No lessons being learnt from underperforming hydropower projects

By Himanshu Thakkar and Bipib Chaturvedi

, by Infochange

Only four of the 12 hydropower projects in the Northeast generate at their projected 90% dependability or higher. The rest are underperforming miserably. Regardless, several big projects are under construction in the Northeast. Why don’t the stakeholders analyse the performance and impact of large hydro projects before promoting more of them?

Northeast India is viewed as having huge hydropower potential, up to 60,000 MW or more. A number of big projects are under construction or in various stages of active consideration. This has led to serious questions on issues ranging from governance to environment, and social and economic impact. The projects are also likely to affect people’s capacity to cope with climate change, considering their dependence on natural resources, including forests, rivers, and biodiversity.

Considering the geo-seismic situation and fragile erosion-prone mountains of the eastern Himalayas and its silt-laden rivers, the appropriateness of large hydro projects has come under fresh scrutiny. Huge movements have built up in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and many other parts of the Northeast in view of the serious downstream impact of these projects, including changes in the flood characteristics of rivers. Poor appraisal and even poorer compliance are characteristics of such projects in India; in the Northeast the situation is much worse.

In this context, it would be relevant to see what the hydropower generating performance of existing projects has been. All the figures used here are from the Central Electricity Authority, the Government of India’s premier technical monitoring body in the power sector. The figures have been taken either from the CEA website or from CEA publications, or have been obtained under the Right to Information Act.

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