Powerless State:Time To Revive Demand For Return Of Power Projects From NHPC

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SRINAGAR — Around  84 percent of the 3593 MW of energy generated in J&K goes to  northern grid and the state buys a chunk of  it back  for its consumption at a hefty cost of  Rs 7000 crores annually. But that is still not enough to give us an uninterrupted supply.

We are a state, and it is a clichéd irony to repeat, which exports power to the rest of country but faces  severe electricity shortages through the year, more so in winter. And for this,  successive state governments are squarely to blame. True, Indus Water Treaty has fundamentally hobbled J&K’s capacity to exploit its water resources for power generation and there is little that the state can do so far as righting the wrongs under IWT are concerned. The treaty gave Pakistan exclusive rights over J&K’s three rivers, Jhelum, Chenab and Indus, while India got the right for the exclusive use of Sutlej, Beas and Ravi. Under the treaty, J&K can build only run-of-the-river projects to fulfil its energy needs. But even here, the need for massive investment left the state with little option but to seek outside help. However, the Centre refused to give counter-guarantees for J&K’s bid to seek foreign funds.

The successive governments, however, have showed little imagination to harness the water resources within the restrictions of the treaty. What is more, the state has failed to negotiate to its own advantage the various power projects it handed over for construction to the NHPC. Or as is the case now, the state governments  find themselves helpless when it comes to buying back  some of projects from the corporation.  And in case of Salal whose ownership by a cabinet order of 1975 was to revert  to J&K following payment of a depreciated cost, NHPC backed by the central government has cocked a snook at us. 

 Also Read: 84% of 3593 MW Energy Generated from J&K Flows Out Of State 

This calls for our future elected government to act. It should have a plan in place  to buy  Salal and Dulhasti back from NHPC, an ambitious goal nevertheless. But it is a goal that needs to be pursued with determination. It is time that Kashmir gets its due share from its water resources. But together with this, we need to create a public debate on the issue and put true facts on the issue in public domain. This can also go a long way to mobilize a strong public opinion in its favour, not only in the state but across the country too.

Kashmir civil society has long been agitating over the issue. And it has also succeeded in creating a degree of public awareness about it. But the fact is that power is a complex and very contentious subject in the state. And if anybody is responsible for messing it up or failing to provide curtailment-free electricity to the state for the past seven decades, it is the successive state governments who have either overlooked the exploitation of state’s resources or many a time also colluded in this. It is time that we have a responsible leadership and a government which really does something about this.

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