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Meghalaya power crisis deepens

Shillong, April 25: The power crisis in Meghalaya does not show any signs of abating anytime soon with a review meeting today at the state secretariat between state government officials and the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) failing to come up with any significant solution.

The discussions revolved around the need to adopt immediate remedial measures, especially how to get funds to buy power from outside despite the state failing to clear pending power dues worth hundreds of crores of rupees.

The MeECL had failed to pay a staggering amount (in power dues) of Rs 473 crore to Neepco and other entities.

The meeting discussed the possibility of adopting short-term measures, especially to explore the possibility of going for power purchase to overcome the crisis for a short period.

Though willing to avail of extra power from outside to suffice the consumers’ demand, the huge power dues yet to be paid to PSUs like Neepco has undoubtedly put the state government in an awkward situation regarding another bid to purchase power.

Meghalaya chief secretary P. Barkos Warjri, who refused to reveal what transpired in the meeting, said, “The meeting was internal and solely discussed ways and means to ease the situation.”

MeECL officials, too, were tightlipped.

As there is no clarity regarding steps taken to temporarily solve the problem, it now all depends on the rains to come to the rescue of the beleaguered power-starved Meghalaya, with the hope that the monsoon will come soon.

The situation has gone from bad to worse. The duration of power cuts is nearly nine hours now.

Meghalaya depends only on hydroelectric projects to generate electricity and these projects depend primarily on rainfall.

The load shedding has affected everyone, with newspapers, hospitals, banks, water supply and other important services being the most affected.

The state has two hydroelectric projects — Umiam, a storage project, and Myntdu-Leshka, a run-of-the-river (ROR) project, generating around 186MW and 126MW respectively.

However, officials admitted that these hydro projects in the state are now running below the installed capacity because of dry weather.

The dry climate, accompanied by scorching heat and wind, is such that the water level at Umiam lake, a reservoir for Umiam hydroelectric project, has gone down drastically this month.

Meghalaya’s requirement for power is over 600MW but it shoots up during the dry season. The state has to purchase power from outside to meet the demand.

For the financial year 2014-15, it is estimated that 57 per cent of the total revenue will be required to meet the power purchase cost.

The total power purchase cost is expected to be Rs 489 crore.

Though the state is struggling to overcome the problem at present, policy makers remained absent from the seat of power for a significant amount of time.

Chief minister Mukul Sangma and power minister Clement Marak have not attended office in the state secretariat for quite a long time. Sources said the power minister is not well.

The chief minister was away from office ever since he began to campaign for the Lok Sabha polls for Congress candidate Daryl William Momin, who contested from the Tura seat against former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma.

Several other ministers, too, did not attend office even after the polls to the two Lok Sabha seats in Shillong and Tura ended on April 9.