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Kashmir based think-tank brings experts to discuss state power crisis

“Organizer The Kashmir Institute shares data of a sample survey”

Srinagar, 17 Feb: A panel of experts on Saturday while discussion the electricity crisis in Kashmir observed that the crisis is being faced due to several issues, including major transmission losses, theft, under-development of the already established projects and NHPC not returning the projects. They said that there is need to establish more small hydro-electricity projects.

The public debate was organised by a Srinagar based think-tank, The Kashmir Institute, at Zero Bridge Fine Dine, Srinagar, in which Iftikhar Drabu, expert on energy and power; N.A. Kakroo, General Manager – Technical, JKState Power Development Corporation; Shakil Ramshoo, Head, Department of Earth Sciences, Kashmir University; Syed Shakeel Qalander, former president of FCIK and member of KCSDS; Hashmat Qazi, S.E., Power Development Department. Senior journalist Riyaz Masroor moderated the session.

Fahad Shah, the director of The Kashmir Institute, in his opening remarks said that the debate is to shed light on the major issues of electricity cuts being faced by the people, while as also finding alternatives and causes of such a crisis. “We are trying to engage people with each other at a level where we can listen to each other and find solutions. The aim of setting up this Institute is to bring people together at intellectual and engagement platforms. We have also conducted a sample survey and we aim to follow this issue in future also,” said Shah, who founded the Institute last year.

Syed Shakeel Qalander while speaking in the beginning said that ware not managing the crisis well for many reasons like a) demand and supply (20% scheduled cuts with additional cuts); govt. has failed to provide us the quality power (voltage is bad); b) transmission- severest bottleneck -1350 MW is what should be provided but they are not able to provide more than 1200 MW; they have miserably failed to upgrade; the whole transmission system is to be revisited; c) distribution – they don’t make govt employee accountable for any distribution losses; three corporations (transmission, distribution, trading).

Hashmat Qazi said that first issue is demand but what kind of demand is it? “Is it unruly or disciplined- what is the actual demand- or do we use the power in a disciplined manner; the debate has to be about the social aspect as well.”

Qazi said that he wants to make a few corrections too. “Had Alasteng been there, we would have been in a better place for sure (but we don’t for contract/funding issues). Why should we even make an infrastructure for power- how much can you sell- we have to first plug the holes in the system- we cant misuse the power,” said Qazi.

Masroor while appreciating Qazi’s “personal view” on things said that we put the blame on the consumers whenever we talk about the electricity issues. “PDD itself has an outstanding of 7.5 crore in Jammu alone- if the department is struggling- its not only about generating power but also about managing and distributing power as well. Just because we don’t have a proper system should we just let it go?” he said.

Iftikhar Drabu while speaking said that we have a transmission problem and we have a ADC 80% loss. “Korea has 3%, USA has 7%, China has 7% and if we only want to go hydro, we only need in winter to survive. How can any society survive with 80% transmission loss? Energy has been built but money hasn’t been realized. Jammu is in mid-50% and Kashmir 80%-overall state. Data is from PDD, CEA, Economic Survey,” he said.

N.A. Kakroo, throwing light from technical perspective of the PDC said that “our premium project during 2016-17, we generated 10% more than the desired energy. From a generation point of view, there’s not much problem. We have some new projects, which have good capacity (some to be completed in about 4 years); some are lagging behind the schedule due to financial issues.”

Masroor added that we all know what happens to the projects that generate power here and where this power goes (gives numbers from the sample survey). “15 new power projects might generate more power but would like to hear from Shakil Romshoo on this- to tell us why is radical and crazy race for generation of power projects dangerous- how environmentally bad is it, on ecology, etc?”

Responding to Masroor’s question, Shakil Romshoo said that water is the important natural resource here but where is the roadmap to reduce transmission losses? “I think we need to reassess how much power we actually have. Water is a finite resource. We have dry spell and this will be recurrent phenomenon. We have signification depletion of water resources. It’s a matter of time. We need a visionary power plan. We are all equally responsible as a part of the society/system. Water resource policy when drafted was a replica of Gujarat policy talking about depletion of coastlines in Kashmir. Indus treaty gives us the entitlement to our water- who talks about it? Baghliar is like a dam project with environmental costs. Solution is small hypro-power projects to save environment. We need to have modest projects that are financially also viable. We have 11000 crore given by the government; we need to be vocal about asking for mega-package for small hydropower projects. The economic independence of this state is dependent on power/electricity,” said Romshoo.

N.A. Kakroo added further that he wants to make some clarifications. “Every power project to be implemented, there’s a huge techno-economic clearance. Ganderbal project started with about 60MW-then we appraised to 93 MW. Procurement process is an elaborate process in itself- costing is the last stage,” he said.

On this an audience member asked how many years did it take for it to go from 60-90MW? Your department has such policies that don’t let common people to handle them. We need a policy.

In response, Drabu said that we shouldn’t be looking at the hydro as the fundamental thing. “Globally, its use has gone down. None of the big names are in hydro now globally. MW is a myth, we should be looking at units not MWs. India is energy surplus now. If we can get our transmission losses down, we can be self-sufficient, generating from JK only. We are getting power from Himachal etc. If we want our projects back, others states would want their projects back too. What are we doing with 17000MW at state level?” Drabu asked.

Shakeel Qalander added further that on the issue of putting blame on consumers, globally, demand side management is more efficient. “We have supply side management, hence, no demand side management. Have we found any alternatives on demand side management, not even awareness? Power in JK has been politicized. What has been done to JKSPDC by the government; they didn’t have board for two years-its been politicized. Govt is not paying off to them; here, they might be suffering to even pay their own salaries. JKSPDC needs to be out of politics. Why are they issuing illegal bills after Oct 2017 (to HQ)? The existence of NHPC in JK is not only illegal, but have no license under our JK electricity act which they should. We want govt to act as custodians of public resources; and throw the illegal users out. Allocations are made by Union ministry of power. If they deny allocations, they have to accept that JK is not part of India. What we need is to generate our own energy, export it and make profit out of it. Solar is next to hydro but can’t undermine sustainability of hydro with solar energy. We can maybe introduce roof-solar panels in the state. But the larger point is that govt needs to be out of the power business. NHPC has done damages along other lines too,” said Qalander.

Several members of civil society, journalist and students attended the debate, including KCDS members Hameeda Nayeem, Dr. Anwar Ashai, Abdul Majid Zargar and former KCCI President Mubeen Shah among others.