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Large dams power India's growth story

Sapna Dogra Singh  |  New Delhi 

Despite the controversies surrounding large dams, the government is betting on a host of such mega projects to meet the country's power generation needs.
As part of the strategy, it is working on what will be the biggest dam in the country "" the 3,000-Mw Debang multi-purpose project on the Debang river in Arunachal Pradesh. Multipurpose dams serve two purposes "" power and irrigation. The Debang project will benefit the entire North-East and the eastern regions.
"The detailed project report has been prepared and is awaiting techno-economic clearance by the Central Electricity Authority," said an official of the authority.
Being developed by the Arunachal Pradesh government and the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC), the project is likely to be commissioned in the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2012-17).
The displacement of people due to the project was "marginal" and so it was unlikely to face much opposition, said officials working on the project.
Power planners say dams have been good for the country. An example is the Bhakra Nangal dam, which irrigates Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab, and provided water for the Green Revolution. A multi-purpose project on the Satluj river, this 1,326-Mw dam will soon add a capacity of 90 Mw.
According to an official of the Bhakra Beas Management Board, the dam produced 440 million units of electricity in June to meet the demand for paddy crop. During non-monsoon months, the production is 275-300 million units. Last year (April 2006-March 2007), the production was 5,382 million units.
In Maharashtra, the Koyna dam, which has the country's first underground power house, supplies water to western Maharashtra and power to the neighbouring areas. Completed in 1963, the 1,920-Mw project is one of the largest civil engineering projects commissioned after India's independence. The Koyna electricity project is run by the Maharashtra State Electricity Board. Most generators are located in excavated caves a kilometre deep inside the surrounding hills.
The 1,000-Mw Tehri dam in Uttarakhand became fully operational this year. By 2011, another 1,000 Mw will be added.
Simultaneously, many other dams are being upgraded. The Srisailam dam in Andhra Pradesh, for instance, will soon add another 900 Mw to its capacity of 770 Mw.
The six river basins in the country have the potential to generate 150,000 Mw. However, so far, only 34,000 Mw has been tapped. The power ministry plans to add 16,553 Mw by 2012.
According to an official of the Central Electricity Authority, the contracts for 16,000 Mw have been awarded. The government plans to add 30,000 Mw hydro capacity during the Twelfth Plan, 31,000 Mw during the Thirteenth Plan and 38,000 Mw during the Fourteenth Plan.
More big projects like Debang might come up, said the official.
By 2012, the country will see three new projects of 1,000 Mw and above. These are the Karcham Wantoo project (1,000 Mw) in Himachal Pradesh, the Tehri pump storage scheme of 1,000 Mw and the 2,000-Mw plant at Subansiri in Arunachal Pradesh.

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First Published: Wed, July 25 2007. 00:00 IST