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Jayalalitha challenged by power, water crises

M R Venkatesh Chennai, Dec 25, 2012, DHNS 2:00 IST
This year-end seems most challenging for the AIADMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha as it signifies a crisis to be converted into an opportunity in the run-up to the next Lok Sabha polls.

This may well start from down south for Jayalalitha. Despite sustained protests by local fisher-folks against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) amid litigations going right up to the Supreme Court, the 1000 mw plant’s much-awaited ‘First Approach to Criticality’ by December-end and the first unit’s expected electricity generation from mid-January 2013, may be the first bloom of hope for Tamil Nadu, going through its worst power shortage in over a decade.

With the South-West Monsoon failing over Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha’s major preoccupation was to battle these huge shortcomings. The ‘net deficit’ in the daily energy demand was of the order of 4,000 mw, while the water storage in the state’s major reservoirs was only 17.04 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) against a 10-year average of 59.30 tmcft in December. Despite some relief from North-East Monsoon, It was troublingly nebulous, as the twin developments impacted both Industry and agriculture. At least seven farmers died of debt-related stress.

Jayalalitha’s first decisive move on the power front came in March when she gave the nod for restarting works at KNPP after two expert panels assured the plant’s safety and that a Fukushima-like disaster ‘is unlikely’. This was buttressed by other steps like speeding up ongoing thermal projects and announcing a Solar Energy Policy in October. Yet, the road to sufficiency is still a long way off.

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