Over two decades after it was conceptualised, the first unit of a 60 MW power plant in Mizoram began generating electricity this week -- making it the third power-surplus state in northeastern India after Sikkim and Tripura.
"The first unit (30 MW) of the 60 MW capacity Tuirial hydro-power plant started generation on trial basis from Tuesday (August 29)," North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) General Manager P.K. Bora told IANS.
"The second unit of the project would start generation from either October-end or the first week of November."
With a population of just 1.1 million, Mizoram's current demand of electricity is only 110 MW to 115 MW during peak hours and is being met by the state's few mini power projects and availability of its share of power from regional and central sector projects.
"After the full commissioning of the Tuirial hydro-power project, Mizoram would be a power-surplus state," an official of Mizoram's power department said, adding that the additional power is likely to be supplied to the regional or national grid.
Farmers' protests, agitations, topographical hindrance and administrative hurdles delayed the commissioning of the project, the biggest in Mizoram, which shares a border with Myanmar (510 km) and Bangladesh (318 km).
Government-run NEEPCO, a "Mini Ratna" company under the Union Ministry of Power, commissioned the hydro-power plant utilising the water of the Tuirial river in Kolasib district in northern Mizoram.
"After the project was conceptualised in 1994, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs cleared it on July 7, 1998," Bora said.
However, soon after project work started, farmers and locals launched a series of agitations against the submerging of their standing crops and farmland under the reservoir.
Bora, who is the project head, said work came to a total halt on June 9, 2004, due to the agitation launched by the "abruptly-formed Tuirial Crop Compensation Claimant Association, claiming compensation for the standing crops in the riverine reserve forest".
According to the company's senior engineer, work resumed in 2011 after the Union Power Ministry, NEEPCO and the Mizoram government jointly negotiated with the agitators.
However, the delays and consequent price escalation pushed up the cost of the project, initially pegged at Rs 369 crore, to Rs 1,100 crore.
Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, while addressing an official meeting in Aizawl earlier this week, said that four more mini power plants are expected to be completed during 2018-19 financial year.
He said the Detailed Project Report for 24 MW Tuirini hydro-power plant, to be taken up under the state sector, has been prepared. The project cost would be Rs 465 crore and it is expected to be completed in four-and-a-half years.
"NEEPCO has also been pursuing the statutory clearance of the 210 MW Tuivai hydro power project and construction work is likely to start soon," the Chief Minister added.
Sikkim is self-sufficient at 95.70 MW while Tripura, whose daily need is 285 MW, is self-reliant in electricity.
Since March last year, Tripura has been supplying 160 MW of power to Bangladesh and is ready to provide an additional 40 MW if the central government permits it to do so.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)