NEW DELHI, Aug 19 � Faced with the growing public outcry in Assam over the impact of the big dams on the environment, the Power Ministry has decided to apply brakes in clearing hydropower projects upstream of Brahmaputra river, according priority to projects of strategic importance. Rapid environment impact studies on major tributaries of Brahmaputra river are to be completed in six to nine months.
Pending completion of these studies, Central and State agencies would continue to appraise new hydroelectric projects with a capacity of 20,000 MW for yielding benefits during the 12th Plan for grant of all necessary statutory and non-statutory clearances on merit, according to extant procedure.
Projects of strategic importance and those in advanced stages in the pipeline would be accorded priority. In the meanwhile, rapid environment impact assessment studies for sub-basins of the major tributaries of Brahmaputra would also be completed in six-nine months, said Minister of State for Power, K C Venugopal in a Lok Sabha reply.
In keeping with the recommendation by the Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG), the Power Ministry has decided to conduct sub-basin wise environment impact assessment studies for major tributaries of Brahmaputra river, Venugopal also added.
The Minister said the third meeting of the task force on hydro project development held last October decided to take timely advance action for hydel capacity addition of 20,000 MW in the 12th Plan would be taken by the States particularly the Himalayan States including the North- eastern States.
The Minister further said that in light of the high risk and uncertainties of hydel projects, particularly storage projects arising out of adverse geological surprises, delays in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement issues, law and order problems, natural calamities and as recommended by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), it was resolved that cost plus tariff regime may be continued for public, as well as private sector large-sized hydroelectric power projects.
The Minister added that in the meanwhile, studies would be conducted to work out the modalities for adoption of tariff based competitive bidding regime even for large hydel projects.
It has been also resolved that a level playing field would be provided to public sector hydro power projects by allowing merchants sale up to a maximum of 40 per cent of the saleable energy as provided in the new hydropower policy 2008.
Further, an inter-ministerial committee is proposed to be constituted under the chairmanship of Member (Energy), Planning Commission and comprise officers of Ministries of Power, Environment and Forest, Water Resources, New and Renewable Energy, Rural Development, CEA and CWC. The IMG would examine and resolve issues impeding the rapid development of hydroelectric projects including grant of clearances by the government agencies
The Power Ministry has disclosed that the Central Water Commission (CWC) would conduct the studies for Subansiri and Siang sub-basins in consultations with Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
The Centre�s measures were listed out by the Minister, stating that the terms of Reference (ToR) would be provided by Ministry of Environment and Forest and the studies would be completed expeditiously. Studies of other sub-basins would also be taken up subsequently by CWC and other identified agencies, he added.
The committee would make recommendations for accelerated development of hydroelectric projects and the Task Force would discuss it.