It’s a huge embarrassment for Meghalaya. The state capital Shillong has never faced such long hours of power cut perhaps since it was connected with electricity. The eight-hour-long load shedding is a tight slap on the state government’s oft-repeated claims about the state’s capacity to produce over 3,000 MW of power. The reality is that the state is not even producing one tenth of its power requirement of 600 MW. Till February, the state’s biggest and NE’s oldest hydro-electric power plant at Umiam produced only 40 MW against its installed capacity of 185 MW. The situation is worse now since there was hardly any significant rainfall in the past three months. This is the necessary evil of hydro power.
The so-called green power is deceiving as far as the volume is concerned, let alone the other disastrous and lone-term affects on environment, ecology and human lives. The power plant may never produce an amount of power equal to its installed capacity. Production figure is likely to go near the installed capacity mark only during the peak rainy season. There is no guarantee how long that peak period would last – one month, two months or three months, but certainly not more. The rest of the year, the plant may produce half of its installed capacity and the level would make a nosedive during the winter months. The run-off-the-river Myntdu-Leshka project of 126 MW was producing just 6 MW in February last! This situation is more relevant in the isolated Meghalaya plateau with no glacier support to sustain the water flow in the rivers unlike the Himalayas.
The solution to the power woes likes in the vast mineral resources in the state. Though it might sound anti-environment, a thermal plant to be run on cheaply available coal can make a lot of difference in Meghalaya’s power scene. One such single plant would not cause any more pollution than a couple of other industries which are throwing up tonnes of smoke and dust into the sky every day. The state already has a proposal to set up one thermal plant at coal-rich Nongalbibra in Garo Hills, but it has not taken off for reasons best known to all concerned. The present crisis of power should not make the government desperate to make martyrs of more rivers. It should rather open its eyes to look towards alternative means, which will generate more alternative employment because it involves the state’s main mineral resource – coal.
(Published as editorial in Meghalaya Guardian on April 25, 2014)