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Jammu Kashmir

Posted at: May 16, 2018, 12:45 AM; last updated: May 16, 2018, 12:45 AM (IST)

PM to inaugurate Kishanganga project on May 19

State to get 13 per cent of its share of free power from National Hydroelectric Power Corporation-owned venture
PM to inaugurate Kishanganga project on May 19
The Kishanganga project dam in the Gurez valley of Bandipora disrict.

Ishfaq Tantry

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, May 15

The 330-megawatt Kishanganga hydroelectric project on the Kishanganga river in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district is all set to be formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 19, when he visits Srinagar.

It was for this project that India’s right to divert water of western rivers (Jhelum, Chenab and Indus) for non-consumptive use was upheld by the International Court of Arbitration.

What sets the Kishanganga hydroelectric project apart from other power projects owned and operated by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) in J&K is that it is the first run of the river scheme that involves inter-basin transfer of water from the Kishanganga river, a tributary of the Jhelum, in the Gurez valley to Bonar Nallah in Bandipora through a 23.65-km-long head race tunnel dug across major mountain formations.

Many firsts

Describing the head race tunnel as one of the salient features of the project, Chief Engineer, NHPC (Kishanganga), Khalid Umar said its construction involved first successful tunnel boring machine operation in the Himalayan region.

“While doing so, the team successfully overcame several geological, logistical and engineering challenges,” the Chief Engineer said as the PM is set to e-inaugurate the power project from Srinagar on May 19.

“It (inauguration) is indeed a culmination of great efforts put in by many people over the years.” he said.

Once operational, J&K would get 13 per cent of its share of free power from the project and there is always the provision that it can buy electricity to meet the shortfall.

Logistical challenges

The transportation of the tunnel boring machine and other heavy equipment to the Kishanganga site was a major challenge the project got delayed due to the 2010 unrest and curfew in Kashmir. It could be transported to the project site from the Mumbai port, where it had arrived from Italy in July 2010, only towards the end of the year when the protests subsided.

“The major hurdle was passing the heavy equipment through Jawahar Tunnel as its height at 4.6 metres was just enough to clear the containers. Special trailers with deflated tyres were used,” said an officer associated with Hindustan Construction Company Ltd, which constructed the project with UK-based Halcrow Group.

Braving weather, shelling

The project dam site located in the Gurez valley is very close to the Line of Control, around 85 km from Bandipora town. Originally its height was planned at 98 metres but after objections from Pakistan, it was reduced to 37 metres.

The biggest challenge however was the climatic conditions as the area gets heavy snow from mid-November till end of April, with temperature dipping as low as -23 degree Celsius.

Retaining construction workers in such isolated and harsh weather conditions was a major challenge, an HCC official manning the site said, adding that the company adopted the work practices the Russian use in winter to keep the work force moving at Gurez dam site.

One major challenge was witnessed on November 22, 2016, when Pakistani troops shelled the area. Some shells landing near the stone crusher and around 18 rounds of shells fell near the dam.

“We are proud to be associated with this landmark project and kudos to my team that worked relentlessly overcoming geological challenges, extreme weather conditions, avalanches and security threat from across the border to complete the project”, said AI Benny, project manager, HCC Ltd. Luckily, no one was injured as all workers were evacuated within two hours, he said.

India’s right to divert western rivers upheld

  • Soon after the work on the $ 864-million project began in 2007, it was halted in 2011 as Pakistan appealed to the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration, complaining that the Kishanganga project violated the Indus Water Treaty as it had allegedly increased the catchment of the Jhelum river and was depriving Pakistan of its water rights as the country was constructing Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project on the same river in its side, where it is called Neelum.
  • “In February 2013, the Hague’s Court of Arbitration, which visited Kishanganga in India and the Neelum Jhelum project in Pakistan in June 2011, upheld India’s main contention that it has the right to divert waters of western rivers in a non-consumptive manner for optimal generation of power,” says Vikram Tanwer, senior manager, corporate communication, HCC.
  • While allowing India to go ahead with the construction of the dam, the Hague court in its final award on December 20, 2013, however specified that a 9 cubic metre/second of natural flow of water must be maintained in the Kishanganga river at all times to maintain the environment downstream as the river flows into Pakistan.

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