EMPOWERING JAMMU & KASHMIR

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Eight reporters and lensmen traveled more than 5000 kms across remote belts in Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu for 15 days to cover 24 powerhouses. Backed by a team of researchers, designers and editors, it created a document – a historic first. Enjoy the read.

A Restart, A Century Later

A major project in operation, a new policy in hand and an improved expertise and knowledge in managing and maintaining the assets, J&K government is keen to undo the losses the state suffered in its recent history. R S GULL  gives a peephole view of the thinking at state’s energy desks

For most of the recent past, Kashmir was all about handicrafts, the Cashmere, as the Pashmina wool is still referred to in the West. However, some of these arts perished for the lack of cheap power.

It was at the beginning of the twentieth century that Srinagar durbar commissioned a micro hydropower project. But the artisan was struggling, much earlier, to see if any mechanical intervention can help reduce the costs, increase the yield and improve the margins. Records suggest the artisans were not a failure altogether. There are historic evidences suggesting that Kashmir used mechanical power in bigger handicraft workshops where looms would operate with the help of hydraulic power – the water mills.

Charles Elison Bates and Walter Lawrence who visited Kashmir in early 19th century, observed that a lever mill used in the manufacture of famous paper, the Kashur Kagaz, worked with water power. Traditionally the lever mills operated by water power or animal power were called jindrah muhul.

In 1877, availability of hydraulic power at Ragunathpora near Naseem Bagh was responsible for setting up of some units of newly organized silk industry. Of the 470 reels, 92 were turned by waterpower and the rest manually. Steam heating with the help of wood charcoal, that many industrialised countries across the world were using much earlier, was introduced in some filatures of silk industry in 1918.

Despite having so strong foundations for an urge to get ‘empowered’ for healthy survival and progress, J&K is still considered one of the many backward states in India. Generally the overall backwardness is being attributed to its enormous energy deficit. A water abundant state that literally piloted harnessing of water resources for clean energy at the beginning of twentieth century is dependent on massive imports a 100 years later.

After decades of slumber, this issue is nowadays dominating the public discourse in the state. It is at the core of the new narrative that is written and discussed from Srinagar to Jammu. For the state government, it is the energy that stands flagged as a top priority issue. Emphasis on energy in the policy making is not only dictated by the massive fund requirements that go into the energy purchase year after year, upsetting the overall public finances. Desperation of the people to have round the clock supplies especially during harsh winters in Kashmir and the hot, humid summers of Jammu is another factor. The larger reality is that the water not harvested in time is a gone commodity especially in Kashmir that is gradually emerging as the new crucible of climatic change. The water level of almost all the major rivers across the state has shown a marked fall if compared to 1940s and ‘50s.

Given the geography of the state, J&K is not fully linked to a grid within the state. Most of the valley and Jammu are linked with the Northern Grid but the arid Ladakh desert is insulated from the rest of the state by Zoji La. So is Gurez, Machil and Keran. This has added to the costs as people are getting electricity for some fixed time from diesel generators, which is very costly energy.

Leh has 59 units of Diesel Generator sets at 49 spots with cumulative installed capacity of 19537 KVA. Kargil has 58 units at 39 spots with 16425 KVA capacity. Gurez has 19 DG sets at 18 spots with 2882.5 KVA capacity. Machil and Keran have one DG set each, generating 320 KVA energy.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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