The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Water woes hit power supply
- Shortage to escalate today but spare city

Calcutta, April 2: Poll-bound Bengal is staring at a power crisis as the National Thermal Power Corporation has had to shut down two units at Farakka because of water scarcity.

A 500-mw unit and another 200-mw one were shut down yesterday and in 24 hours, supply to the state electricity board grid dwindled.

The NTPC today gave about 230 mw, less than half the usual supply. From tomorrow, the shortfall is likely to touch 300 mw in the peak hours.

Power secretary Sunil Mitra said two factors were primarily responsible for the shutdown. The water level in the canal connecting the Ganga and the Bhagirathi has fallen be- cause of scouring in the bed. The level fell further yesterday as more water was supplied to Bangladesh. According to the water-sharing pact with that country, its share alternatively rises and falls every 10 days.

The feeder canal ' in Murshidabad, 300 km from Calcutta ' from where the NTPC draws water, the level has gone down by three metres. 'There is little we can do.

There is heavy scouring and there has also been no rain recently. Till April 10, we expect a shortfall of about 300 mw,' said Mitra.

Uninterrupted water supply is essential for a thermal power plant as it is fed into boilers and converted to steam to run the turbines. So, if rain continues to play truant, the power crisis can return every 10 days.

Chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb said the state government had already taken up the demand for the canal's repair with the Union water resources ministry. He also said that it had feared an even greater shortfall ' of about 550 mw.

Electricity board officials said Calcutta is expected to suffer less. 'The city and its adjoining areas might escape with a 50-60 mw deficit.'

In other parts of Bengal, a 300-mw shortfall would mean two-and-a-half to three-hour power cuts every day.

Sources said the situation was further compounded by the demand for power for boro cultivation. 'The boro season will continue through April and thousands of electric pumps will be operated across Bengal. May onwards, this demand will lessen and the situation is expected to improve,' a state board official said.

The board's member (commercial), M.K. Roy, said:'We are trying to buy more power from Power Trading Corporation to tide us over the crisis.' The Damodar Valley Corporation is already giving 200 mw.

The power secretary said the government had requested the NTPC not to shut down its units for maintenance around this time because of the boro crop, the summer demand and the secondary and higher secondary exams. 'Its authorities heeded our request, but the water crisis was unforeseen.'

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