The Ganderbal Lights

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Quite a few machines, having outdated and obsolete technology and no spares and knowledge support, have run for 57 years without interruption. That is the distinction Ganderbal power house has! A Kashmir Life report.

One of the major projects that Kashmir’s monarch Hari Singh conceived but could not execute is the power house at Ganderbal. The spadework on the project had started in 1946. But the dramatic situation that sliced the subcontinent and eventually the state he owned, led him to leave and the project was abandoned.

It was in 1949 that the state government picked up the threads and started implementing the project. While the local labour force started working on the water conductor, there was not much of expertise available locally on the electro-mechanical part. The firms that were associated with the projects during pre-partition days were located and roped in through their agents. The first two machines were commissioned in 1955 and the third one in 1961. For more than half a century, it has generated more than 3000 million units of energy. Officials said the generations was  at 220.497 lac units in 2002-03 and 255.375 lac units in 2003-04.

“It must be one of the few machines left in this part of the world that have horizontal Francis turbines and are still running – now for 57 years,” said Gurmeet Singh, the Executive Engineer. “This technology is outdated and no spares are available anywhere.”

This project had active involvement of the engineers from Hungry, Germany and the UK. That is perhaps why the Escher-Wyss generators are being run by Hungarian Ganz Movag and British Metropolitan Vickers turbines. These machines have no spares and service available anywhere now.

But some of them are still running.

The project has been a multipurpose project. As a 14.60-km gravitation channel brings in 475 cusecs of Sindh water from Preng on the Srinagar-Sonamarg highway, it runs three turbines and spares more than half of it for irrigation purposes in Ganderbal and for managing the drinking water needs of Srinagar city. The canal was repaired and upgraded recently and   now it lifts 570 cusecs. While 120 cusecs go for drinking water requirements of Srinagar, 170 cusecs are exclusively used for irrigation and the balance discharge is used for generating electricity.

Fully integrated with the inter-state grid systems, Ganderbal was producing 15 MW of power. Two penstocks with 145 meter head were feeding two turbines each – two with 4.5 MW capacity and two with 3 MW. But the continuous usage of the machines has impacted their efficiency. Right now three units are operational and functioning with de-rated capacity and generating less than 4 MW. One unit is opened up, disengaged and will be replaced by a new machine for which, officials say, the tendering process has been  initiated. The Renovation Modernization and Uprating  (RMU) of the project is expected to help it upgrade to 9 MW in next two years. Expected to cost PDC Rs 39.30 crore, its upgrade will fetch 63.64 million units annually for next 25 years. But that is just half the Ganderbal story.

The Old Ganderbal Power House that was set up at Rs 2.35 crore is about to have a cousin and that may ensure it will stay as a sub-10-MW project in future and mainly cater to the irrigation and drinking water requirements.  The New Ganderbal conceived as early as 1984 will have its head-works at Preng, barely 80 meters upstream from where the Old Ganderbal’s water conductor takes off. PDC is actually setting up a guest house that will have a single-window view for both the head-works in the Preng’s erstwhile garden.

A run of the river scheme, it would utilize 150 meters net head available and 76 cumecs of discharge with an installed capacity of 93 MW yielding about 399 million units of energy in 90% dependable year. DPR calculations indicate it would generate energy at Rs 2.50 a unit. Again, it is expected to be a multipurpose project. Apart from power generation, it would spare 23 cumecs for irrigation in command area Ganderbal and six cumecs to the Srinagar city for drinking.

The initial DPR approved by Central Water Commission (CWC)  suggested creation of 60 MW but a review increased the possibility to 93 MW.  At 2005 price level, the New Ganderbal would cost Rs 473.93 crore of which state’s Public Health Engineering (PHE) will have to pay Rs 68.80 crore.

The only difference between the existing and the upcoming projects in Ganderbal would be that the new project will have an 11km tunnel – lifting water ahead of the canal and dropping it 100 meters away from the existing penstocks, albeit from a better height. It would require an additional 31.3 hectares of land even as the PDC has booked an expenditure of Rs 19 crore on the civil infrastructure by March 2007. PDC has already received bids from nine companies for its implementation.

SERC has put its cost at Rs 30.23 crore and its tariff at Rs 0.50 per unit. The project generated 117.49 lakh units in 2010-11 and 195.88 lakh units in 2011-12.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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