| Nabam Tuki |
Guwahati, Sept. 11: The Centre has accorded high priority to development of infrastructure like roads, bridges and airways critical to construction of hydropower projects in the Northeast and has taken up the issue with the ministries concerned.
Sources said the issue came up for discussion in New Delhi yesterday during the sixth meeting of the task force on hydropower development. Union minister of state for power (in charge) Jyotiraditya M. Scindia chaired the meeting.
Arunachal Pradesh, where a large number of hydel projects are being set up, called for developing basic infrastructure, the sine qua non for development of projects. Chief minister Nabam Tuki, who attended the meeting, said infrastructure such as roadways, waterways, railways and air links had to be developed first, as the state lacked these basic requirements.
Power companies involved in setting up hydropower projects in the Northeast have for long been calling for improved connectivity.
Tuki insisted that planning and deployment of transmission systems for evacuation of power from these projects must also be started at the earliest. He asked the ministry of power to coordinate with other ministries to facilitate speedy grant of required clearances to implement stalled projects in the state. “There are a number of projects that could have started construction but are on hold because of pending forest and environment clearances,” he said.
The frontier state has as many as 150 hydel projects with an installed capacity of around 46,000MW in the pipeline but projects worth only around 2,710MW are currently under construction.
Tuki requested early resolution of the issue, as at least four projects were hanging in the balance because of non-clearance by the Centre and delay in issuing of terms of reference for studies on environmental impact and management.
Scindia said the ministry of environment and forests had circulated draft guidelines about policy changes aimed at speeding up clearances at the central and state levels and had also sent these to the law ministry for vetting.
The task force issued a basin-wise list of critical infrastructure, including roads/bridges and air connectivity, to facilitate movement of men and material for construction and took it up with the ministries of road transport and highways, defence and civil aviation.
Sources said the Union power ministry had already informed a parliamentary panel on home affairs about the need for a comprehensive plan to develop an adequate road network in the Northeast. This would expedite development of hydel projects in the region, as most of these projects were located in very remote places.
Another issue discussed with the panel was about clearances required from different departments, particularly environment and forests, which were held up from time to time, leading to delays. The environment and forest clearances have to be obtained at the state as well as central levels.
It informed the panel that even public hearings — a mandatory prerequisite for starting work on a project — could not be conducted at times. It cited the instance of the 3,000MW Dibang project, the hearing for which could be held only after intervention by the power ministry.
Moreover, the Central Electricity Authority reviewed 95 projects in Arunachal Pradesh with an installed capacity of 41,400.5MW, construction of which is yet to start.