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69 years after Independence, resourceful Assam remains power-starved

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  27 May 2016 12:00 AM GMT

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, May 26: It has been nearly 69 years since the country got Independence, yet a state as resourceful as Assam continues to remain power-starved. The new BJP government has a task cut out to make the State power surplus and deliver on its promise of 24X7 power supply.

A State government website claims that Assam has one of the highest power potential in the country, based on water, tural gas, coal and oil. The hydroelectric potential available in the State is estimated at 12 million KW — about 30% of India’s hydro power resources, excluding that of the Brahmaputra which itself has the capacity of 30 million KW. This represents one of the largest concentration of hydro power potential in the world.

In spite of the bounties of ture, the previous government could do little to tap the resources. This is despite the fact more than Rs 1,000 crores, including ADB funds and grants under the RGGVY, have been spent in the sector over the years.

The State’s own generation as on date is just a paltry 185 MW, against the peak demand of around 1,272 MW. It is buying over 1,000 MW power from the Central sector to meet the demand.

The dearth of power has hobbled industrial development in the State.

There are six power projects with total capacity 2,954 MW coming up in the Northeast, but none of the projects are on schedule. Some of these have been delayed by four to six years.

In Assam, the origil commissioning schedule for the coal-based 500 MW NTPC project at Bongaigaon was May, 2011. That target has been pushed back to April-June, 2017.

The 100 MW APDCL’s project at mrup, which was earlier scheduled to be completed in January 2012, has been re-scheduled for September, 2016.

Even electric poles have not reached hundreds of villages in the State.

As on April, 2015, the State had 2,892 un-electrified villages. In the last fiscal, 947 of these were connected with electricity.

Ahead of the elections, State Power minister Rakibul Hussain had said that the State would get 24x7 power supply from January this year. But that promise also remains a distant dream. Former Power minister Pradyut Bordoloi made tall claims at media briefings, but the scerio changed little in the last 15 years.

Bordoloi had also been claiming that reforms in the power sector started in 2004, but there are little signs of that on the ground. As on February 2016, a household in Assam, on average, got only 16.5 hours of electricity supply in a day.

According to the 2014-15 data, the average power unit consumption of a rural household in the State was as low as 1.71 per day. The power consumption of a household is one of the indicators of a state’s economic health.

During the assembly election campaign, senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister rendra Modi and party president Amit Shah had pooh-poohed Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s development slogan by listing the number of un-electrified villages in the State. Among Modi’s most hyped slogans is ‘har gaon mein bijli’ (electricity in every village’).

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