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BJP's poll exigencies behind sharp dip in Narmada's hydropower generation

By Our Representative
Senior environmentalist Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has said that India’s “biggest dip” in hydropower generation has taken place in the Narmada dam’s 1,450 MW capacity, witnessing a reduction of 50.31% in 2014-15 compared to 2013-14. This was followed by a 35.9% reduction in power generation upstream dams on Narmada river situation in Madhya Pradesh, with a capacity of 1,520 MW, channeled through Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation (NHDC).
Accusing the BJP-ruled Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments for this, Thakkar, in a recent analysis, titled “Diminishing returns from large hydropower projects in India”, has said, “One of the reasons for the reduced power generation at the Narmada dam and upstream Narmada projects of NHDC was the unjustified depletion of the reservoir before the 2014 parliamentary elections.”
Basing his analysis of the latest power generation figures just released by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), Thakkar said, “The hydropower generation during 2014-15 was 4.25% lower than the previous year’s generation even though the installed capacity went up.” He added, “Average generation per MW of hydro capacity in India in 2014-15 was over 20% less power than what our average generation was in 1993-94.”
Pointing out that this is not a one-year phenomenon, Thakkar said, SANDRP analysis based on the official data from CEA for total annual power generated by all existing operating large hydropower projects of India and total installed capacity of such projects, for each of the last 20 years from 1993-94, has drawn a trend line of power generation of big hydropower projects.
The trend line shows that “per MW generation in 2014-15 has dropped by over 20% from the generation figure for 1993-94”, Thakkar said, wondering as to why, despite being a serious matter, neither the CEA, nor the Power Ministry nor none of the other bodies, have analysed this. “The falling generation cannot be attributed to lower monsoon rainfall, since rainfall has been average or above average in most of the years under consideration”, he added.
Thakkar further said, “A separate analysis showed that 89% of the projects generate at below the design or promised generation level at 90% dependability. And among the underperforming projects, 50% were generating below the 50% of the promised power generation. And yet no questions were asked, no accountability fixed.”
Giving reasons behind reducing capacity, Thakkar said, “There are many reasons why the generation per MW is dipping: unviable projects, unviable installed capacities, over-optimistic hydrological assumptions, overdevelopment (development beyond the carrying capacity of the basin), catchment degradation, high rates of sedimentation, inadequate repair and maintenance, run of river projects, changing monsoon patterns due to climate change, etc.”
He believed, “Here it should be added that the destruction of forests, rivers, fisheries, biodiversity and submergence of lands is also making the impact of climate related disasters worse for the people and also for the hydropower projects, as could be seen during the June 2013 Uttarakhand disaster. All this needs to be part of our impact assessment and decision making process.”

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