Heavy silting in rivers due to incessant rain has led to the shutting of three major hydroelectric projects in Himachal Pradesh, triggering a power crisis in the northern states.
With the Northern Grid facing a power shortage of 3,000 megawatt (MW), the Northern Region Load Despatch Centre (NRLDC) has issued an advisory to the constituent northern states to restrict drawal from the grid. Overdrawal by some states led to grid failure on two occasions recently.
The grid supplies power to Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The 1,500-MW hydel project operated by the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam came to a grinding halt on Monday evening when the silt level exceeded the permissible limit in the Sutlej river. Heavy rain in the river catchment increased the silt level to 30,000 particles per minute. To run a hydel project, the silt level should remain below 4,000 particles per minute. As a result, all five turbines were shut.
"The project operations will start when the silt level decreases," said VK Verma, additional deputy general manager (publicity) of the nigam. The Nathpa Jhakri Power Corporation (NJPC) project caters to power needs of Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.
The 1,200-MW Karcham-Wangtoo project, situated upstream of the Sutlej, was also stopped following high silting. "The silt level has now come down relatively," said Rikhi Sharma, information officer of Jaypee Power Corporation. The project, at the time of shutting, was generating more than 28.8 million units (MUs) of electricity.
The Chamera project stages 2 and 3, built across the Ravi river in Chamba district, also came to a halt, causing a shortage of 300 MW. However, the operations of Chamera-3 were resumed on Tuesday afternoon. "All turbines are not fully operational. So far, the project is producing only 220 MW," said general manager VK Singh. However, Chamera-2 had not resumed operation due to high silt level till the filing of this report.
The power shortage had a cascading effect on Punjab and Haryana, where power corporations imposed cuts in an effort to stick to the drawal limit.
"We have imposed cuts to the tune of 200 lakh units as the lesser availability of power has increased the demand-supply gap," said AK Verma, director, distribution, Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL).