NHPC Limited’s Teesta-V hydropower project in India has been named the winner of the 2021 IHA Blue Planet Prize for excellence in sustainable hydropower development.

The 510MW project located on the Teesta River in Sikkim, Northern India, was awarded the prize by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) after it met or exceeded international good practice across all 20 performance criteria using the Hydropower Sustainability Tools.

“This is a proud moment for NHPC and will encourage and inspire us to achieve higher standards in sustainability for hydropower project development and operation,” commented Chairman and Managing Director Abhay Kumar Singh. “On behalf of NHPC Limited, I express our sincere gratitude to the International Hydropower Association for awarding the prestigious IHA Blue Planet Prize to NHPC’s Teesta-V Hydroelectric Power station.”

The Teesta-V project met proven international best practice in six topics, including project benefits, public health, cultural heritage, erosion and sedimentation, and asset reliability and efficiency. In addition, the project exceeded international good practice in nine topics and met basic good practice in the remainder.

The independent assessment report highlights how NHPC Limited has designed and implemented processes to manage its impacts on local communities and the environment. In doing so, the project has provided significant positive benefits, including providing low-cost electricity and employment to the region.

“We are delighted to award the 2021 IHA Blue Planet Prize to NHPC Limited’s Teesta-V station,” said Eddie Rich, Chief Executive of IHA. “The project has demonstrated a real commitment to transparency and good practice, and can hopefully act as a model in the region. No project is perfect and the path to sustainability can sometimes be bumpy, so we welcome NHPC Limited’s passion for sustainable development and encourage them to pursue this ambition beyond the recognition of the IHA Blue Planet Prize.”

Teesta-V is part of a cascade of hydropower projects along the Teesta River designed to supply power to Sikkim’s Energy & Power Department and other state-owned distribution companies in India’s eastern region.

The sustainability assessment was conducted by a team of independent accredited assessors using the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) from January to June 2019.

“This assessment helped NHPC identify strengths as well as weaknesses in the Teesta-V project. These lessons can now be applied across the company’s entire project portfolio, and because NHPC chose to be transparent with the results, across the entire Indian hydropower sector,” explained Dr Joerg Hartmann, lead assessor of the project. “In fact, some of the best practices identified in the assessment – such as conducting a follow-up Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) ten years after project commissioning, to verify initial predictions of impacts and the effectiveness of mitigation measures – should be considered by project owners everywhere.”

The prize was awarded by the IHA on 23 September 2021, the penultimate day of the biennial World Hydropower Congress. 

Holding the IHA Blue Planet Prize for Teesta-V – A.K. Singh, Chairman and Managing Director (centre left) with senior management