Monsoon’s NHPC angle
J&K will have to re-think its strategies for hydropower project handover
ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB
Jammu & Kashmir’s power and economic crises may just worsen if the monsoon rains really fail in the country.Optimist meteorologists and ruling politicians are trying to downplay the impact, yet some losses are irreversible. The Monsoon may not fail outrightly, yet the delay is chilling. J&K is likely to be one of the worst sufferers.
Considerable Monsoon rains in India normally begin in June, starting from Kerala, but most of the northern states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, etc. are yet to witness any rains. Official estimates say that in some 82 per cent of India, the average rainfall in June was a third below average. This has led to delayed planting of crops such as pulses and oilseeds, most of which are imported.
This eventuality will enhance the prospects of greater imports of oilseeds and pulses. At the same time, export ban on some commodities like rice, sugar etc. may be back. That will aggravate India’s balance of payment situation, making the rupee lose its value further, and inflation of food grains to go up.
This situation is nightmarish. A delayed or deficient Monsoon could diminish agricultural output, which, in turn, will reduce consumption and demand. That would mean India’s fiscal deficit will balloon further as it would have to spend more to provide subsidised grains to farmers.
For J&K, power shortage, lower productivity and inflation will be three main areas of concern. The terms of its engagement with the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) may have to be re-thought too.
Water shortages are already aggravating an acute power shortage in north India, as the country's hydroelectric plants, which generate 20 per cent of the country's power, face pressures, the Wall Street Journal reported on July 6. NHPC said this week that power generation at its plants had fallen 7 per cent in the past 10 days due to water shortages.
Water level in the BhakraNangal Dam in Punjab, the second-largest reservoir in India, is 19 meters, about 60 feet, lower than last year, its officials said last week. That is a chilling message. The Bakhra is vital for supplying water to irrigation canals in large parts of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The dam’s management has recently said that they could cut the release of water to farmers by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent from current levels if it doesn't rain heavily in coming weeks.
Not just this. Power consumption has gone up significantly in north India mainly because farmers are increasingly using electric pumps for pumping of groundwater for irrigating their fields.
This situation is very likely to dent efforts in Jammu & Kashmir seeking transfer of NHPC-administered power projects in the state. Worse, being at the bottom of the industrial map in the region, J&K state will perhaps receive the least priority in power supply from the National Power Grid.
India is today reeling under an economic slowdown – mainly because of a slowdown in export growth and a fall in investment. The country’s economy grew at a mere 5.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2012 – which happens to be its slowest growth rate in almost a decade. A drop in agricultural output could further downgrade growth projections for this year. That could result in loss of jobs at a staggering level. Rural jobs will be a casualty too. Indian agricultural sector contributes 17 per cent toits Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This situation demands long as well as short term preparation for a state like J&K, heavily reliant on food imports.Some hard planning will have to happen at the political and executive levels – factoring in the political climate underpinning this situation in rest of India. Some serious re-thinking about the approach for the transfer of NHPC-administered projects will have to happen at the civil society level too.
Many people may still not be able to fully comprehend the nuances of this situation. It will be useful to remind oneself that in the crude cost-benefit analysis approach to policy-making, where the quantum of geographical areas, people, economic productivity and political stakes determine policies, there is hardly any room for rhetoric.
A successful advocacy strategy has to be dynamic. Factoring in this situation and understanding how ruling coalitions behave in such times of crises would be useful.
Could NC-Congress coalition, for instance, really go that extra mile for pressing the transfer? If not, what could in these situations? That is the food for thought.
The columnist is presently a technical consultant in international development, covering Asia-Pacific and Africa regions
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 8 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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