He also informed that the revised cost of the project was over 5300 crores. This is a near 25% increase from the original project cost of 4,287.5 crore.

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    A principal correspondent, Ravi Krishnan Khajuria is the bureau chief at Jammu. He covers politics, defence, crime, health and civic issues for Jammu city.

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