The Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. (POWERGRID) operates about 72,500 Ckt km transmission lines and 124 sub-stations and about 82,100 MVA transmission capacity. Although grid developmental activities have minimal environmental and social impact owing to the very nature of its activities, but POWERGRID is committed to the goal of sustainable development. The Corporation realises that given the scale of its operations, there must be an impact upon both natural environment and communities. In fact, POWERGRID is the first Government of India undertaking in the power sector to have evolved its Corporate Environmental and Social Policy and Procedures (ESPP) in 1998 to ensure that its activity has least impact on environment and its habitat. The ESPP outlines POWERGRID’s approach and commitment to deal with environmental and social issues, relating to its transmission projects, and lays out management procedures and protocol to mitigate the same. It includes a framework for identification, assessment, and management of environmental and social concerns at both organisational and project levels. The ESPP was revised in 2005 based on the newly enacted Electricity Act, 2003 and National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation (NPRR-2004). The ESPP has been further updated in 2009 to meet the requirement of Use of Country Systems (UCS) after detailed review by World Bank and consultations with stakeholders. The ESPP is now accepted by the World Bank as fully equivalent to their environment and social safeguard policies and appreciated by multilateral agencies like, ADB, JBIC etc. and deals with environmental and social concerns within the adopted principles of avoidance, minimisation and mitigation.
■ Protecting land and bio-diversity
The Corporation is conscious of the need to conserve the natural resources and hence its grid systems avoid ecologically sensitive areas like forests, sanctuaries, national parks, tiger/ biosphere reserves, and coastal areas covered under CRZ, as far as possible. In case traversing forests is unavoidable due to terrain or technical reasons then the grid involvement of such areas is restricted to the barest minimum as POWERGRID follows the practice of land management in order to minimise the land requirement. Routing its lines to avoid ecologically sensitive areas has resulted in massive saving of forest area and the forest involvement has reduced from 6 per cent in 1998 to 1.35 per cent 2009.
■ Tower design
POWERGRID has adopted innovative tall tower designs (80 m and occasionally over 140 m) to protect trees and wildlife in ecologically sensitive areas. During the construction of Tehri Hydel Project, transmission line tree felling was reduced to 14,739 trees against an earlier estimate of 90,000 trees in the downstream Rajaji National Park with the installation of towers well above 85 m. Also with the development of innovative pole type tower design right of way (ROW) requirement has been reduced from 85 m to 64 m for 765 KV and from 52 m to 46 m for 400 KV D/C line. Installations of pole type towers for 400 kV in the urban areas near Delhi and Noida (Dadri-Ballabhgarh transmission line) have not only reduced ROW requirements but are more aesthetically pleasing as compared to the erstwhile conventional lattice structures.
■ Multi circuit and compact towers
In Jaldapara Sanctuary in West Bengal and in Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam and Thrisur of Kerala, the existing and cleared corridor of 220 kV line is utilised by installing multi circuit towers to avoid further requirement of forest area and reduction in ROW. Moreover, transportation of tower material by head loads into forests minimised damage to vegetation and habitat fragmentation. Also, POWERGRID does not use any chemicals for forest clearance/ROW maintenance or undertake treacherous manual stringing in thick forests and on slopes, to minimise damage to the environment.
■ Compact substations
POWERGRID has been developing compact substations that have a minimal land requirement and tries to locate sub-stations on government land to reduce social impact. The Corporation also undertakes massive plantations in sub-stations and 2 to 4 acre of land is afforested with suitable species in consultation with local forest department in almost each of its 120 sub-stations through a separate fund earmarked for the purpose. During 2008-09, POWERGRID paid a sum of Rs.108.13 Crore to different forest authorities which comprises Rs. 45.36 Crore for CA, Rs. 57.39 Crore towards NPV, Rs. 4 Crore towards wildlife management/conservation and Rs.1.38 Crore towards plantation of medicinal plants. During 2008-09 more than 50,000 trees of different species have been planted in new sub-stations. Provision for rain water harvesting and collection of even used/wastewater in upcoming substations is being undertaken for conservation and recharging of ground water.
■ Using GIS and GPS
POWERGRID extensively uses modern tools like Geographical Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) for selecting the optimal route for transmission lines.
Promoting Green Energy and Reducing Climate Change
POWERGRID has initiated a project titled ‘North Eastern Region (NER) – Northern Region (NR) Interconnector’ which aims at reduction of green house gas emissions through facilitating transfer of clean/green hydro power from the hydro-dominated northeastern region to avoid addition of fossil fuel thermal power in power deficit, thermal-dominated northern grids of India with minimal carbon footprints. Under this project POWERGRID is constructing ± 800 KV HVDC high capacity transmission system for evacuation and transfer of about 3100 MW of power from hydro projects under construction. It is estimated that about 257 million tons of CO2 emission shall be reduced during the 30 year lifecycle of the transmission project. However, it may go up to 497 million tons of CO2 in phased manner if proposed additional 3000 MW capacity is added.
Inputs from Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. (2010/2)