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Upper Siang project likely to be relocated on Chinese concerns

Anil Sasi

Takes new name as `Intermediate Siang'

New Delhi , March 23

The 11,000-MW `Upper Siang' hydroelectric project - which would have been the country's largest power project and the world's third largest - could be shifted to an alternative site 49 km downstream of the original site mainly due to environmental concerns raised by China.

The project is likely to be re-christened as `Intermediate Siang' on account of its new location and a decision on the revised project size would be taken once a fresh feasibility report is completed, Government officials said.

The Chinese administration has raised objections to the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) project since the reservoir, if executed at the original location, would have led to submergence of territory in Tibet across the Arunachal border during the construction stage.

"If executed at the original site, the dam height of 257 metres was required to be scaled down to prevent submergence of Chinese territory, which would have left inadequate storage both for flood moderation arrangement and power generation for the project. While scaling down the project size was under active consideration, NHPC has identified an alternative site - Intermediate Siang, about 49 km downstream of the original site," an official involved in the exercise said.

Investigations have been taken up for the preparation of the feasibility report for the project at the new site, the official said, adding that the new production capacity of the project can be established only once the report is completed.

NHPC was earlier looking at the option of scaling down the project size to around 5,000 MW if executed at the original site. The project was originally scheduled for commissioning during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan.

`Lack of vital inputs'

Progress on the project had been held up for some time, mainly on account of lack of "vital inputs" from the Chinese side required during the pre-feasibility stage. The data included hydrological and meteorological data, largely because a major portion of the catchment area for the project falls in Tibet.

Had the Siang Upper project come up in its originally envisaged gargantuan size, it would have been third in terms of size in the world, after the Three Gorges Project (being developed by China) and the Itaipu project, which is already operational in Brazil.

The Itaipu project is currently the largest hydropower plant in the world with a 12,600-MW installed capacity, while the Three Gorges project, currently under construction on the Yangtze river, would have a total capacity of 18,200 MW upon completion. The Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant is located on the Parana River and straddles Brazil and Paraguay.

Besides the Siang Upper, NHPC is developing the Siang Lower Project (with a capacity of 1,600 MW) and the Siang Middle Project (with a capacity of 1,000 MW) in Arunachal Pradesh.

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