Tell us about the typical challenges whilst executing power transmission projects in northeast India.
Challenges in transmission line projects are normal in any part of the country. The northeast being a difficult terrain with the terrains including plains, hills & the Himalaya covering the region, it makes executing power transmission project more difficult due biodiversity issues, social sensitivity and economic conditions in an area where the region is surrounded by a large international border.
The socio-politico factors also require specific considerations as the region is far diversed than the other parts of the country.
How do you find the role of government utilities in assisting contractors in matters like securing right of way, etc?
As for Government of Meghalaya, it is being governed by the 6th Schedule of the constitution. Acquiring land in the state of North East is a very different process and also sensitive and difficult task. Here and many other states like Nagaland, land holding come this is in the hands of private individuals and hence acquisition of land is very complex. To over such challenges right of way for construction projects in the state of Meghalaya are secured by the government or power utilities themselves. Thus securing right of way is a purely government responsibility and contractors are devoid of any challenges. However the time taken and litigations has always delayed project completion.
States like Assam where the Sixth schedule is not applicable have now started to outsource right of way along with the erection portion as in other parts of the country.
From the perspective of technology and practices, has the pace of execution of transmission projects improved over the recent years? Please discuss.
Though, there has been development of technology and practices, such development are not being executed in this part of the country (northeast) in a big way. We are sure that such technology advancement can help execution of the project faster, but the socio, economic, political situation in the northeast will not help in such advanced technology being implemented in northeast very soon.
However, we as a company have been trying to upgrade and enhance our skill and technology to execute the project more effectively and efficiently.
How do you see the scope for power transmission contractors to groom into developers, in the current public-private partnership policy environment?
Power transmission contractors have to be divided into three segments—large corporations, small and medium contractors and labour contractors. In the current scenario, large corporations are getting the major contracts and they implement the same by outsourcing the same to labour contractors under the supervision of the project managers.
Small and medium contractors rely on small local work allotted or emergency work allotted by state utilities. If the PPP model is to be successful, small and medium entities that have a structure and system need to be empowered to groom such contractors. The unorganized labour contractor in any case will benefit from the project since the implementation has to be done at the local level. Large machinery and safety tools for power transmission projects is becoming a necessity and unless the small and medium sized contractor is in the loop the grooming will be restricted to large corporations who in any case would not require such help.
Erection contracting is 30 per cent of the project cost, and big players in the field have a monopoly in the matter and do not encourage small and medium contractors to grow in the sector. They employ the unorganized and unskilled tiny or micro contractor as labour suppliers to bypass the small and medium erection contractor who have the structure and systems for being groomed.
However power transmission contractors have tremendous role in the maintenance of such line and substations in the immediate future.
Given that India has to substantially expand its transmission infrastructure, what specific suggestions do you have to make to enable speedy project completion?
Availability of funds, right of way challenges and climatic adversities have been major stumbling blocks for executing of transmission infrastructure projects. Our suggestion is that these concerns should be addressed in a time-bound manner and executed with proper consideration for meeting climatic adversities. As an example, monsoon hits the northeast in June and continues till October end. No work can be done due to floods and landslides, making these areas inaccessible during this period. If careful planning is done, taking into consideration all the challenges, projects can be executed better in the difficult reaches of northeast India.
The northeast has a huge capacity for power generation, this needs to be harnessed for the energy needs of the country and development of the power transmission lines is therefore of great importance.