Planned 9 yrs back, 624 MW Kiru project crosses final hurdle

*MoEF grants environmental clearance with recommendations

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Mar 1: In a major development in the power sector, the 624 Mega Watts Kiru Hydroelectric Power Project on river Chenab in Kishtwar district has crossed the final hurdle with Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) according environmental clearance to the project although with certain recommendations. Now, armed with all necessary approvals, the Chenab Valley Power Projects Pvt Ltd can go ahead with the execution of the project, which would be a significant step towards making Jammu and Kashmir self-sufficient in the power availability.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that the project on river Chenab near village Patharnakki in district Kishtwar was planned in 2007 and scoping/Terms of Reference (TOR) clearance was earlier granted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on September 9, 2008 for 600 Mega Watt installed capacity.
In the year 2011, the project was entrusted to Chenab Valley Power Projects Pvt Limited, a joint venture amongst NHPC Ltd, J&K State Power Development Corporation Ltd and Power Trading Corporation of India Ltd. The proposal was appraised for environmental clearance in 74th meeting of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) held in May 2014 and EAC noted the change of capacity to 624 Mega Watts and expiry of TOR validity.
In the meeting, the EAC made observations in regard to environment flow and recommended scientific study to establish e-flow. In addition, it was also recommended that the reports be updated with one season field data and fresh public hearing be conducted, sources said, adding on the basis of scientific study on e-flow submitted in June 2015, the EAC in its 85th meeting held on July 20-21, 2015 issued fresh Terms of Reference for 624 MW capacity for completion of studies.
Thereafter, the project proponent continued to update the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF about reports on various vital aspects and the details of public hearing conducted by the State Pollution Control Board, sources further said while disclosing that the project came up for hearing before EAC in its 91st meeting held recently for grant of environmental clearance.
During the meeting, the project proponent informed the EAC that all the components of Detailed Project Report have already been approved by various Directorates of Central Electricity Authority and Central Water Commission. It was also informed that project has been appraised by the Central Electricity Authority in its meeting held on January 22, 2016.
The EAC was also informed that the case for diversion of 82.05 hectares of forest land for the project has already been approved by the J&K State Forest Advisory Committee in its 78th meeting held on August 22, 2013 and the requisite payment in this regard has also been deposited with the Forest Department. Moreover, the process for acquisition of both Government and private land is in progress wherein the Land Acquisition Notification under Section-4 of J&K State Land Acquisition Act has already been issued and the proceedings under Section 6 and 7 are under progress.
It is pertinent to mention here that a total of 179.78 hectares of land is required for the project of which 82.05 hectares is forest land, 51.37 hectares is Government land and 46.36 hectares is private land.
The EAC was also informed that the Compensatory Afforestation will be done by J&K State Forest Department under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) on 164.10 hectares of denuded or degraded forest areas. Moreover, under Fisheries Development Plan, a provision of Rs 789.59 lakh has been kept for establishment and operation of a fish hatchery in 2 hectares of area for continuous restocking of reservoir and river.
According to the sources, a total of 181 families in villages of Piyas, Chhichha, Galhar Bhata and Bhagna falling in Nagseni tehsil of Kishtwar district would be affected due to acquisition of land for the project. However, for relief and rehabilitation of such families, an amount of Rs 2826.15 lakh has been earmarked. Moreover, a provision of Rs 1500 lakh has been made for providing all facilities to the affected families at the proposed resettlement colony and an amount of Rs 2837.20 lakh has been earmarked for various activities under Social and Community Development Plan.
Keeping all aspects into mind, the Expert Appraisal Committee has recommended to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest for grant of environmental clearance for Kiru Hydroelectric Project with certain recommendations to be taken care of strictly by the project proponent, sources said.
While laying stress on strict adherence to environment flow provisions, the EAC has recommended that skill mapping of the area shall be conducted, mentioning the skills inherent of the local people, skill requirement of the project and the best ways to develop the skills in the local people so that they can be absorbed at project itself. It has also been stressed that all commitments made during the environmental public consultations shall be implemented.
To maintain flourishing fish population/communities in the river, the river must witness all seasonal changes including low flow levels during lean season to maximum during monsoon/ floods/high rains, the EAC said.
With the recommendation of EAC to the MoEF for grant of environmental clearance, the Kiru project has crossed last hurdle and having all the necessary approvals in hand, the Chenab Valley Power Project Pvt Ltd can now go ahead with the execution of the project, sources said while dubbing the development as a step towards realizing the dream of making J&K self-sufficient in power generation.
It is pertinent to mention here that project would be completed at a cost of Rs 4640.88 crore and the Environment Management Plan budget is Rs 147.32 crore. But the EAC has recommended that EMP Budget shall be Rs 162.43 crore.