The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) has decided not to allow any new hydel project to come up within the GTA area at a time when the Bengal government is looking to set up 13 projects in the region.
A resolution to bar construction of hydel projects in Darjeeling hills was adopted during the GTA Sabha meeting held in Darjeeling on Wednesday.
“The GTA Sabha has adopted a resolution not to allow any new hydel project to come up in the GTA area,” said Anjul Chauhan, chairman, GTA Sabha.
The decision was taken following the devastation caused by the glacier lake outburst flood (GLOF) at South Lonark Lake in Sikkim on the intervening night of October 3 and 4 that led to a flash flood in the Teesta.
The GLOF washed away Sikkim’s biggest hydel project, the 1,200MW Sikkim Urja Teesta-III hydel project built at a cost of Rs 13,965 crores. The flood also caused widespread damage in the GTA area with the hill body, estimated at a loss of Rs 250 crore.
More than 300 houses have been fully damaged in the GTA area.
Even though the GTA Sabha has adopted a resolution, many in the hills wondered if the GTA could stop a policy decision taken by the state government.
“It needs to be seen whether the GTA can stand its ground on this issue,” said a hill resident.
Sources told The Telegraph that the Bengal government has in principle given its approval to draw up a detailed project report (DPR) to set up Teesta Low Dam Project (TLDP) I & II, that would have a combined capacity to produce 71MW of electricity on Bara Rangeet river in Darjeeling.
A similar approval has also been given to draw up a DPR for a Balason Hydro Electric Project (capacity 38MW) on Balason and Rangbhang rivers in Darjeeling, said a source.
“Also, in principle approval has been given to prepare DPRs for 10 other small hydro projects. It, however, needs to be seen whether all these projects will be feasible,” the source added.
The pre-feasibility report on TLDP I and II and the Balason project has already been cleared by the project appraisal committee (PAC) of the state power department following which DPRs are being prepared.
Opposition to setting up hydel projects in Darjeeling hills has been brewing ever since thousands had to abandon their houses due to soil subsidence at Joshimath in Uttarakhand early this year.
Locals in Bijanbari had earlier stopped the construction of notches and the installation of gauges for recording the discharge of water to check the feasibility of setting up a 6MW project at Balawas and a 12MW project at Chotta Rangit in the area.
As of now, Bengal has 20 installed hydropower projects — of which 15 are in the Darjeeling hills, which has a combined capacity to generate 533 MW of electricity.
West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Corporation Limited (WBSEDCL) has identified a potential to generate another 995MW of hydropower in the state.