Hydro on report

4 October 2002

On 2 February 2002, India's Ministry of Power released a report ranking potential hydro power projects in terms of technical and social obstacles to construction

THE FIRST SYSTEMATIC and comprehensive study to assess potential hydro power resources in India was undertaken in 1953-1959 by the then Central Water and Power Commission. These studies placed the economic hydro power potential of the country at 42,100MW at 60% load factor. The potential was then reassessed by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) in 1987. That survey estimated the hydro power potential at 84,044MW at 60% load factor from 845 power stations. That survey also identified 56 sites for pumped storage schemes, totalling about 94,000MW.

The CEA's new report aims to provide guidance to potential developers by ranking potential projects in terms of their technical and social costs and benefits. The survey allocates hydro resources to one of six major river systems: the Indus, Brahmaputra, Ganga, Central Indian river system, East flowing river system and West flowing river system - and divides them further into 49 basins.

• The Great Indus basin drains areas in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. The Indus river itself rises in Tibet, but the basin also includes the Jhelum, Chenab, Sutlej, Ravi and Beas rivers.

• The Ganga basin covers a quarter of the total geographic area of the country, including areas in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi. The basin's rivers include Upper Ganga, Upper Yamuna, Lower Yamuna, Chambal, Sarda - Gomti - Ghaghra, Sone, Betwa - Sind, Kosi- Gandak- Mahananda, Lower Ganga and Damodar.

• The Great Brahmaputra basin covers the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and a substantial part of West Bengal. The rivers in this basin are Upper Brahmaputra, Teesta, Subansiri, Kameng, Kalang, Dihang-Dibang, Luhit, Lower Brahmaputra, Barak and neighbouring river system.

• The Central Indian river system involves a total of 105 rivers with a total river course of about 19,780km. Its eight major river basins are the Narmada, Tapi, Subernrekha, Brahmani-Baitarni, Mahanadi, Sabarmati, Mahi and Luni-Banas.

• The West flowing river system of Southern India has a length of about 1540km and covers almost the whole of Kerala, Goa, Union Territory of Daman and Diu, parts of TamilNadu, Karnataka, Gujarat and Konkan Region of Maharashtra State.

• The East flowing river system is the country's largest river system. The Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery rivers account for about 73% of the entire drainage area.

Hydro development

By September 2001, only 16.7% of India's hydro potential had been developed, with a further 6.3% under construction. The basin with the largest potential - the Brahmaputra basin - had undergone the least development, with only 1.54% of its potential tapped.

Of the 845 schemes identified by the CEA, 288 are in operation, under construction, or cleared for implementation by the CEA. They have an aggregate installed capacity of 42,000MW. There are also some 164 schemes with an installed capacity of 25MW or less, which are now the responsibility of the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources.

These small hydro projects total 2300MW. Around 400 schemes have still to be considered for development. The Ministry of Power has set a timetable of around 25 years to bring these plants into operation. A 'vision paper' on how to achieve this scale of development was presented to the Ministry in March 2001. The preliminary ranking study presented in February 2002 marked a second phase in implementing the programme.

This preliminary study has been made using desk studies of all secondary topographical and hydrological data. This study will form a base for detailed ranking study that will consider land use, geological, power transmission, cost and tariff aspects etc, and later on, for preparation of pre-feasibility reports.

The Vision Paper

The Vision Paper provided a 'road map' to develop the untapped potential of the country by the year 2025-26. The paper analysed the country's anticipated demand and supply, using results from CEA's long term Perspective Plan Studies (to 2011-12) and demand forecasts from the Electric Power Survey (to 2016-17). The projections were extrapolated for the period beyond 2017.

Power demand by 2025-26 is likely to be of the order of 35,3000MW with probable installed capacity of 46,3000MW. If the entire hydro potential is used it will increase hydro's share to around 32% by 2025-26. The paper points out that to meet this deadline all survey and investigation work must be completed by 2016-17.

The Vision Paper stresses the need to complete on-going projects and to develop the projects already cleared by CEA. It outlines various factors inhibiting the growth of hydro potential in the country, including funding constraints and interstate aspects, and says they should be addressed at the appropriate level. If this type of issue could be resolved, the paper says, 42 schemes totalling 13,250MW, which were examined earlier by the CEA and returned to project authorities for resubmission, could be implemented with minimal further survey and investigation work.

The Vision Paper estimates the cost of developing the remaining untapped potential in the country at US$101.9B. Survey and investigation works up to 2016-17 would cost of the order of US$1B.

Among the Vision Paper's recommendations:

• About 4759MW of hydro capacity can be added fairly quickly. These include projects languishing due to funds constraints and those projects that are awaiting Planning Commission/CEA clearance and require funds to the tune of US$2.96B are tied up.

• Projects 'returned' because of unresolved issues could add 13268MW of capacity at a cost of about US$7.1B. A further 4797MW at an estimated cost of about US$2.8B is being delayed by inter-state disputes. Since preliminary surveys and investigations for most of these schemes have already been carried out, these projects could be implemented immediately and begin generating during the next 10-15 years.

• The total funding required to develop the country's untapped potential is likely to be around US$101.9B in the next 25 years at present price level (see table).

• Funding sources for the annual US$4.1B investment necessary should be identified as soon as possible.

• Using all the country's potential will increase hydro's contribution to the system from 25% at present to about 32% by 2025-26.

Preliminary ranking study

The preliminary ranking study considered each potential hydro power plant, giving it marks in ten categories.

