Group favours ease in hydro data accessROOPAK GOSWAMI
|Construction at Lower Subansiri. Telegraph picture|
Guwahati, Nov. 8: The ministry of water resources has been asked to review its guidelines regarding release of “classified” hydrological data on Brahmaputra and it tributaries to private developers to facilitate accelerated development of hydroelectric projects in the Northeast.
Sources said the inter-ministerial group for hydro-power development in Northeast India, in its report, has asked the ministry of water resources to review its guidelines to facilitate access to hydrological data by private developers for expeditious development of the hydro-power potential of the region. This will be done keeping in place the required safeguards to serve national interest.
The inter-ministerial group was constituted by the ministry of water resources on the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office to evolve a suitable framework to guide and accelerate the development of hydropower in the Northeast.
The report said with the shift in government policy, hydroelectric projects are being given to private developers, who are facing difficulty in getting access to the all-important hydrological data. The state governments are reluctant to provide the secrecy undertaking on behalf of the private developers, even as a number of hydroelectric projects in Arunachal Pradesh are being executed by the private sector.
Sources said earlier projects were executed by government agencies and there was no problem in acquiring hydrological data on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries from the ministry of water resources or Central Water Commission as per existing guidelines. These guidelines stipulate that no hydrological data should be released to international and private agencies. They provide that in case of requests for releasing data to private parties in the country, the secrecy undertaking should be obtained from the concerned ministry, department or public sector undertaking.
The Brahmaputra is a major international river covering a drainage area of 580,000 square km. Of this 50.5 per cent lies in China, 33.6 per cent in India, 8.1 per cent in Bangladesh and 7.8 per cent in Bhutan.
The hydrological data of any river is the foremost requirement for planning and designing of any hydropower project. The existing guidelines, issued by the ministry of water resources, say that hydrological data may be released to central or state government offices, including public sector undertakings, only after obtaining a secrecy undertaking from an officer of joint secretary rank.
“The data of these basins are classified, and hence is provided to bonafide users on request following a set procedure for release of classified data. Wherever required, the approval of ministry is sought for release of such data,” a water resources official said.
Sources said the non-availability of hydrological data for Brahmaputra is resulting in delay in preparation of the detailed project reports for the hydroelectric projects, and that it would be most helpful if that the procedure for obtaining it is put up on the website of the Central Water Commission.
Apart from Brahmaputra, Indus, Ganga and Barak river basins have been categorised as classified river basins.