NHPC hope pill for power-starved state

GUWAHATI: The power corporation feels that the state has the option of increasing its share of power from the 200 MW Lower Subansiri hydro-electric project.

"At present, Assam's share of free and allocated power from the Lower Subansiri project is about 250 MW. In fact, the state can get more power in future from the project. Negotiation between the Assam government and the Union power ministry is going on over increasing the quantum of power share for the state. We hope that it will yield some positive results," a senior NHPC official said here on Tuesday.

Of the total 2000 MW of power, about 1000 MW has so far been allocated for seven northeastern states. Arunachal Pradesh, where the project is being constructed, will get 12 per cent from the installed capacity. At present, Assam's share is 1.25 per cent free power and 208 MW of paid power.

The Assam government has been seeking a hike in the quota of free power to six per cent. Recently, state power minister Pradyut Bordoloi said Assam has been demanding an increase in the quantum of power share from the Lower Subansiri project.

With 50 per cent of the Lower Subansiri project, the biggest so far in southeast Asia, already completed, NHPC officials said the Assam government has pledged facilitating transport of turbines. The machineries are currently stranded in Dhubri because of stiff opposition from anti-dam activists.

"Three turbines have already reached the construction site, but two others are still in Dhubri. The state government has assured us of facilitating safe transport of the two turbines. All the major challenges facing the project such as landslides have been taken care of. We hope to complete the project by 2014," the NHPC official said.

The Lower Subansiri prject has been facing stiff opposition from anti-dam groups such as the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) on the ground that it might cause large-scale downstream impact in the form of floods and siltation. Assam is situated in the downstream area of the project.

Despite opposition, work on the project is on and over Rs 5000 crore has already been invested. The total project cost has been estimated at Rs 10,500 crore.

Allaying apprehension of any adverse downstream impact, the official said flood cushion measures would effectively take care of the problem. "During monsoon, we will lower the reservoir level to mitigate the impact of floods," the official said.

A steering committee comprising experts from the Central Water Commission, the Brahmaputra Board, IIT Roorkee, the state water resources department and NHPC has been entrusted with the task to carry out a study on the project's downstream impact.

The panel, constituted by NHPC following a request from the Assam government, will also suggest measures on mitigating downstream impact. NHPC officials said the committee has already covered 130 km up to the confluence of the Subansiri and the Brahmaputra as part of its downstream impact study.