Remediation and resettlement

This has been one of the main reasons for delaying projects, especially those with large storage projects and the resulting vast area of submergence. In this assessment the environmental and forest aspects have also been considered. Projects were graded on storage requirements and on the number of people affected by the project.

International aspects

Projects in the Indus basin are governed by the international Indus Water Treaty and there are certain restrictions to development. Projects in these areas are also likely to have a longer gestation period.

Interstate aspects

Several hydro schemes - all of them, in the case of the Cauvery basin - have been held up by interstate problems and the allocation of water between the riparian states. It is however not possible to identify all the various likely interstate problems.

Scheme potential

Projects above 500MW and 60% load factor have been marked highest

Type of scheme

Run-of-river schemes have been marked up, as have those providing useful peaking power with diurnal storage.

Dam height

Projects with dam heights below 50m were marked highest, with deductions for every additional 20m.

Tunnel/channel length

Constructing long tunnels in mountainous regions has caused delays. Marks were deducted for each km of tunnel.


Projects in higher reaches of rivers where accessibility is difficult were marked down.

Project status

Schemes were marked according to whether they had been cleared by CEA/DPR, were in the survey stage or had not been investigated.

Status of upstream or downstream hydro development

Projects with close proximity to existing plants were marked up, on the basis that infrastructure and other facilities were already available for implementation of the projects.

About 400 schemes were prioritised as a result of the preliminary ranking study. Of these, 98 schemes with probable installed capacity of 15,650MW were rated 'A', 247 schemes with probable installed capacity of 69,850MW were rated 'B' and 54 schemes with probable installed capacity of 21,420MW were rated 'C'

Whose projects?

The Vision Report and the preliminary ranking study estimate the amount of investment that will be required to develop India's hydro potential. What neither considers is where the investment will come from.

India's hydro development is mostly being carried out by regional authorities. The major exceptions are at the ends of the scale: small hydro projects are now the responsibility of the Ministry for Non-Conventional Energy Sources, while so-called mega-projects are centrally managed. These projects in all power sectors are now generally defined as those over 500MW (although some smaller projects are still being centrally managed under the previous categorisation) - large enough to be in danger of overwhelming the local grid, especially in the case of hydro projects which do not tend to be in areas where the grid is robust.

The National Hydro-Electric Power Corporation (NHPC) currently has five mega-projects in development: Koel-Karo (710MW), Chamera-II (300MW), Teesta-V (510MW), Koldam (800MW)and Parvati (800MW).

For many years India has wanted to tempt private companies to invest in power projects, but the IPP programme has always come up short. Even in the fossil fuel sector, IPPs have had a rough ride, and the example of plants like Maharashtra has not made the sector any more attractive to investors. That the plant is currently part-owned by Enron is just the latest of its problems: disputes over the key power purchase agreements, delays, and opposition over the high price of power from the plant have all made it a risky venture. For potential investors in the hydro sector there are civil costs and the risk of the kind of concerted opposition that has delayed the Maheshwar project.

A recent article by A Rengaswamy addressed the question of private-sector hydro power in India, since June 1990, when the Ministry of Power allowed private participation.

The hydro sector requires 'huge capital costs and a long gestation period', Rengaswamy said. He cited six agencies who had entered the market: Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation, Jai Prakash Industries, Rajasthan Spinning & Weaving Mills, Dhamwari Power Company, Ballarpur Industries and Duncan Industries.

Ballarpur Industries has already withdrawn its interest and its Uhl III project (2x50MW) has been now taken back by Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board.

Rengaswamy says projects offered to the private sector must be fully or partially investigated by State Electricity Boards. If not, the private sector company will almost certainly meet severe problems in obtaining data from the necessary agencies. Most IPPs will seek projects from the State Electricity Board that already have Techno Economic Clearance (TEC) from the CEA.

When ownership passes to the private agency, CEA has to issue a fresh TEC, appraising the proposal on techno economical aspects as well as financing aspects. Rengaswamy notes that this can delay the project. He adds: 'The present status of IPP's participation is not encouraging due to several factors. ... long gestation period, time & cost over run, geological surprises, insurgency erratic monsoon, tough resistance from environmentalists etc.'

The result is that only four projects are under construction by the five remaining agencies, although others are awaiting clearance. They are:

• Jaiprakash Industries, with three projects. Vishnu Prayag in Uttar Pradesh (4x100MW) is under construction. Baspa State II in Himachal Pradesh (3x100MW) is under construction. Karcham Wangtoo in Himachal Pradesh (4x250MW) is waiting for technical clearance from CEA.

• Rajasthan Spinning & Weaving Mills has two projects in Himachal Pradesh. Malana (2x43MW) is under construction. Allain Duhangan (2x96MW) is waiting for technical clearance from CEA.

• Shri Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation has one plant under construction at Maheshwar, Madhyar Pradesh (10x40MW)

• Duncans North Hydro Power Company's Shrinagar project in Uttar Pradesh (5x66MW) is waiting for technical clearance from CEA.

• Dhamwari Power Corporation. Had two projects in Himachal Pradesh. While Dhamwari Sunda (2x35MW) is waiting for technical clearance from CEA, the state government has cancelled the Memorandum of Understanding for Hibra (3x77MW).

India's hydro Vision Paper sets out ambitious targets for developing hydro power over the next 25 years. IPP experience suggests that winning private participation in these projects will be very difficult. Most projects will have to be developed from state and regional budgets.

External weblinks


New hydro power capacity requirements as identified by the Vision Paper
India’s hydro potential assessed in 1987

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