by Saifullah Bashir
SRINAGAR: As Kashmir is gearing up for Global investor’s summit in April this year, Lassipora, the biggest industrial estate down south Kashmir is fighting a daily power-cut of almost five hours, sources in manufacturing sector said.
Though load-shedding is nothing new to Kashmir especially during winters, the power cuts – mostly scheduled, are making the manufacturing sector bleed in the era of post-August 5 slump.
Lassipora is home to around 277 functional units. In the manufacturing sector, it is one of the few happening places in Kashmir. For most of the summer, they were closed either for non availability of workforce or the situation. Now they want to work but lack power supply.
Lassipora estate has a power grid in its immediate vicinity. It trifurcates into three feeders: Arihal, Pulwama and the Industrial Estate of Lassipora that SIDCO officially owns. The estate receives a share of 16 MW against its routine requirement of around 20 MW.
“PDD is not granting even 16 MW, which is the minimum requirement for the estate,” Nisar Ahmed, the president of the industrial estate, said. “We demand that we should be given up to 20 MW’s to run our units smoothly.”
Unitholders claim the PDD had assured them that after the end of the winter session the problem will be solved. “Winter season has almost finished but there are still cut-offs, which is astonishing,” said Basharat, a unitholder.
The unitholders alleged that the electricity supply in the estate remains cut off from 6 pm to 10 pm. Apart from the scheduled curtailment, there are unscheduled cuts on the pretext of maintenance for almost an extra hour daily. Some of the units that used to work for the day have now started the night shift.
Most of the units rely heavily on power generators. “Our plant remained cut-off from the electricity from 6 pm to 10 pm and we face huge losses,” said Mukhtar Ahmed, who runs South valley Steel Fabrication plant.
Manufacturing apart, the estate is Kashmir’s main cold atmosphere storage hub and any alteration in the current can run havoc with more than one lakh tons of apple. There are 20 controlled atmosphere storage (CAS) units.
They hold storage of fruits worth 1200 Crore. According to one of the CAS owner, a single unit has 40 to 45 crore worth storage of items in the CAS. “We cannot afford even a single minute power cut. The stored items are entrusted to us by the fruit growers”, said Izhan Ahmed, the promoter of one of the CAS.
So to maintain their trust and keep such huge stock safe, they have to run on the generators. These 4 to 5 hour power cut costs us around Rs 8 to 10 thousand, daily. For 20 cold store’s it costs Rs 200000 per day for their fuel expenditure.
“I have to spend Rs 3000 per hour on my generator, to keep my plant running,” said Basharat, owner of the Olive PVC industry.
The PDD executives have their own version of the story. “The four-hour cut shall remain in force till the end of March,” Superintendent Engineer of Pulwama said.
However, he said, work on another electric supply line is under process. The project, according to Chief Engineer PDD, Aijaz Ahmad Dar, is expected to complete by November 2020.
The engineers said the energy deficit peaks during winter when the demand is huge in comparison to the availability. They said against the demand of 2100 MWs across Kashmir, the availability is at around 1500 MWs. It includes the energy that wheels into Kashmir through the recently commissioned Aulesteing Grid.
Interestingly, however, the manufacturing sector in Jammu is not facing such a crisis. “We never witness any kind of power cut except Sunday’s” Farooq Amin, the Director of Kanwal Group, said. His company owns a number of units operating in various estates of Jammu.
The industrial estate at Bari Brehamna is almost 15 times bigger than Lassipora. It has a series of steel plants that consume huge energy.
(Saifullah Bashir is an intern with Kashmir Life)