SHIMLA: Himachal Pradesh has for long been projected as ‘power house’ of the country, given its immense hydro-electric power resources, but the state does not seem to be moving in the right direction in realizing its energy potential. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in his report has pointed out that the state government failed to ensure power development through independent power producers (IPPs), as out of 599 projects of 10,131 MW capacity allotted to IPPs during November 1991 to 2011-12, only 55 (10%) projects with 1,805.45 MW were completed and made operational.

On the contrary, state chief minister Virbhadra Singh in his budget speech on March 14 had said that identified hydro-power potential of the state had been increased from earlier 23,000 MW to 27,436 MW and steps would be taken to harness this additional potential. The report, tabled in the state assembly on Tuesday, states that Himachal government identified potential sites for small hydro-power projects on the basis of preliminary reconnaissance alone and no system existed to conduct pre-feasibility studies to ensure realistic estimation of power potential.

Execution of 40 hydro-power projects having total capacity of 315.35 MW could not progress well and suffered due to reasons such as lack of or inadequate feasibility studies, non-approval of detailed project reports and failure of IPPs in signing implementation agreements.

Digging up loopholes in implementation of environmental norms by power projects, the report states that lack of concern for environment was quite visible as minimum water flow of 15% – necessary for sustenance of aquatic eco-system and nearby ground water aquifers – was not maintained by an IPP checked randomly.

“Plantation activity in the sample projects was found highly deficient. Implementation of hydro-power projects through private sector participation was not efficient due to non-existence of a suitable monitoring mechanism at the apex level of government,” the report states.

It further mentions that there was shortfall in providing employment opportunities to bonafide Himachalis to prescribed extent of 70%. “On the whole, there was inefficiency on the part of the state government in ensuring power development through IPPs,” the report infers.

On the basis of the audit findings, the CAG has recommended to conduct prefeasibility studies with due diligence so that reliable data may be obtained for computation of power potential of projects. It also recommended constituting a high-level power committee at the state level to monitor issues arising during implementation of projects, review the progress of local area development schemes and implementation of environment management plans for overall efficient execution of projects.