Sunday, March 13, 2016

Strange Problems Of Our Hydropower Projects

Indian newspapers report that in the past two years, Jaypee Group has been selling off their assets - cement factories and power plants - in a bid to bring down their Rs.75,000 crore (US$11.00 billion) debt to lenders. Most recently, they sold one of their cement units that would help them shrink their debt by Rs.16,500 crore. But that is not enough - not by a long shot. Lenders to the group are jumpy and want more done. They want to see some more assets sold. Considering that almost two-thirds of the group’s debts are in default, the bankers have called the situation “grim”.

The "grim" picture of one of our biggest hydropower contractors.

Strangely, while the Indian media and the judiciary are on a blitzkrieg hounding away at poor Vijay Mallya the liquor baron for his bad debt amounting to Rs.9,000 crore, there is an eerie hush on the hefty borrowings amounting to Rs.75,000 crore by the Jaypee Group - two-thirds of which are said to be in default!

So what does this mean for Bhutan? In case you did not know, Jaypee Associates - part of the Jaypee Group for whom no dream is too big - is among the biggest Indian contractors hired to build many of our troubled hydropower projects. They have contracts that run into thousands of millions, awarded to them by many of our ongoing hydropower projects.

In addition to the fact that our self-liquidating hydropower projects have been contracted out to contractors whose financial standing is now proven to be in serious doubt, if not downright dangerous, we have recently been informed of some seriously inexcusable disasters in the hydropower sector.

It was reported that the Dagachhu Hydropower Project - barely a year old - had to be shut down for two months!! The why for is not important - what is appalling is that a brand new plant is required to be shutdown - as a result of design/construction flaw.

There was a major mudslide at the Mangdechhu Hydropower Project site - causing loss of life to some workers.

A cave-in occurred at the surge chamber of Punatsangchhu-II’s powerhouse - killing six people. How does such a thing happen? How can any one - sane or insane - explain away such a terrible occurrence?

What is the probability that, in future, entire roof of the powerhouse of one of our many projects will not cave in, for whatever reason? Imagine the consequences of a whole mountain coming crashing down on top of a power plant!

Not to forget that the mountainside of the PHPA-I dam site is sinking and sinking and sinking.

And, as if we did not have enough misery dogging us, the Bharatiya Rashtrawadi Party (BRP) State president Ajad Ali of the Indian state of Assam has some mouthful to say about our hydropower projects.

He recently said, “After commissioning of the Kurichhu Hydro Project (60 MW) in 2004, people of Lower Assam are the worst victim every year. Just imagine the disaster that will come upon us, if all the dams (over 80 planned) are commissioned at some point in time,” said Ajad Ali.

This is a clear indication that Assam views our hydropower dreams as a threat to the Assamese people downstream.

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