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July 21, 1997


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Chinese knowhow for small hydropower stations

George Iype in Thiruvananthapuram

China has agreed to provide technical knowhow to set up 100 small hydroelectric stations in India. The first such power project will come up in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district.

The proposal to establish small hydro projects in river basins to boost India's extremely poor power situation was mooted by a high-level expert team from the Beijing-based International Centre on Small Hydro Power.

ICSHP officials headed by Professor Zhu Qiang held extensive talks with officials at the ministry of renewable energy sources in New Delhi last week.

The ICSHP was set up in 1994 by the Chinese ministry of water resources in collaboration with UNDP and UNIDO.

Professor Qiang told Rediff On The NeT that China, which has the largest number of small hydroelectric stations in the world, is ready to provide technical knowhow to India to set up similar projects.

As a precursor to the proposal, ICSHP is finalising a plan with the Kerala government for collaborative ventures to manufacture equipment and assemble components in the state.

China has more than 100 industrial units for manufacturing equipment for small hydroelectric projects. The Chinese equipment cost only three-fourths of the European and American equipment.

"We are keen to impart our technological superiority to India as many of the country's small river basins in villages are untapped," Professor Qiang said.

"It is high time India went in for small power projects for energy," he added.

Professor Qiang said China with 45,000 small hydroelectric stations is a sterling example of successfully tapping energy in villages. China's small power stations have a total installed capacity of 19,000 mega watts.

The average per mega watt cost of these small hydel power in China ranged from US $60,000 to US $1 million. ICSHP estimates that it might be possible to achieve lower costs in India as labour is cheap here.

What ICSHP engineers hope to adopt in India is a simplified procedure for planning and design of projects. A separate and integrated planing of hydro power development for each river is being finalised.

ICSHP engineers said the decision to go in for small hydelpower stations in preference to large projects would be based on economic, technical and political criteria. While these projects will not cause any ecological and rehabilitation problems, the small hydel stations at the same time will play an important role in poverty alleviation in India's villages.

Professor Qiang said ICSHP wants India to emulate the Chinese model in the transmission of power from the local and national grids. In China, only half the village-level hydel grids are connected to the national grid. The power from the local grid, which mostly serves the villages, is cheaper owing to tax concessions and lower management, fabrication and other costs. Local grids also keep the transmission losses quite low.

"Much of India's power scarcity will be solved if the country used its own strength in various areas of development of renewable energy sources," he said.

The ICSHP-sponsored hydel station in Pathanamthitta is aimed at demonstrating the Chinese technology in the field.

ICSHP in collaboration with the central government and various other state governments are in the process of finalising 100 other such projects across the country.

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