50,000 MW hydropower initiative unveiled

Monday, 26 May 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee Saturday unveiled a road map for accelerating economic development in India, with a 50,000 MW hydroelectricity initiative that will boost power generation from 2007.

This is in addition to the country's plan to add 14,393 MW hydroelectric generation capacity by 2007, of which project implementation of around 10,000 MW is already under way.

"Power is a critical input for any economic activity. Its sufficiency is a prerequisite for speeding up India's economic growth and improving the living standards of all our citizens," said Vajpayee, addressing a function at Vigyan Bhavan here.

Stating that without power people cannot be empowered, Vajpayee said: "Political power is being increasingly influenced by our ability to meet the power needs of our people."

The prime minister acknowledged that the frequent power cuts in large parts of the country have led to growing impatience among the people with the authorities.

"Power cuts have become all too common in areas where common people live and work," he said. This is not only true for rural areas, with large parts still to get connected to the power grid, but also for many of the town and cities.

"Persisting problems in the power sector have become perhaps the biggest bottleneck in the realization of India's immense developmental potential," said Vajpayee.

Power-starved India has set a target of doubling its power generation capacity by 2012 -- its present capacity is 106,000 MW. Around 44,000 MW of the new capacity is to be created by 2007 largely through government funding.

The new power initiative will see 162 schemes being implemented in 12 states, Arunachal Pradesh alone accounting for 25,690 MW of the new capacity addition.

Private sector participation has been lacking for many reasons, not the least of which is the poor fiscal health of state power utilities. U.S-based Enron Corporation's Dabhol power project is one such mega project that has run aground due to such weakness in the system.

With the new electricity legislation having been passed earlier this month to remove some of the lacunae, Vajpayee expressed hope that there would be more action now on project implementation.

Addressing the concerns of greens, Vajpayee said within two months the national resettlement and rehabilitation plan norms for project-affected people would be in place.

He was also critical of wastage of electricity. "We are not paying enough attention to energy conservation measures."

Through the new 50,000 MW initiative, India is planning to increase the share of hydropower from around 25 percent currently to about 40 percent as was the case two decades ago.

"The cost of hydropower generation is less and free from effects of volatile oil prices. This would also enhance our country's energy security," said Vajpayee.

Power Minister Anant G. Geete said project implementation of the new initiative would not be a problem because ample funds were being made available for hydropower projects. This year alone about 170 billion was sanctioned for power projects and 140 billion had been set aside for hydropower projects.

Through a three-stage project clearance, the projects would be undertaken with the help of state-owned utilities, state governments and the private sector in phases beginning 2007.

Source: IANS
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