Drought Takes Toll on Electricity Production, Leading to Concerns Across North India

In a concerning development, Himachal Pradesh is facing a severe power crisis as electricity production takes a nosedive by 85 percent. Prolonged drought conditions and a persistent lack of rain and snowfall have led to a significant reduction in water levels in the state’s rivers, resulting in a drastic decline in power project output during this season, which typically reaches up to 40 percent.

The Nathpa Jhakri, the largest underground hydropower project in the country, generating 1,500 MW, currently has only one out of six turbines operational, leading to a staggering 90 percent drop in power generation. The project, situated on the Sutlej River, relies on adequate water flow, which has plummeted to 70 cumecs, a situation reminiscent of conditions 17 years ago.

The repercussions of this dwindling power production extend beyond the borders of Himachal Pradesh, casting a looming shadow over nine states in North India, including Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh.

To meet the electricity demand, Himachal Pradesh is forced to purchase 25 to 30 lakh units daily from the open market, in addition to relying on Punjab for 200 lakh units daily as a banking measure. The state’s daily electricity requirement, normally ranging from 360 to 370 lakh units, has seen a sharp decline from 2,500 lakh units to a mere 450 lakh units.

The management of the Nathpa Jhakri project attributes the decline in water levels to conditions since August, exacerbating significantly since November. The current situation mirrors that of 2006-07, raising concerns about the state’s energy security.

The crisis has also affected the nearby 412 MW Rampur project of Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL), witnessing a decline in power generation. Several small projects in the Rampur sub-division face a similar fate due to insufficient water supply from the Nathpa Jhakri project.

As Himachal Pradesh grapples with this unprecedented power crisis, the urgent need for rain and snowfall is evident. If the situation persists, the power deficit could have far-reaching consequences, not only for the state but for the entire North Indian region, as it contends with the prospect of prolonged energy shortages.