Leshka project exposes MeECL incompetence

By Our Reporter

Shillong: Since December last year electricity has been playing truant in Shillong city. The situation beyond the city is even more pathetic. When consumers call the Area Manager’s office they either get an engaged tone or are told that the telephone is temporarily out of order. But that is hardly their fault. It’s the entire system that is creaking.
After the corporatisation process MeSEB became MeECL. The nomenclature changed but the Government continues to run the Corporation like a department and the Chief Secretary who is burdened with running the entire Secretariat is also expected to be the corporate wizard to turn the sick MeECL around.
Sources in the Government say that the much touted Myntdu-Leshka hydro electric project which cost a whopping Rs 1100 crore was supposed to generate 126 MW of power in three phases but is now generating only 10 MW for reasons best known to the architects of the project.
The Leshka has suffered from tremendous time and cost overruns without the project handlers having to pay any penalty.
The main supplier of power to the city is the Umiam Reservoir with installed capacity of 185 MW. Today the generating capacity has been reduced to only 25 MW. The huge gap between demand and supply of power is met by the national grid.
But sources say that the Meghalaya Government owes approximately Rs 360 crore to the different power PSUs of the national grid for supplying power to the State. Of this amount, Rs 240 crore is due to NEEPCO.
It is learnt that notice for payment of the outstanding amount has been served by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) to the State Government. CEA has threatened to levy a fine on the Principal Secretary, Power, Government of Meghalaya.
Technical experts say that Meghalaya should have invested in thermal power projects since hydel electricity projects are too dependent on monsoons and their capacity to generate power is not uniform.
Thermal projects are more consistent but the scope for corruption is minimal. Hence the MeECL engineers continue to pursue hydel   projects despite making a mess of things.
The technical experts also claim that Government should have invited private players in the power sector or handed over new power projects to NEEPCO which would have given a return of 12 per cent on the power generated.
“With private players, Government does not have to invest money. They will generate their own resources and complete the project within a stipulated time. Power generation, transmission and distribution would also be handled by private players more efficiently. Of course the consumer has to pay a higher cost. But how long can Government subsidise power without going bankrupt?” asked a senior electrical engineer.
Government sources inform that the budgets of other departments have been cut to push in more funds to the Power Department.
The question many experts are asking today is why do Leshka when the peak demand is for Shillong city and the its suburbs? They are also asking why the Government of Meghalaya continues to invest in power projects despite their dismal failure.

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