Another mega power project

M/s Ratle Hydroelectric Power Project Pvt Ltd of GVK Group is all set to start work on 850 Mega Watt (MW) Ratle Hydro Power Project on river Chenab in Kishtwar district located 14 kilometres downstream of Dulhasti Hydroelectric Project’s power house and 61 kilometres upstream of Baglihar project. The project proponent has conducted detailed study of all aspects of the project, and its high level team made a comprehensive presentation before the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), which has recommended environment clearance for the project and the formal orders in this regard would be issued by the Union Environment and Forest Ministry. The power house of the project will be underground and there will be five turbines (four of 205 MW each plus one of 30 MW for additional unit). The catchment area of Ratle dam site is 14,209 square kilometer. About 4.5 kilometre of National Highway will get submerged and will be relocated to higher elevation. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 5353.82 crore and construction period will be 60 months.
From the presentation made before the EAC, one finds that almost all norms of building a hydroelectric power generation plant along modern lines have been taken into account by the project proponent. This includes clearance from the geological survey and seismic expert committees who visited the location and conducted professional study into the project site. There were other requirements that had to be fulfilled and incorporated into the body of the project. EAC has approved the estimated cost of Rs 5353.82 crore for the entire project.
The project has a total requirement of 567.22 hectares of land of which 373.29 hectares is State land, 55 hectares private land and 138.93 hectares is forest land. The diversion of forest land has already been approved by the State Forest Department and notifications have been issued for State and private land acquisition and tentative awards have been published, the project proponent informed the Expert Appraisal Committee. Relief and rehabilitation of affected 240 families who will have to be relocated has been elaborately chalked out. Budgetary allocations for their resettlement, compensation for land, job opportunities and other requirements have also been taken care of. The EAC was told that “the resettlement and rehabilitation plan for the project affected families has been formulated as per the provisions and a total of Rs 19.92 crore for R&R Plan, Rs 30 crore for skill development, Rs 30 crore for Local Area Development and Rs 30 crore for CSR activities have been provided.” The good news is that the affected people have welcomed the launching of the project and are satisfied with the rehabilitation plan under consideration. Not only that, they have agreed to have the temple and a graveyard built at adjoining heights as the existing ones would get submerged under the water of the reservoir. This is an achievement. Generally in such projects, because the rehabilitation plan for affected families is inadequate, there ensue protests and litigation and the NGOs jump into the fray to derive a mileage out of the issue. Fortunately in the present case, in all probability such a situation will not develop and it would be the victory of the people and the Government.
Five year time schedule set forth for the completion of the project is a long time indeed. But one shall have to keep in mind a number of things at the same time. Geography and environment of the project site, accessibility and transportation of heavy machinery, availability of labour both skilled and unskilled, weather conditions etc. all go into the drawing of time frame for such big projects. We are often told that our state is fortunate to have plentiful of water resources at its command and we can produce electricity to the tune of 20,000 MW. This is easier said than done. A close study of the presentation made by the project proponent before the EAC will show that it has taken more than two years for only the survey of the project and the infrastructure that would be needed. The power house will be built underground to avoid noise pollution. The project takes into account the important condition of maintaining ecological balance of the area and alternate plantation of rare flora and fauna likely to get uprooted in the process of building the reservoir. Likewise other safety measures and preventive methodology are also among the concerns of the Government and the project proponent.
In final analysis, the Ratle Project is a big step towards the objective of making the State self-sufficient in regard to power generation. We have already brought to public notice the decision of the State Government to bring about far-reaching reforms in the functioning and re-structurization of PDD especially in finding a solution to losses incurred on account of snags in transmission and distribution of power. With all these measures we hope that power supply position to the consumers in the State will make steady progress.

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