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Survey lists impediments to power sector's progress

Staff Reporter

Tackel land acquisition and approval delays: expert


Focus on lack of comprehensive clearance system

‘Kerala losing about 1,750 million units of power annually'


KOLLAM: D. Shina, electricity finance expert, has said that the acknowledgement in the Economic Survey that ‘land acquisition delays and slow approval processes, especially environmental and forest clearances, were among the main constraints that need to be addressed in the infrastructure sector' has raised hopes of the power sector in the State.

Dr. Shina told The Hindu that the Economic Survey finding and its suggestion for a national forest land bank to help streamline the process of getting forest clearances could pave the way for resolving the stalemate in harnessing the huge hydro-electrical potential of the State.

She said the growth of the hydel sector in the State, especially with regard to larger and financially viable projects, had come to a grinding halt since the past many years as a result of unending delays and controversies. Undue restrictions on tapping the hydro-electric potential stood as a serious hurdle to economic growth.

Dr. Shina said the lack of a national comprehensive mechanism to give clearances to major hydro-electric projects had lead to chaos in the sector. There were many instances when the different organs of the Union government spoke in different voices on cases pertaining to certain projects in the State, she said.

Many projects shelved

Lack of consistency in attitude had caused problems and confusions in the planning of the State's power sector. Staring from the Silent Valley project (240 MW), a number of power projects, including the Pooyamkutty (750 MW), Karappara-Kuriyakutty (84 MW), Pathrakadavu (70 MW) and the Athirapilly (163 MW) had to be shelved following opposition from the Central agencies.

She said Kerala was losing about 1,750 million units of power annually on account of rejection of these projects. Even at a conservative figure of Rs.2 a unit of price difference with other sources of power, each of Kerala's electricity consumers was losing Re.1 each day. It was estimated that there was around 4,000 MW of viable untapped hydroelectric potential in the State. The entry of ‘merchant power plants' that were allowed to sell power at market driven rates had caused the price of power to skyrocket. On some days, the price of power had gone up to Rs.18 a unit. The fact that tapping of cheap hydroelectric potential would affect their profit pointed to the possibility of a power lobby against hydel projects, Dr. Shina alleged.

Imbalance in growth

In spite of the considerable thrust laid on the growth of the power sector in the previous Union Budgets, there was gross imbalance across the nation in the growth accomplished.

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