Srinagar, Oct 9: In a significant move Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on Saturday cleared the decks for state government to charge the government of India owned National Hydro Electric Power Corporation and state owned power companies for harnessing the state's water resources for power generation.
For the first time, the companies would also be liable in case of a disaster caused due to faulty design in hydro power projects owned by them in Jammu and Kashmir.
Besides, under the new Act, hydraulic experts would be inspecting the dams and other facilities built on the projects for any threat to the human life and environment.
Upbeat over the nod by the Legislative Assembly to the bill – Jammu and Kashmir Water Resources (Regulation and Management bill) – all set to become a law now, the Minister for Public Health and Engineering, Taj Mohi-ud-Din, said it would have a great impact on the fortunes of the state and was the first step towards making Jammu and Kashmir, economically viable.
Taj said the NHPC and state owned companies were earning more than Rs 7,140 crore annually from different hydroelectric projects operated by them in Jammu and Kashmir.
"They will be charged two paisa per cubic meter for using water for power generation but there will be no levy or tax. From the preliminary calculations made by the department, the companies will now require to pay at least Rs 850 crore to the state government against the usage of water for power generation. They will have to pay if they earn such huge money from the water resources which belong to state," Taj said, ruling out any impact of the Act on the Indus Water Treaty.
Under the Act, the government would set up a regulatory body, State Water Resources Regulatory Authority, which would be deciding on fixing the liability and charging tariff rates for water usage by the power companies.
"We are very serious about this Act. The Regulator Authority will be set up in next two months to set the process of recovery in motion," Taj said.
The move to fix the liability follows tragic loss of 25 human lives caused due to the "faulty design" in URI-I power project owned by the NHPC.
Now onwards, Taj said the power companies whether NHPC or those owned by the state would be responsible for any kind of damage to the environment or human life in case there was a disaster caused due to the flaw in the projects.
"Encouraged by the state government's move, the central Water Commission is also contemplating to make a law on safety of dams similar to the one we have proposed," said Taj.
The passed-bill mentions every licensee shall be under an obligation to ensure the safety of life and property of inhabitants of the area under the operation of the scheme (project), and of water sources and hydraulic works and protection thereof against any damage or danger caused or likely to be caused by the un-controllable release of water or hazardous waste caused by the collapse or failure of any unit, dam, barrage or hydraulic work.
It goes on to say that every licensee shall be bound to allow the licensing authority or any other officer authorized by the authority to have access at any time to the design, construction, alternation, repair, maintenance and operation of the licensed unit under the set terms and conditions.
"Due to the faulty design in the Uri-I which results in automatic and sudden release of water 25 persons were washed away. We have repeatedly asked the authorities concerned (of NHPC) to put in the alarm system in place but to no avail," Taj said.
He said the dams and other facilities built on the power projects would be subjected to regular inspection by water experts after a certain period of time to check out whether there is any faulty design which has the potential to put at risk the human live and environs in the vicinity of the power projects.
The minister said at present the volume of water present in the state was roughly about one lakh million acre feet out of which 33930 million cubic of water was exploited by the companies for power generation.
The bill would be tabled in the upper house tomorrow ahead of sending it to the governor NN Vohra for his approval.