The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) will constitute a committee to study issues in the event of any geological surprise faced in hydroelectric projects and offer recommendations.

The authority pointed out that development of hydroelectric projects has been impacted due to various issues including geological uncertainties or constraints, resulting in significant time and cost overruns.

In this regard, the Techno Economic Concurrence issued by the CEA, in general, provides that a project developer shall systematically maintain a record of geological surprises, which are encountered and treatment provided.

At the same time, the developer shall request the Power Ministry to constitute an expert committee consisting of representatives from the State, Geological Survey of India (GSI), Central Water Commission (CWC) and CEA.

Once this committee is constituted, the developer will submit the proposal for enhanced cost to the committee, which in turn shall examine and recommend the cost thereof.

“In order to obviate the need for creation of separate expert committees for each such case, it is decided to constitute a Standing Technical Committee to study issues in the event of any geological surprise faced in hydroelectric projects and to vet/ examine and recommend the additional time/ cost involved,” the authority said.

Hydro power potential

The CEA carried out a reassessment study during the period 2017-23, which assessed India’s hydro power potential from major/ medium schemes (schemes having capacity above 25 MW) at about 1,33,400 MW.

India has an installed hydro power capacity of 46,850.17 megawatts (MW) as of August 2023.

At present, around 42 hydro power projects with an aggregate capacity of 18,034 MW are under construction and 30 hydro power projects with an aggregate capacity of 21,810 MW have received concurrence from the CEA, which can be taken up for construction.

Project assessment

The main challenges in developing hydro power projects include remote location, unpredictable geology, natural calamities, environment and forest, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R), law & order and inter-State issues.

The union government has framed a detailed procedure for assessment of environmental and social impacts for developmental projects, which is prescribed in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, as amended from time to time.

It provides for four stages of consideration process—Screening, Scoping, Public Consultation and Appraisal by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).

Environmental clearances are issued only after detailed study and analysis of developmental projects listed in the schedule to the notification and subject to compliance of necessary environmental safeguards.

Project specific conditions related to safety measures such as installation of early warning telemetric system, implementation of emergency preparedness plan, disaster management plan, dam break analysis, catchment area treatment plan, stabilization of muck disposal sites, rim plantation, pasture development, nursery development, etc are also prescribed in the environmental clearances for hydro power projects.