Cold comfort: Kashmir battles chill sans power (Lead, with images)December 28th, 2011 - 3:07 pm ICT by IANS
Srinagar, Dec 28 (IANS) Perhaps the only thing more numbing than Kashmir’s winter is the state government’s apathy. Despite official assurances of uninterrupted power supply and of meeting any shortfall from the country’s northern grid, Kashmiris are enduring yet another winter without power. Many towns in Kashmir Valley get power for only four-five hours a day, residents complain.
“Just have a look at the new curtailment schedule recently published by the electricity department. There is only darkness in store for us as the supply hours have been brought down to just four to five in a day,” said Abdul Majid, 62, living in north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
Those living in summer capital Srinagar too are not any better off.
“Yesterday we had electric supply for just one hour in 12 hours. It is frustrating,” said Shabir Ahmad Farash, 28, who lives in Eidgah old city area of Srinagar.
People in Ganderbal town blocked the Srinagar-Leh highway Tuesday protesting against the poor electricity supply in the area.
Police and civil administration had a tough time pacifying the angry protesters.
The mercury has plummeted in the Valley in recent days, with towns recording sub-zero temperatures regularly.
“If Kashmiris did not have the ‘kangri’ (earthen fire pot woven in willow wicker), I wonder how we would keep body and soul together,” said Master Habibullah, 64, a resident of Ganderbal town.
Public anger and indignation notwithstanding, authorities of the Power Development Department (PDD) have an entirely different story to tell.
Senior engineers of the PDD blame the power woes on “indiscipline and pilferage by the consumers”.
Speaking to IANS, a senior engineer of the PDD, who did not want to be named, said: “It is the indiscipline and non-compliant metering that results in the worsening electric supply scenario.
“For uninterrupted supply to the entire Valley, we need 1,350 MW of power daily. Presently, we are supplying 923 MW daily to our commercial and domestic consumers here.
“You will be surprised to know that the agreed load between the PDD and both its domestic and commercial consumers is only 700 MW a day.
“In layman’s terms, this means we are supplying much more than what we have agreed to supply to our consumers.
“We are importing power from the northern grid of the country on a daily basis, paying an average of Rs.8 crore a day,” he said.
The official added that the department’s revenue collection from April 1 to Nov 30 this year has been Rs.249 crore.
“That means we earn Rs.800,000 daily while we spend Rs.8 crore on import of energy every day!
“The real problem is that when the peak hours start in the evenings, every domestic consumer switches on all lighting, heating, cooking and other electric appliances, putting our systems under tremendous pressure,” he said.
The engineer said the state-owned power generation projects in the Valley generate just 90 MW of power daily these days because of low water discharge in local rivers.
“All our electricity generating projects are hydro-based. We generate just 90 MW of power daily, while we supply 923 MW every day.
“We have one power project owned by the National Hydel Power Corporation (NHPC) in the Valley.
“NHPC’s Uri project generates 240 MW daily and we utilize all its generation for our use.
“We have to pay the NHPC, although as our royalty etc we get 12 percent of this generation free.
“That means we have to pay the NHPC for 200 megawatts daily.
“How can the gap be met as long as the people do not behave responsibly?” he asked.
The official said the average domestic consumer agreements are for half a kilowatt, which means one can use just five electric lamps of 100 watts daily, paying Rs.276 per month.
“Instead, every household has electric heaters, water boilers, electric blankets, blowers, television sets. etc. Unless we learn to spend only as much as we pay for, Kashmir’s electric power woes would continue, no matter how much we import from outside,” the engineer said.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: angry protesters, civil administration, cold comfort, electricity department, electricity supply, entire valley, farash, fire pot, indiscipline, kangri, kashmiris, north kashmir, northern grid, pilferage, power woes, public anger, shabir ahmad, uninterrupted power supply, uninterrupted supply, zero temperatures