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FEATURE STORY

Rampur Hydropower FAQ

September 13, 2007

Question: What is the nature of the Rampur Hydropower Project (RHP)?

The Project is designed to use water as it leaves the Nathpa Jhakri Hydropower Project. The water will be passed down a 15 km tunnel to the Rampur powerhouse, where it will generate approximately 1,770 million units of electricity a year. This amount of electricity could meet more than 40 percent of the present level of power needs of the state of Himachal Pradesh. The plant will also provide about 5.5 hours of peaking power support to the grid throughout the year.

The 412 MW Rampur power house will be situated near village Bael, opposite Dutt Nagar, on the right bank of the river Sutlej, approximately 15 km downstream of Rampur town. After leaving the powerhouse the water will then be added back into the river Sutlej. As it uses water from the Nathpa Jhakri Project, the Rampur project does not involve the construction of a dam or a reservoir, and no additional land will be inundated. The Project is expected to cost about US$ 615 million, of which the World Bank will provide up to US$400 million in the form of an IBRD loan.

The Project is being developed by the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVN) -- formerly the Nathpa Jhakri Power Corporation Ltd. -- a joint venture between the Government of Himachal Pradesh and the Government of India.

Question: What are the benefits from this project and who are the main beneficiaries?

The people of the state of Himachal Pradesh will benefit as a whole from the Project, because royalty of 12 percent of the total electricity generated from the project (at an estimated value of U$12 million per year) will be passed on to the Government of Himachal Pradesh. In addition, in recognition of its investment in the project, the state of Himachal Pradesh will receive an additional allocation of around 109 MW of power and will also receive dividends from the project. The state will also be entitled to a share in the remainder of the power generated from the project.

As much as 1,770 million units of electricity from this Project will be fed annually into the Indian power system – through the Northern Region Electricity grid – where it will improve the quality of electrical supply to existing consumers, especially at peak times, and also benefit farmers and other consumers in the northern Indian states who currently have either no access or constrained access to electricity.

The Project will also have significant environmental benefits. If a coal or oil-fired thermal plant of the same capacity were to be built instead of the Rampur hydropower project, the emission of greenhouse gases would add about 12,000 tons of Sulphur oxides (SOx), 6,000 tons of Nitrogen oxides (NOx), and about 2 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. By building and operating the Rampur Hydropower Project, the citizens of India will avoid this pollution.

Question: How will the Rampur Project affect the local people?

According to SJVN estimates, the Project would require about 79 hectares of land, including 30 hectares of private land belonging to 141 families with 167 landowners. In addition, another two non-title holders will be affected. Of the landowners, 35 will become landless -- that is they will retain less than 0.40 hectares of land and 28 families will lose their houses/ structures.

In compliance with the World Bank’s policy on resettlement, all attempts have been made to (i) identify social impacts early in the project preparation; (ii) avoid adverse impact as far as possible and if unavoidable, work to minimize them; and, (iii) provide timely information to the stakeholders to give them opportunities to comment and participate in the mitigation process.

The Project’s Resettlement Action Plan has been prepared after careful and continued consultations with the project-affected people and is now being implemented. It can be accessed on the Public Information Center (PIC) set up at the project site in Bael village; on SJVN’s website; public libraries at Rampur and Shimla; and from the World Bank’s project documents.

The environmental impact has been assessed and the adverse impacts will be mitigated in collaboration with the works of state-level environment agencies. As part of the Project, SJVN will provide funds to improve forest cover and treat catchment areas to reduce soil erosion from the flood impacts.

Question: How are the local people being involved in deciding the design of the Project?

SJVN reports that, prior to award of the civil works contracts, about 39 consultation/ public meetings had already taken place for people to air their concerns about the Project. More than 2,100 people from the area variously attended these meetings. Over and above people representing those who are affected and/or are being relocated, consultations have also been held with people who are not affected, for instance, village leaders and elders from the surrounding areas. In addition, the Project authorities regularly meet with different groups (ranging from the directly affected to those on the periphery of the Project). The public meeting held on March 30, 2007 at the PIC in Bael Village (the location of the Project powerhouse) to disseminate and share the final Resettlement Action Plan, was attended by more than 200 persons. Details of all these meetings can be had from the PIC.

Question: Will the local communities get any benefits from the Project?

Under the Rampur Project, SJVN has evolved a US$ 6.3 million (approximately Rs. 260 million) local area development plan in consultation with the residents of the area, to be implemented over a period of five years. After the completion of the project, the project will provide US $ 180,000 (Rs. 7.5 million) each year in perpetuity for infrastructure development. The people of the villages that fall under the Project area have identified road connectivity, health and drinking water as their major areas of concern.

Accordingly, the Project has launched a string of initiatives that include building footbridges, access roads and motorable bridges; setting up water supply systems and street-lighting for project-affected villages; upgrading the bus station in Rampur town; providing healthcare in remote villages through a mobile health van; as well as providing infrastructure facilities for local schools. Under the plan, SJVN has already spent around Rs. 8.20 million during the first year

The Project has also set up scholarships to help students from the Project area get quality technical and vocational education; the first batch of 35 students, including four girls, have already begun training in a variety of trades. The Project has also helped generate more than 2500 man-months of employment over the past year and some Rs. 12 million worth of small contracts on project-related activities have gone to people from the project-affected area and about Rs. 95 million worth of contracts have been given to people from other parts of Himachal Pradesh.

