India’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has given crucial techno-economic clearance for two new hydro projects in eastern India. On 22 January it approved a 150MW extension to the existing 360MW Balimela scheme in Orissa. Earlier on 10 November 2000 it approved the 80MW Bairabi project in Mizoram.

The 2x75MW turbines at Balimela will be installed in the existing power house that already has 6x60MW units. The additional head to serve the new turbines will be achieved by more than doubling the capacity of the scheme’s Surlikonda reservoir.

Equity of 40% of the US$42M project will be put up by the project developer. The newly privatised Orissa Hydro Power Corporation (OHPC) will give US$12M, and the Orissa state government US$4M. The 60% debt will be financed entirely by the nation-al Power Finance Corporation (PFC).

The two turbines are scheduled to be commissioned in mid-2003 to provide peaking power to both Orissa and the eastern region grid.

The 2x40MW Bairabi project, meanwhile, will require construction of a 62m, high 180m long earthfill dam across the Bairabi river near Aizawl, the state capital. The resulting reservoir will require resettlement of 6500 people in six villages.

However, the Bairabi will then become navigable year-round as far as Silchar in Assam, 180km to the north. The reservoir will provide valuable alternative transport to Aizawl which is currently served only by a single congested road from Silchar. The US$113M project is expected to be commissioned in 2008. Financed entirely from the national budget, its power will be evacuated via 132kV transmission lines first to Kolosib district town and then to Aizawl.

In a third recent development, India and Nepal agreed on 18 January to raise the upper limit of their existing power exchange protocol from 50MW to 150MW to permit Nepal to export more hydro power to India. Existing tariffs that were last fixed in January 1996 will also be revised. The deal was reached at the sixth Nepal-India Power Exchange Committee meeting in Kathmandu.

It represents an important step towards much greater hydro power exports from Nepal. NEA now has 430MW installed hydro capacity, up from only 300MW six months ago.