The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Professionalism put to the ultimate test
- NHPC engineers venture into the wild to tap power in murky, sinister places

Kaying (Arunachal Pradesh), May 17: We fume and fret when the electricity goes off. None of us realise that we have the privilege of cooling off in airconditioners because a few young and intrepid graduates from premier institutes like the IITs and the RECs opted to venture into the wild and unknown to tap the power in murky, sinister places where you stand in danger of losing life and limb.

They opted to join efforts to generate hydropower to fulfil the government’s dream of providing continuous, clean and sustainable power to the people.

Our software engineers are pampered: whenever they run into trouble, the industry associations spring to their defence and crank up the government’s machinery to provide all help.

But these engineers in the outback have no such luck: the electrical, mechanical, civil, geophysicts and geologists also come from the same premier institutes but do not get proper security or government help when they face violent, life-threatening situations when confronted by insurgent groups or local tribals.

The National Hydro Electric Corporation (NHPC) has been given the task of identifying the locations to build power plants by the Arunachal Pradesh government that has a potential of generating more than 50,000 megawatt of power. NHPC is expected to generate about 25,000 MW power from the state.

“It gives us an opportunity to prove our mettle and skills. However, there are both psychological and professional problems that we have to endure. We have to stay away from our families for months and sometime years in remote locations without direct communications. Professionally, we have encountered wild animals, insects and natures challenges like landslide each day,” said U.V Hegde, chief geologist, NHPC of Siang and Subansiri basin projects in Arunachal Pradesh.

There are other problems too, that need to be solved using highly effective inter-personal communications that even the B-School’s in the country do not teach.

“Local tribals are highly suspicious of us and get agitated and can attack you if you talk back before they have presented their point view. We have had to keep nodding our heads for two to three hours. You are not supposed to pluck a flower or leaf; here everything is private property. One of our engineers had picked up a fight with the locals and they chopped off his fingers,” said P..P. Singh, chief engineer, at NHPC project at Along.

Initial investigation is needed for the construction of dam and power project and this involves identification, study of the composition of rocks, sand, wind pattern, natural habitation and also the possible displacement. “This process in undertaken in the most inaccessible areas and hostile climatic conditions. We have continuous rains for more than half the year and there are no roads to reach the places that we need to explore,” said Hegde.

“The use of information technology and remote sensing has limitations and projects involving investment of many crores and cannot be finalised based on them. There has to be a ground level study in the literal sense of the word,” he added.

A young civil engineer who has joined NHPC after graduation learns the job amongst the insects like ‘dum-dum’ and leeches. Dum-dum is an insect found in deep forests of Arunachal Pradesh that stings with such force that blood starts to oozeimmediately and the wound itches for a week.

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