NEW DELHI: India has been slow in exploiting hydropower potential in the northeastern region of the country especially on rivers flowing from China but the recent discussion after the Uri attack has forced the government to rethink. It is now contemplating acceleration of the region’s hydropower potential, especially Arunachal Pradesh, to establish its right on the waters of the Brahmaputra and have a strong ground against China which recently blocked a small tributary of the Brahmaputra river.
The Union Power, Environment and Water ministries are now working together to kick-start stalled hydropower projects in the Northeast and a report in this regards has already been submitted to the PMO. The government is working on a two-pronged strategy to deal with it—ease green clearance process and push smaller hydro projects.
“Many discussions have taken place after the Uri fiasco. The government has decided to fasten the work on exploiting India’s right over water under the Indus water treaty. Similarly, now when it comes to strategic decisions regarding China, environment may get compromised. The government is now keen to take strategic decisions on Indus Treaty and China, and it can be expected soon,” water ministry sources said.
According to the water ministry, monsoon brings 80 per cent water in the region but is only for three months and that needs to be stored in dams. Many hydro-projects are stuck in the Northeast due to environmental concerns but the government feels it’s time strategic reasons overrode environment concerns. As per government estimates, the region has a potential of hydropower projects worth over 63,000 MW but, at present, less than 5 per cent is being utilised. Of the 63,000 MW, about 50,000 MW is in Arunachal alone which has over 100 planned projects. But with protests by tribes and slow environment and forest clearances, most projects are yet to start.
“Lots of projects are stuck in Arunachal Pradesh. We have had several rounds of talks with the power ministry to push it. Large hydropower projects involve environmental and submergence issues. Thus we are planning to divide them into two or three smaller ones. This will help in dealing with displacement issues as most of the land in Arunachal Pradesh are owned by tribes and they don’t want to part with the land,” the sources added. Official also clarified that China is not controlling the Brahmaputra.
“To generate power, China is constructing power houses on the river and the water has to flow down unless they divert that water to China that will require construction of tunnel for about 100 km. We have ways to deal with that as well when it is required. But right now the focus is to do our bit and fully exploit the country’s hydropower potential,” sources said.