India’s growing demand for electricity and the push for privatization are having unintended consequences in India’s northern state of Sikkim.
Sikkim’s rushing Himalayan Rivers are making hydroelectricity for India and providing a much needed revenue source for the Sikkim government. The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC Limited), India’s hydropower utility company, completed and commissioned Sikkim’s first hydropower project in 2000, the 60MWt Rangit Hydroelectric Power Project Stage III. But since then most contracts have been awarded to private corporations.
The NHPC projected itself as an organization that would bring much money and many jobs to Sikkim. But as NHPC projects unfolded, the perception changed, “It was only a few favored people who’d get jobs. And the land rate [for dam land acquisitions] we felt was appropriate was actually not given,” said Tseten Lepcha, working president of the NGO, The Affected Citizens of Teesta.
Due to the NHPC’s bad reputation and frugality, as well as the increased authority the Sikkim government could exert over private corporations, the Sikkim leadership favored private developers. Recently retired NHPC employees formed brand new corporations to quickly propose dam projects outlined by Sikkim Prime Minister Pawan Chamling’s hydroelectric initiative. A total of 19 hydroelectric dam contracts were awarded to mostly private dam developers between 2005-2008. Just two contracts were awarded to the NHPC. Most of these 19 projects have not begun construction.
Responding to residents’ concerns about the adverse side effects of dam construction, private corporations promised, “They’d do everything contrary to what the NHPC had done,” explains Tseten Lepcha. However, construction on two hydroelectric dams has yet to be completed.
The 500MWt Teesta VI Hydro Power Project in Singtam, Sikkim, has been sitting unfinished and collecting debris in the Teesta River for over a year after private developer Lanco Infratech Limited’s funding collapsed. The same story happened in West Sikkim after the revenue stream was depleted for Jal Power Corporation’s 120MWt Rangit IV Hydro Power Project in the summer of 2013.
Guards protect the entrances of the incomplete tunnels to prevent the entrance of vagrants while equipment and construction cranes rot at the dam sites.