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SOURCE: MINT

State-run NHPC Ltd has formed a joint venture company—Ratle Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd—for the implementation of strategic 850 megawatt (MW) Ratle hydroelectric project in Jammu and Kashmir.

This comes in the backdrop of National Democratic Alliance government’s plan to fully utilise its share of water under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. Chenab flows from India into Pakistan. Mint had earlier reported about India aiming to speed up NHPC’s hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) following the reorganisation of the state, which has seen unprecedented violence in recent years. NHPC’s projects have been under the terror threat J&K, where the state-run firm is the main supplier of electricity.

“The JVC (joint venture company) has been incorporated on 01.06.2021 with NHPC and Jammu & Kashmir State Power Development Corporation Ltd (JKSPDC) holding equity share of 51% and 49% respectively. Ratle Hydoelectric Project (850 MW), is a Run of River Scheme located on River Chenab, Kishtwar district, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” union power ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The task is seen as strategically vital in the context of China developing the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of its showpiece One Belt One Road (OBOR) infrastructure initiative. According to the Indus Waters Treaty, whoever builds the project first will have the first rights on the river waters. India and Pakistan signed the treaty in 1960 after nine years of negotiations, with the World Bank being a signatory. The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of rivers.

“A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on 03.02.2019 amongst JKSPDC, NHPC and erstwhile Government of Jammu & Kashmir in the august presence of Prime Minister, of India, Shri Narendra Modi,” the statement added.

NHPC is the largest investor in Jammu and Kashmir and has invested put in ?20,778 crore there over the past four decades. It has paid around Rs5387.51 crore to J&K for water usage charges. In addition to supplying 789 MW to the J&K from its power projects, NHPC also gives 12% free power to J&K and 1% free power towards local area development fund.

NHPC plans to develop projects totaling 3,814 MW on its own and through joint ventures in the union territory. Apart from Ratle, these projects include 800 MW Bursar project. Also, NHPC is implementing the Pakal Dul (1000 MW), Kiru (624 MW) and Kwar (540 MW) hydropower projects in the J&K in a joint venture.

“Ministry of Power has already conveyed investment sanction for construction of 850 MW Ratle HE Project at an estimated cost of Rs. 5281.94 crore (at Nov.2018 price level). Subsequently, the Promoters Agreement was signed on 13.04.2021 leading to the incorporation of Ratle Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited,” the statement said.

Apart from raising objections on the 330MW project on the river Kishanganga, a tributary of Jhelum, Pakistan had also raised objections on the 1,000 MW Pakal Dul and 48 MW Lower Kalnai hydroelectric projects on River Chenab. After the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in India’s favour in 2013 on the Kishanganga project, India expedited its construction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2018 dedicating NHPC Ltd’s hydropower project to the nation.