Rapid Exploitation of Hydropower Potential for Sustainable Economic Development of Himachal Pradesh

Article excerpt

Introduction

India plans to build up mainly run-of-the-river projects, multi-use hydropower plants with water storage facilities which can be important flood controllers, support irrigation, and provide much-needed drinking water. Further, India's hydro-resources are largely available in the poorest parts of the country. These resources provide huge potential for overall socioeconomic development, poverty alleviation and regional development. Also, hydropower holds an important role in energy and development strategies of India, such natural resource projects are inherently challenging. Environmental and social impacts-potentially both positive and negative--are inevitable. The responsible response is to develop a clear understanding of such impacts, drawing from analytical as well as local knowledge, and minimize the negative impacts should then be appropriately mitigated and compensated; with ongoing monitoring and adaptive management where necessary.

The government has set the target for India's optimum power system mix at 40 percent from hydropower and 60 percent from thermal/nuclear power. The existing ratio at 25:75, falls far short of this optimum, causing severe power shortages particularly during peak periods and technical and economic problem in grid operation. The country, therefore, plans to increase hydropower's share in power generation to 28 percent by the year 2007, and to reach the target of 40 percent over the longer term.

In the past decade, the development of hydropower in India has significantly enhanced. The government has ensured that the methodology used by central power agencies to select sites has improved and has insisted upon: greater public consultation, better monitoring of environmental and social aspects of projects, improvements in resettlement policy and practice, as well as in institutional capacity related to project identification, engineering and design.

In order to increase the country's hydropower capacity speedily and to attain international standards in hydropower design and construction, the Government of India has requested World Bank for liberal financial support. The World Bank aims to assist the Government of India in meeting its targets for hydropower expansion in a financially, economically, and technically sound manner. It also aims to ensure that such projects meet the good environmental and social practices which have been developed by the industry in recent years. The Bank has been engaged in hydropower in India since the late 1950s. The two most recent Bank engagements, Nathpa Jhakri and Koyna IV--both approved in 1989--have been successfully completed with the help of Bank finance. At the request of the Government of India, the World Bank has agreed to consider supporting the Rampur Hydropower Project downstream from Nathpa Jhakri (NJHP) on the River Satluj in Himachal Pradesh. This is a run-of-the river project that will use the water exiting NJHP to generate about 1900 million units of electricity per year.

Hydro Power Potential in Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh has an enormous hydro power potential and in the course of preliminary hydrological, topographical and geological investigations, it has been projected that about 21,244 MW of hydro power can be generated in the State, by constructing various major, medium, small and micro hydro projects on five perennial river basins. In addition, a large number of unidentified areas have still been left in the river basins which can contribute substantially to the power potential of Himachal Pradesh. Also in view of the rising cost of thermal and nuclear generation, many identified projects which have been excluded due to high cost of generation, will also become viable in future. Out of the total hydro power potential only 3942.07 MW has been harnessed so far, out of which only 326.80 MW is under the control of Himachal Pradesh as bulk of the potential has been exploited by the Central Government and other agencies. …