Wednesday, March 11, 2009

From Mohra to Baglihar

JK electric potential, a story of feats and defeats

Srinagar, Mar 10: More than a hundred years back when the then Maharaja of J&K in 1905 commissioned a 3 MW powerhouse, Mohra, it was a remarkable feat. Remember, it was the time when states in the neighborhood of J&K were groping in darkness.
 By 1980 J&K had almost become self-sufficient in power with the successful commissioning of 105 MW lower Jhelum project. Officials in power ministry say the state was generating about 200 MW at that stage and exporting some power during summer periods.
 But then came the ‘slowdown.’ The successive governments didn’t develop this sector paving way for the centre government to exploit the water resources of the state.
 In 80s the officials say the state government one after another handed over three major power schemes – 690 MW Salal, 480 MW Uri and 390 MW Dul Hasti – to the centre government under the terms and conditions not known.
 Since 1996 the state tried to develop some major hydro power projects. The government had eye on seven projects. They were 240 MW Uri II, 330 MW Kishanganga, 120 MW Seva II, 1000 MW Bursar, 1020 MW Pakaldul, 44 MW Chitak, 45 MW Nemo-Buzgo.
 The government had got the concurrence of the internationally reputed agencies for funding. The agencies had given detailed project reports to JK Power Development Corporation (SPDC).
 The foreign agencies had agreed to provide 85 percent financial assistance to the state government in developing these projects. The state government had got concurrence for developing Kishanganga and Uri II power projects from the companies which had developed Uri I. And for Seva the concurrence had come from the Seva Power Consortium.
 However the government of India allegedly stalled the projects by refusing to give counter guarantee. The counter guarantee is sovereign guarantee with which the government of India declares to foreign company that it would clear the debt in case of default by the state government.
 The state government had worked hard to develop these projects on their own as they have manpower and capability “which is being deliberately undermined to pave way for others to exploit our water resources.”
 With the government of India refusing to give counter guarantee for the State to develop and use its own water resources, the then NC government led by Farooq Abdullah assigned the seven projects to Government of India.
 On July 20, 2000 an MoU was signed between the then Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Dr Farooq Abdullah and then Minister of Power Government of India, Kumaramanglam. The State government however had insisted government of India should include BOOT (Built Own Operate and Transfer) basis in the agreement, which the GoI had reportedly agreed but in the MoU this condition was skipped.
 Under the BOOT, the project is transferred to the State after 35 years. The agreement instead stated that the details of transfer would be worked out later.
 The State government would get only 12 percent royalty from these projects and rest of the power would be allocated to different States by the Government of India which would purchase the power.
 In 2000 the state started working on the Baglihar project. The project despite hiccups and controversies was completed by the state government only in nine years.
 Shakeel Kalander is president Federation Chambers of Industries Kashmir. He describes Baglihar as success story of the state government. “Despite objections from Pakistan and financial constraints the state government completed the project only in nine years. It took NHPC 23 years to complete Dul Hasti and 26 years to complete Salal hydro power project and they have not paid the state for the excess period,” he said, adding that it speaks volumes about their efficiency.
 He said the Baglihar experiment should have brought confidence in the state government and it should have made the SPDC as listed company at the pattern of J&K Bank.
 “The SPDC should be taken out of government control. It should function on the pattern of J&K Bank. It should have board and the chief executive officer with state government’s least interference and CEO should be highly professional in his field. He could be a national figure or international expert. I think we should not have any objection to pay him over a Rs lakh salary,” he adds.
 He said presently the SPDC has faced the same fate as other corporations and in present manner it can’t do any good to the State. “There is no doubt the State has man power and capability.  The State cadre officers are highly capable. But they need a listed company on the pattern J&K Bank to exploit water resources of the State for the benefit of the state,” he said.
 But here is the irony. Though the Baglihar project was developed in nine years, the state government for these years has failed to train SPDC staff to operate the project.
 “For nine years the government could have trained the staff. Even now the SIMENS has approached the state government asking it that they would train the staff in some months but the state government has made up its mind and has decided to give the operating contract to NHPC,” sources said adding that the state government has not accepted the offer of SIMENS though it is cheaper.
 A senior official of the power ministry told Greater Kashmir that the contract would be signed for two months only. He said in those two months the SPDC staff would be given training to operate the Baglihar power project. That means for now the project would be under NHPC.

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