Syed Bilal Ahmed
JAMMU, Dec 1: On May 19, 2018 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 330 Megawatt Kishanganga Hydroelectric Project; the people of Gurez Valley in Bandipora district participated in the ceremony, hoping that the project would light-up their homes.
Diesel run generators continue to be source of power for people of Gurez valley. They had expected that they would no longer remain dependent on the Diesel Generator sets for electricity. But not much has changed for them. An official handout issued by the Department of Information and Broadcasting while referring to comprehensive review meeting taken by Advisor to the Governor, Kewal Krishan Sharma said that the Advisor was pained to hear about a beautiful valley being without electricity.
A valley where 330 MW Kishanganga Hydroelectric Project is operational is yet to get electricity and diesel run generators are sole means of power, a situation that has prevailed and prolonged in the region for decades is not only shocking but reflects how development of far-flung areas has been neglected by the respective state governments.
Not only has Gurez valley in Bandipora suffered but another beautiful area in Kupwara, Machil too is facing similar situation. This was brought to the notice of Advisor Kewal Krishan Sharma by Chief Engineer of PDD Kashmir Hashmat Qazi. He informed Sharma about the electricity woes of the people of Gurez and Machil valley. Sharma was informed that in order to cater to the registered demand of the consumers, EMRE has a network infrastructure both at 33/11 KV level as well as 11/0.4KV level in far-flung areas where grid connectivity hasn’t been extended till date.
Advisor Sharma took note and directed the official to come up with a detailed roadmap for addressing this issue of grave concern. “How can we have an area which has 330 MW Hydroelectric Project generating electricity for rest of the state and the area is dependent of generators for electricity,” is what Sharma asked. He was further told that Gurez valley is the home to a mega hydroelectric project, the power from which will be transmitted to other states.
At present, the residents of Gurez get electricity hardly for two to three hours in a day, supplied by the diesel-run generators. And these generators operate as per the available stock of diesel. Sharma said that power crisis in Jammu and Kashmir would be overcome to a large extent by 2020 as massive infrastructure upgradation is going on in this key sector.
Sharma high- asked the Power Development Department to ensure completion of all the infrastructure upgradation projects within the set timeframe so that their benefits reach the people at the earliest. He said the availability of assured electricity is one of the major concerns of the people in Kashmir, especially during harsh winters.
“When I was appointed Advisor recently, the main concern Governor expressed to me was to look into the power crisis in the State, and I am trying my best to mobilize the officials and the concerned wings of the department to expedite the augmentation projects,” he said. Sharma said time has also come when the State would also look into the possibilities of using the solar and other renewable energies to tide over the power crisis across the State.
Sharma said that one of the key projects nearing completion is Alasteng Grid Station which would go a long way in augmenting the power scenario in the Valley. He said that the Grid station was being constructed at a cost of around Rs. 109 crores and so far around Rs. 81 crores has been spent on its construction.
During the meeting, Chief Engineer, PDD, Hashmat Qazi briefed the Advisor about the overall functioning of the department. He informed the Advisor that the distribution infrastructure is manned and operated by around 9109 employees of various cadres as against the sanctioned strength of the 11563. He informed that the electric maintenance and Rural Electrification Wing (EMRE) Kashmir was a sole entity for maintenance and operations of the power system below 33 KV level in Kashmir.
He further said that EM&RE wing caters to diverse mix of around 9.65 lakh consumers of various categories—having an aggregate registered load of 1332.04 MV.
Advisor was informed out of total 965239 consumers, 399693 consumers fall under the metered category. The officials informed the meeting that during summers, PDD supplies 24X7, electricity to consumers without any curtailment. They said with the change in the climate, the department faces the challenges of supplying increased load which used to increase gradually from autumn and peaked during winter. However, they informed that this year the valley witnessed snowfall in November for the first time since 2009—resulting in an abrupt surge in demand.
The meeting was also informed about the current curtailment schedule implemented in the valley. Regarding the transformer outage and status, the Advisor directed the officials to work out the modalities to reinstall the transformers within the stipulated time. He directed officials that the areas shouldn’t be without electricity for a week. The Advisor was informed that there are 26858 transformers across the valley.
He directed the officers go for creation of buffer stock of power transformers and also ensure the clearance of liabilities of SSI units. Advisor directed the officials to do a regular inspection of consumers and prevent illegal use of power. During the meeting, the status of the works under centrally sponsored schemes was also discussed threadbare.
He said the government would put in place an appropriate mechanism to regularly monitor progress on execution of such projects. “We need to ensure that we work in close coordination. Officials must go on TV, use Radio and use mass media to educate consumers about drawbacks of power pilferage,” the Advisor said.