SHIMLA: In his budget speech on March 14, chief minister Virbhadra Singh had expressed dissatisfaction over the progress made in harnessing hydro power potential of the state. Now, an RTI query has revealed that delay in obtaining NOCs and other clearances from various departments and objections from locals, from time to time, has left 276 small hydro projects hanging fire.

In the RTI information, HIMURJA has revealed that many proposals for small hydro electric projects in Himachal Pradesh are languishing in files. Although, there is a provision of single window clearance for projects of 5 MW and below, these 276 projects, of the total 433, have surpassed the time period allowed, while the remaining 157 projects, though pending, are still within the time period, said RTI activist Devashish Bhattacharya.

It means, if average of 3 MW of each project is taken into account, then a total of 1,299 MW power potential remains trapped in red tape, he said.

As per rules, projects of 5 MW or below are entitled for single window clearance, yet these are pending with different departments for NOCs and clearences, according to information received from director of HIMURJA.

Bhattacharya said that the reason for delay was mentioned as “Delay in obtaining NOCs/clearances from various departments and objections from locals, from time to time.’

“It is a matter of concern that despite the provision of single window clearance for below-5 MW projects, NOCs and clearances are pending with various departments. It is not understood why the government is not ensuring speedy clearances, when it is in the larger interests of the state,” he added.

Himachal Pradesh has revised its hydro power potential to 27,436 MW while 8,375 MW hydro power has been harnessed till date.

The delay in granting approval in the past has already caused huge loss of industrial investment to state. During the budget session of the state assembly, industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri had said that when the special industrial package was granted to Himachal Pradesh, it was estimated that the state would attract investment of around Rs 48,000 crore. But in the last ten years, investment of only 13,000 crore has materialised. “When we checked the reasons, it came out that delayed clearances proved the biggest hurdle and ultimately discouraged investment,” he said.

Agnihotri had said that when the issue will be referred to single window committee headed by chief minister, a final clearance would be accorded after which no further clearance would be required. To attract investments, the state government will proactively and aggressively follow the approach of “industry by invitation” programmes in other states so as to send a message that Himachal Pradesh is now an investor-friendly state, he said.