Fooling the Government and the Public

Notwithstanding the above it might be worthwhile to take a look at what has been the achievements of central utilities, other state utilities and private sector involved in development of hydro power projects in the last few decades and then briefly discuss JKSPDC and its projects.
Fooling the Government and the Public
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Recently the Chief Minister took a review of the power sector including JKSPDC. During the meeting JKSPDC presented her with the same old story which they have been consistently presenting to her predecessors for the past several years; to Omar Abdullah in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and in 2015 to Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. The message in the supposedly updated presentation in 2016 was the same as in the previous years; 'we will generate 9000MW in the next 6 years'. Governments have changed at both the Centre and in the State, there have been several change of guards in JKSPDC but the message has stayed the same – 9000MW in 6 years – for the past 4 years. The 850MW Ratle HEP was abandoned by the private developer, EPC tender for 1000MW Pakal Dul has since been cancelled and even after 17 years the updating of the DPR of 1856MW Sawalkote is still under review by CEA, TEC is still awaited for 624MW Kiru, but the 9000MW figures in 6 years stays put. The 6 year period appearing in all these versions, from 2012 to 2016, only means that there has not been any progress at all on these projects in the last 4 years. 

Notwithstanding the above it might be worthwhile to take a look at what has been the achievements of central utilities, other state utilities and private sector involved in development of hydro power projects in the last few decades and then briefly discuss JKSPDC and its projects.

On the national level there are 22 state government utilities (like JKSPDC), 8 central utilities (like NHPC) and 15 private players who are involved in development of hydro power and who own a total of 193 operational hydro power projects in the country. The aggregate capacity of these 193 projects is about 42,660MW. Without going too far into distant past let us take a quick look at how hydro power has developed in the last thirty years. 

In the last thirty years, projects with an installed capacity of 27,745MW have been commissioned at all India level – centre, states and private sector all put together. This averages to about 925MW per year. Likewise in the last twenty years projects with an installed capacity of 22,280MW have been commissioned which works out to 1,114MW per year. The figures for the last ten years (2006-07 to 2015-16) are 11,501MW averaging again around 1,150MW per year. So on an average we can conclude that 41 companies pan India, involved in development of hydro power, could on an average commission only about 1,100MW per year.  

The best performance ever in these thirty years has been 2590MW in a year which was achieved in 2003-04 when the Central Government had put a lot of focus and attention on developing the hydro sector by initiating among other things, the 50,000MW initiative etc in 2003. Money pumped into ongoing delayed under development projects in order to commission them. On the hand, the lowest capacity commissioned in a year was in 2009-10 when only 34 MW of hydro projects were commissioned in the country – this includes all state and central utilities and private sector projects. 

In J&K we have had 105MW Lower Jhelum HEP commissioned 1978-79. And then two decades thereafter we had the 105 MW Upper Sindh II HEP commissioned in 1999. After a 4 year delay Baglihar I was commissioned in 2008 and now Baglihar II in 2015. Effectively we have commissioned about 1110MW in last 40 years. This works out to an average of 28MW per year. If we consider the period prior to Baglihar I & II, the average rate of commissioning is less than 7MW per year. Baglihar HEP, as I have always maintained, was driven by the contractor and not by JKSPDC.  

So it can be clearly seen from above that the capacity, even at all India level, to deliver hydro projects is limited. In realistic basis it is only proper to estimate that around 1100MW can be commissioned annually at all India level – by 41 companies including JKSPDC. I wonder how JKSPDC can project that 9000MW will be commissioned in J&K in the coming 6 years which averages to 1500MW per year.  

I am amazed at this optimism of our JKSPDC who without any great track record have kept on reiterating for the past 4 years their aspirational commitment to commission 9000MW in the next 6 years. I wonder if they have any idea of what they are committing themselves to. We are not talking of the finances and funding required nor of the technical capabilities and skills. It is simply a capacity issue including, amongst others, that of suppliers, vendors, contactors and designers to deliver such ambitious figures. At Baglihar I costing this translates to spending Rs 100 crore every day for the next 6 years. Do we have the capacity to spend at that high rate? Our various state engineering departments struggle to spend a few thousand crores in a year.   

It seems for JKSPDC these are just figures which make good headlines and which they convey to the politicians to keep them happy. Only when you understand your strengths, know your weakness and are seized of the challenges ahead will you be able to develop a strategy to achieve your goals. Here I do not see anyone of that in JKSPDC. And this is mainly because there is no accountability in the system – I am sure in the reviews meetings no one was ever quizzed about these moving targets. I am pretty certain we will have a very similar, if not same, presentation next year's review as well – 9000MW in six years – and participants will go home very pleased having heard what they wanted to hear.      

Iftikhar A Drabu is a civil engineer from NIT (previously REC), Srinagar

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