Bhopal: After cancelling seven multipurpose dam projects proposed to be built on Narmada river in 2016, the Madhya Pradesh government has signed a Rs 2,200 crore memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Union government for the supposedly cancelled 225 MW hydro-electric project and other multipurpose projects in the Narmada Basin last week.
The press release regarding the MoU dated May 26 states: “Narmada Basin Projects Company LTD (NBPCL) and Union Government’s Power Finance Corporation (PFC) has signed Rs 2,200 crore MoU to built 225 MW hydro-electric project and 12 multipurpose projects in the State of Madhya Pradesh.”
The MoU was signed between Chief Managing Director, PFC, Rajeev Sharma and NBPCL Managing Director ICP Keshari virtually on the basis of pre-feasibility study report and approval of the state government, said a Press Information Bureau (PIB) press release.
Out of the 12 approved projects, the release mentioned four multipurpose projects, such as Basaniya (Dindori), Chinki Boras (Narsinghpur, Raisen, Hoshangabad), Sakkar Pench Link (Narsingpur, Chhindwara, Hoshangabad), and Dudhi (Chhindwara, Hoshangabad), which will be financed under the MoU.
Nevertheless, out of 29 proposed dam projects on the Narmada valley, 13 projects were in limbo including one of the State Electricity Department owing to various reasons. Of them, the state government had cancelled seven projects in 2016 citing higher cost of lands under the new Land Acquisition Act, 2013. These dams could also submerge acres of forest and agriculture lands. The remaining five projects were awaiting clearance of the Central Water Commission, according to the Department’s 2016 official document.
Replying to a question by MLA Jitendra Gahlot in the Assembly over the proposed 29 dams on the Narmada river on March 3, 2016, CM Chouhan had said, “The plan to build the seven proposed dams was cancelled because the dams are [expected to affect] acres of forest and agriculture land. And the cost of those dams is anticipated to be much higher compared to its primary proposal after the new Land Acquisition Act came into force.”
Thus, the government had cancelled Machrewa, Radhavpur, Sesra, Basaniya, Upper Burner, Atariya and Sher dams projects, the CM said in the House.
Now, the million dollar question is, how can the government sign an MoU for these cancelled projects? The MoU suggests that the state government has either reinstated these projects or taken a loan for the cancelled ones.
The MoU has also raised eyebrows of Narmada Valley experts and social activists as well.
Commenting over it, expert Raj Kumar Sinha said, “It seems like the state government has signed an MoU on already cancelled Narmada basin projects When CM himself informed the House that he had cancelled seven project because of higher costing of dams and submergence issue, how can the Department reinstate the project, and take loan to build the dams?”
“The submergence will not only affect the environment, but will also displace thousands of people,” he added.
Meanwhile, a senior official of the Narmada Valley Development Authority feels that the state doesn't need such power projects.
“When the state already generates surplus power with nearly 1900-2,000 crore units a year and sells the remaining 30-35% of unused power to other states at Rs 2.60 a unit, there is no need for new power projects,” they said, requesting anonymity.
“In addition to that, the state government is already paying nearly Rs 50,000 crore to six private power companies a year without taking a single unit from them, then why does the state need to set up more power projects which may harm the climate and the people?” they asked.
Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan said that the state government should rethink the recent MoU and withdraw the plan to build the already cancelled projects.
When Newsclick tried to contact both top officials of Narmada Valley Development Authority, Sanjay Gupta, MD and his subordinate ICP Keshari, they both refused to comment on the MoU.
Keshari, who is mentioned as the Managing Director of NBPCL in the official press release said he “didn’t know much about it”.
Recently, the state government had cancelled the 26 years old private Maheshwar Power project citing higher costing of electricity at Rs 18 a unit.
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