Should Chennai anticipate blackouts?

On Tuesday night, nearly 1,300 workers at the Neyveli Lignite Corporation, Asia’s only lignite-fired thermal power plant, went on an indefinite strike. The NLC Township with its three major mines is situated in Cuddalore district 197 km south of Chennai. A prolonged strike by the miners is likely to affect not only the power situation in the city but the entire state. The thermal power stations have a combined capacity of nearly 2500 mw. About 1000 mw is fed into the grid of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board. The southern states and the Union territory of Pondicherry share the rest.

The miners at the NLC are protesting a move to disinvest 10 per cent of the Corporation.
Tamil Nadu has a capacity to produce nearly 8000 mw of power. Less than 1000 mw come from the private power sector. The windmills, which are a renewable source of energy, produce about 800 mw of power. Nearly 150 lakh people consume power produced and distributed by the TNEB.
A search on the Internet did not reveal exactly how much power is consumed in Chennai. But we can reasonably estimate that this number is really a big part of the state’s share. Will we end up having day together of power cuts during the already insufferable summer?
The city’s only thermal power station is at Ennore in North Chennai. The plant run by the National Thermal Power Corporation produces 1000 mw of power from coal. There are plans to add another 500 mw to this station in the next three years or so.
So will the NLC strike affect Chennai? At the heart of the strike is the issue of disinvestments of profit making Public Sector Units. The common minimum programme of the UPA government at the Centre had promised that none of the profit making PSUs would be divested. But still the Centre has pushed for the disvestment of NLC along with NALCO, both of which the Left parties have strenuously protested.
Chief minister M. Karunanidhi has already written thrice to the Prime Minister on the issue. An offer to give NLC employees a stake in the divested shares was also made. But the staff rejected it saying that during needy times, any employee might sell his shares.
The privatisation of power has had disastrous effects in states like Maharastra, where the Enron experiment backfired. Will Tamil Nadu learn? There is no doubt that Centre will quickly move to pacify the strikers. But will that be too late for Chennaites? That is the moot question.

A last minute update: Wikipedia informs us that NLC is also a source of water for Chennai. The water apparently is brought from the deep lignite mines. So will there be a water crunch as well?

2 Comments so far

  1. Chandler64 (unregistered) on July 6th, 2006 @ 4:56 am

    Ofcourse, the answer is YES. Why not ?
    Its free aint’ it. If all goes well,
    you can celebrate by breaking 10 more
    cocanuts in front of the elephant god!

    The other option is to get the solar power panels,
    and a small wind turbines or even pedal powered
    generator to power your newly acquired
    western (or is it eastern now, since everything
    is made east of Calcutta) appliances on
    a PAY LATER scheme. You need to keep them
    running to justify the payments with 20+% interest
    to the FatCat banks!

    So, just go ahead, anticipate, sweat a little now
    the summer is almost over.

    I hear Carly Simon on the SoundBox singing..

    “We can never know about the days to come
    But we think about them anyway, yay
    And I wonder if I’m really with you now
    Or just chasin’ after some finer day

    Anticipation, anticipation
    Is makin’ me late
    Is keepin’ me waitin'”

  2. Nandhu (unregistered) on July 7th, 2006 @ 12:04 am

    Update: the strike was called off tonight. and production has resumed at the Neyveli lignite corporation

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