Question: How can the Bank ensure that its environmental and social safeguards will be met?

The Government of India and SJVN have indicated their intention to achieve a high standard of management of the environmental and social impacts of the project. SJVN has agreed to comply with the World Bank’s safeguard policies which cover a range of social and environmental aspects, including resettlement, forestry, biodiversity conservation, indigenous peoples, cultural properties, as well as other aspects such as civil design related issues, risk assessment and quality management. Apart from the Bank’s routine implementation support, leading experts will also periodically review project implementation.

Question: What are the steps taken on dam safety in the Rampur and Nathpa Jhakri projects?

Although the Rampur Project has no dam, both the Rampur and the Nathpa Jhakri projects depend for their water on the small reservoir entrained behind the Nathpa dam, which is situated deep in the canyon of the Sutlej River.

The dam at Nathpa is only 60 meters high and was built to a very rigorous specification and constructed following the World Bank policy on safety of dams. It is a steel-reinforced concrete gravity dam, with its foundations built into an excavation in the bedrock of the river. It has been designed to withstand the pressure of the water in the reservoir even during the unlikely event of an earthquake.

To further ensure its safety and water-tightness the dam abuts the riverbanks at a carefully chosen location on the Sutlej river, where the river canyon has strong shear walls. During its construction, a panel of experts was employed to advise SJVN on all aspects of construction of the dam as well as the underground works. Thus for the Rampur Project, dam safety aspects needed only to be re-confirmed; and accordingly, SJVN engaged the Dam Safety Organization, Nashik, which examined and confirmed the safety of dam with respect to it stability, its instrumentation and its maintenance.

Question: The Nathpa Jhakri plant has been repeatedly troubled by heavy siltation. Will this not affect the functioning of the Rampur Project as well?

The Sutlej, like most of the rivers in the north of India, emanates from the Himalayas, and their natural regime is to carry huge amounts of silt, which enter the river from the tributaries. These streams flow through basins where, because of the nature of the rocks and the high, cold altitude, there is little or no vegetation that can to prevent soil erosion and levels of silt are therefore high. Such levels of silt pose a serious problem, because the silt quickly wears away the blades of the turbines and other parts of the hydropower plant.

The turbines at Nathpa Jhakri project have been provided with special coatings which help fight the erosion problem. Even so, the turbines have to be taken out of service every year, so that by special welding techniques metal can be added to the blades to restore their efficient contouring. In an effort to reduce the ingress of silt, the sluice gates of the Nathpa dam are opened on a weekly basis during the high water season to flush the reservoir of any build-up of silt deposits.

The design of Rampur project takes into account experience of the operation and management of Nathpa Jhakri and will be designed to cope with high silt levels by employing such approaches as suitable anti abrasive coatings for the turbine blades (as tested on Nathpa Jhakri) and ensuring the optimum design in term of ease of maintenance and stock of spares. Rampur project will use a lower “head” of water (less than one third that of Nathpa Jhakri) and the turbines will operate at slower speeds, so the silt damage will in any case be less than that encountered at Nathpa Jhakri. The economic analysis considered a scenario of a number of days of outage due to high silt greater than the maximum experienced by Nathpa Jhakri to date, and found the project remains economically viable even under this scenario. In addition, the project has a component to provide funding support for additional measures to manage the silt issue for Nathpa Jhakri project

Question: What were the different alternatives considered before finalizing the Rampur Project?

Rampur project is one of the high priority projects in the Indus basin in the Government of India’s plan for hydropower development in the country. A “no-project” scenario implies that the resulting increased demand-supply gap for electricity will be filled by development of additional coal fired power stations (the fuel of choice given India’s abundant coal reserves) during off-peak time and small diesel or coal or gas fired plants during peak time. These would result in significant net increase in GHG emissions. Due to the finite nature and limited number of feasible hydropower projects; it is unlikely that a gap created by not developing Rampur project can be filled by developing another hydropower project which is currently lower in Government of India’s priority list. Even if any such project replaces Rampur project, it is likely that the environmental and social impacts of that project will be higher than those of the Rampur project (as the Central Electricity Authority studies, on which the priority list is based, include consideration of environmental and social footprints).

Six alternative layouts were formulated and analyzed for Rampur Hydropower Project. Based on the preliminary studies of geological features, environmental and sociological aspects, project components and operational parameters and investment cost etc., the alternative that was technically feasible, optimum in minimizing social and environmental impact, and economically the most attractive was selected.

Question: What is the current status of the Rampur Project?

The Project was presented to the World Bank’s Board and a IBRD loan of US$ 400 million was approved in September 2007. SJVN has selected the main civil and electro-mechanical contractors and the construction work is progressing ahead.


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