Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sikkim's first hydropower project to be ready in December

Gangtok (Sikkim), Aug 28 (IANS) Sikkim's first mega hydel power project on the Teesta river is ready to open this year-end, producing 510 MW of electricity that Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling hopes will silence critics of the other 26 projects now underway.
Codenamed Teesta Stage V, it will lift up-and-away Teesta waters from the main river through an 18-km tunnel to feed a powerhouse at Dipudara of Singtam, 44 km from here in the southern region of the northeastern state.
Dipudara is currently witnessing a lot of activity. Toshiba's Japanese technicians are setting up three turbines and are also training their Indian counterparts.
With a capacity of 170 MW each, the turbines will be operated depending upon water availability. If necessary, only one will work during the lean season in summer.
Work on the river's upper reaches is complete. One of the two projects being executed by the National Hydroelectric Power Corp (NHPC), north-eastern India's first underground powerhouse will go critical this year-end.
Construction began in 2001 after nearly three decades of technical, socio-economic and environmental feasibility studies and preparations followed by clearance from the central government.
Special care was also taken in acquiring land and paying compensation to the minority Lepcha community in Dzongue region, 77 km from Gangtok, that this project partially touches.
The government's Sikkim Power Development Corp acquired on lease the required land from the locals. NHPC's relief and rehabilitation package for 115 affected families has included land, compensation of Rs.100,000, a ready-to-live house and a job for one member.
NHPC has planned for 800 jobs for the locals, both skilled and semi-skilled. While the rest of the package has been delivered, land has not been given yet. Land sites identified earlier were not found suitable. NHPC is searching for alternatives.
The land would be handed over to the concerned families, executive engineer S. Roy and chief engineer D. Chattopadhyay assured.
Care has been taken to stay within the parameters stipulated for such a project in a seismic region, as also on the environmental aspects, they say, also citing NHPC's track record on earlier projects.
The pattern is similar to the two projects the corporation has undertaken on the Rangit river in Arunachal Pradesh. It is the same Brahmaputra river basin, and the challenges posed were similar.
This project will produce 510 MW power, which Sikkim will sell to the national grid for a hefty Rs.1 billion, says an elated Chamling whose target is a clean Rs.20 billon annually - provided 26 other projects on the Teesta are completed.
The projects, however, are facing protests spearheaded by the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) that are gathering support home and internationally.
Some people are on a relay hunger strike for the past 70 days. But two prominent protesters, Tenzin Lepcha, 20, and Dawa Lepcha, 35, broke their fast on the 65th day last week following an assurance from Chamling.
Dawa admitted that the protest was mainly by some Dzongue Lepchas, but there was no support to the movement in other areas where 22 power projects are being undertaken.
'We contacted them but they didn't respond,' Dawa, a self-employed videographer, told IANS here.
He attributed this to a 'lack of awareness and may be... they are afraid of the government'.
Insisting that work would go on, the chief minister is ready to talk to ACT and examine their viewpoint. 'I shall talk to them and also undertake a tour of Dzongue next month,' Chamling said.