The 9-hour power outages add to the misery of Valley's long winter

SRINAGAR: It is going through one of its longest and toughest winters with barely half its daily electricity requirement of 2,000 megawatts, resulting in an average of nine hours a day in the measured areas and up to 12 hours in places where bill to rural consumers at fixed prices.

Ajaz Dar, chief engineer (maintenance) of the J&K energy development department, partly blames the early start of winter for the massive deficit in electricity generation. As of now, we have 1,200MW available for distribution in the country, including the energy we import. The Alesteng transmission line should provide us with 200 to 250MW more after its launch, hopefully soon, he told TOI.

The Alesteng project was scheduled to be operational in December.

While power outages have always been a feature of winter in the Valley, electricity available for distribution in previous years has rarely fallen short of more than 200-250MW per day, authorities said.

In 2018-19, the average daily requirement was 1,800MW, while the supply was approximately 1,450MW. The power outages in urban and rural areas during the season were never more than three or four hours a day.

In addition to homes and businesses, public health centers in North and South Kashmir have been the most affected by power outages this season. We have acquired diesel generators for primary and sub-district hospitals in remote areas, but we cannot have electrical support all the time, said a senior health care official who declined to be identified.

Zahoor Ahmad Mir of Watnoo in Tangmarg, a city in, has moved his sick father, Mohammad Maqbool Mir, 88, to his older brother's house in Srinagar so that there is no medical emergency. In which health center should I admit it? Even the Tangmarg sub-district hospital doesn't have electricity for most of the day? he said.

In Srinagar, the main hospitals have been included in the priority network of the energy department, although that does not guarantee an uninterrupted supply. Muneer Ahmad, the deputy medical superintendent of the SMHS Hospital, said the energy crisis was so severe that it was impossible for any health care institute to function without adequate support.

Private nursing homes throughout the city have installed heavy duty generators that are in operation for most of the day. Nadeem Ahmad Khan, a physiotherapist who runs a clinic in Dalgate, asks his patients to visit him at a particular time of day when the chances of a power outage are lower. It is a torture to be without electricity for so long every day. There have been times when patients at my clinic have had to wait hours for electricity to return, he said.

Bilal Omar, a resident of Srinagar's Bhagat neighborhood, said it was known that the winter energy supply was irregular, but that this season had been the worst so far. After J&K became a territory of the Union, we hoped that the promise of integral development would translate into better services. But the energy supply, one of the most basic needs, has been pathetic this winter compared to the past.

In Pulwama, one of the J&K districts where terrorists remain a dominant presence, Showkat Ahmad of Koil village spends all day waiting for power to be supplied for at least a couple of hours at night so that his children can study. Can't we import energy if we are not generating enough for ourselves? he said.

Chief engineer Dar said that several centrally sponsored energy schemes for rural and urban areas were in various stages of implementation. A broad network for transmission and distribution is being built. Most of these schemes will be completed by the end of 2020. We have around Rs 2.5 billion rupees available to spend on projects in the Valley.

NHPC Ltd has seven Hydel Power operational projects: Kishanganga, Uri-II, Bursar, Sewa-II, Pakal Dul, Nimmo Bazgo and Chutak, in the Valley. Based on a memorandum of understanding with the previous J&K government in 2000, NHPC was to supply 12% of the energy generated through these projects to J&K as a royalty and deliver the plants after 10 years. The deadline was later extended to 2019.