”Right after the inauguration of the infamous 330 megawatt Kishanganga power project, a raging debate started throughout the Valley about the effects of the project on Kashmiris, with many even terming it “illegal.”
In his address during the inauguration of the project, Indian Prime Minister Modi said that Kashmir would get 12% of the 330-mega watts the power project will generate, or about 40 mega watts of the total power generated.
According to Shakeel Qalandar, founding member of the Srinagar based Centre for Social and Development Studies, the project is illegal because all laws and regulations governing the transfer the land for setting up such a project have been ignored. “Licenses to operate the project under relevant acts have not been obtained,” he explained.
He added that major provisions of the MOU signed in 2000 have not been fulfilled, making the agreement “inchoate” which means incomplete. “One of these provisions is a requirement to declare the time period after which this project, allotted on BOT(build, operate and transfer) basis, would be returned back to the state,” he said.
On social media, many termed the project as the looting of natural resources and compared the NHPC to the East India Company. “Roads, railways, power stations, airports, military and paramilitary establishments with concrete structures, all are illegally built. We are squeezed into limited areas. This needs to stop somewhere (SIC),” Nazir Ahmad Wani posted on Facebook, while replying to a query about the project being illegal.
Another user, while terming the project as an exploitation, wrote, “All land transferred to GOI by our rulers, is in violations of the provisions of the state’s constitution. The erosions made can hardly be repaired now.”
Some even compared the NHPC with the East India Company. “The NHPC is an East India Company sucking up our resources. They breached all agreements made with JK,” wrote Showkat Zargar
Others raised concerns that the power project would submerge up to 50% of the villages in district Bandipora. “It has been stayed by the International Court at The Hague, and it will further drown almost 50% villages of district Bandipora when the water from Neelam River will start crossing penstocks down to Sonarwani, with a possible increase in flow of 35 cumecs and raising the levelof Wular to at least 4 to 5 feet in the first instance. People have started to express their worries,” an outraged Kashmiri wrote on his Facebook page.
Meanwhile energy sector expert Iftikhar Drabu said that the project would benefit Kashmiris, as it will add another 30-40 megawatts of power which will lead to fewer power cuts. “Inauguration of Kishanganga HEP (KGHEP) yesterday has rekindled the debate on social media about NHPC and how it is looting our resources.
The interesting thing for me on KGHEP is to see whether JKPDD buys power from the station since it is going to be prohibitively expensive unless GoI subsidies it through some financial tweaking.
One may recall that JKPDD played hard ball with JKSPDC by refusing to buy Baglihar II HEP power as per the tariff determined (Rs 4.5 per unit) and instead paid JKSPDC a paltry Rs 2.5 per unit (and even at this reduced cost the payments were not made in a timely manner putting JKSPDC in a tight spot vis a vis their lenders).
One would love to see how JKPDD handles purchase of KGHEP power… While the debate rages on KGHEP we need to be aware of the concessions granted to Pakal Dul HEP (foundation stone for which was also laid yesterday), a joint venture project of NHPC, JKSPDC and PFC.
These concessions include exemption from 12% free power to GoJK, exemptions from entry tax towards GoJK which runs into hundreds of crores, soft loan / sub ordinate debt of Rs 2500 crores and even grant of exemption from paying water cess,” he added.
“They will be forced to buy the power at very high rates – the project will take about 8 years to complete and the cost of generation will be very high. We will be forced to buy it at whatever it costs,” he warned.