Heat is on, no respite in sight

The Statesman, April 09, 2010

Summer comes bearing bad news for people in Bengal. With the city experiencing the hottest day of the season today, as the mercury rose to 40.1 degree Celsius, the state power minister, Mr Nirupam Sen, had little relief to offer.

Scorching heat and power cuts have troubled people in and around the city for the past few days, yet Mr Sen said that power situation in the state is unlikely to improve before the month of May. He was addressing a regional conference organised by West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) and Cuts International this morning.

Officials of the Regional Meteorological Centre, Alipore, said the temperature was likely to go up further in the coming days.

Candles and hand-fans seemed to be the only two sources of comfort for the people.

Fruit sellers and soft drink sellers made brisk business today as people stopping by their shops for a quick drink or fruit snack was a common site.

Some were seen buying packaged drinking water while others filled up empty bottles from the roadside taps.

Doctors have cautioned people against venturing out in the harsh sun without dark sunglasses. If and when they do go out, taking a lot of fluids is advised.

The Regional Meteorological Centre at Alipore has already issued a heat wave warning for five districts in the state, including West Midnapore, Bankura, Burdwan, Birbhum and Purulia. However, no heat wave warning has been issued for the city and its outskirts yet.

Confirming that today was the hottest day in the season, Mr GC Debnath said: “The maximum temperatures today is 40.1 degree Celsius.”

According to officials of the Regional Meteorological Centre, the absence of Nor’westers or periodic showers this season has led to an increase in temperatures across the state. “The city and its outskirts have so far experienced only one shower that too quite some time back, on 27 March,” an official said. So far the highest temperature experienced by the city and its outskirts was 39.5 degree Celsius.

The power minister said that the power situation in the state will continue to be the same throughout April due to the dearth in coal supply. Unless the supply goes up, the situation will persist. Moreover, there is a crunch in supply of good quality coal, which has aggravated the problem.

Mr Sen said that though the overall demand for power has increased, the power generating units are unable to produce optimum-level of power as most of the units, like those at Bandel and Bakreshwar, need to be upgraded.
The Mahananda Coalfield usually supplies coal to the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL) and the quality of coal is poor, Mr Sen alleged. There was a shortfall of around 800 MW of power in the state, and around 200 MW of power in the CESC areas today.

He alleged that coal is stored for longer periods and hence the demand for coal is often not met. The power generation unit needs around 15 rakes of coal from the coal field regularly, but due to a shortage of rakes, it is getting only 12 to 13 rakes of coal. The situation has turned worse after a unit in Bakreswar developed a snag, an official said, adding that the repair will begin shortly.

The state government has taken up the matter with the authorities of PDCL on how power generation could be increased and it is also considering a proposal to import power from neighbouring states.

Aggrieved by the power situation in the state, a group of Trinamul Congress supporters ransacked the electric supply office at Barackpore. Resorting to Gandhigiri to lodge their protest, they garlanded the divisional manager of Barackpore electric supply office, Ms Moupali Mukherjee.

At Chanditala in Hooghly, some of the Trinamul supporters protested against intermittent power cuts in the state. Large parts of central and north Kolkata today experienced prolonged power cuts ranging from two to three hours.

Meanwhile, terming the power situation in the state as worrisome, the state chief secretary, Mr Asok M Chakrabarti, today said the situation is expected to improve to some extent as the 210 MW unit at Bakreswar, which is lying non-operational, may start production from tomorrow morning.

The chief secretary, who held a meeting with the state power secretary and the chairman of PDCL at Writers’ Buildings today, said another 210 MW unit, which is also lying defunct, is expected to start production again on Sunday morning. He added that the state is facing a shortfall of around 800 MW during the peak hours. Mr Chakrabarti said as the Nor’westers have not hit the state for a long span now, the entire state is reeling under unbearable heat.

But the situation has turned critical after two units, one each at Bakreswar and Kolaghat, remained non-operational for the past couple of days due to technical fault. Capacity of these two units is 420 MW. Mr Chakrabarti also said the state is not getting 300-350 MW power from the national grid, which made the situation more pathetic.

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