Monday, March 17, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



N-power plant viable

This refers to the letter (March 10) titled “Nuclear power plant in Punjab”. The argument that being a border state with Pakistan and in close proximity with Kashmir, such a plant can become an easy target of attack is totally erroneous. Rajasthan is also equally close and vulnerable and yet has four units (400 MW each) already working there. The fact is that both India and Pakistan possess short, medium and long-range missiles which can target any installation in either country. The existing 14 Indian nuclear power plants can be considered to be safe as these are robust structures designed to withstand even earthquakes.

As regards radio-activity, the normal background radiation in Punjab is already quite high. The new reactors being designed by India’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) are taking all possible precautions to ensure that accidents do not take place. These reactors are usually low-level structures and not like tall WTC towers. No such accident has taken place in India ever since the AEC started the country’s major power generation programmes.

Denmark and Sweden have been successful in installing wind-mills because the wind velocities in these countries are very high and such winds sweep their coastal and inland areas throughout the year. The wind-power varies as the cube of the wind-velocity. Hence, up to 2 MW generating single units (rotor diameter of 72 metres) have been possible. Winds in Punjab are mostly below the critical speeds required for economic feasibility of the wind energy.


Solar energy is certainly an attractive proposition — both from solar thermal and solar photo-voltaic (SPV) standpoints. However, this source (contributing only 1.5% to the national kitty) cannot meet the needs of agriculture and industry rising at the rate of more than 10 per cent per year. Already, PAU and GND University have carried out several R&D projects in respect of solar energy and national level conferences have been held. What is the use of more R&D funds if the earlier recommendations are not to be implemented?

The inflow of water at the Bhakra has gone down from 49,400 cusecs a day (in 2001) to 34,000 (in 2002) while its release/outflow has increased to 21,000 cusecs a day from 19,000 (in 2001). The inflow to the Pong Dam has reduced from 49,400 cusecs a day (in 2001) to 8,800 (in 2002). The inflow to the Ranjit Sagar Dam has reduced from 11,800 cusecs a day (in 2001) to 9,000 (in 2002). The water levels in all these dams have fallen drastically.

The AEC is planning to add eight new nuclear power plants which are to produce about 6000 MW by 2007 and 10,000 MW by 2012. Some of these are based on indigenously available thorium (233) fuel which can breed more fuel in fast breeder reactors, which do not produce green-house gases while incorporating highest safety standards. The Chairman of the AEC, Dr Anil Kakodkar, said recently that Punjab’s case for a nuclear power plant is under consideration of experts and a final decision is expected in two to three years. Being safe, pollution-free and free from the vagaries of international oil prices (now likely to shoot up to $40 per barrel of 159 litres) and the huge cost of transportation of coal, nuclear power is the only alternative for Punjab if the state has to meet its electricity requirements.

SURJIT SINGH BHATTI, Professor of Applied Physics, G N D University, Amritsar.

A powerful challenge

Your editorial “A powerful challenge” has been craftily designed to challenge and test the courage and wit of Capt Amarinder Singh in adopting the recommendations of the Haldea Committee on power sector reforms in Punjab. While bidding this, the editorial has not taken into consideration those facets of the power sector on which the Haldea Committee has either remained silent or shown a dwindling stand. Nor such concrete facts which are contrary to the recommendations of the committee have been brought forth.

I will prefer to ask Dr Gajendra Haldea one simple question: what a farmer is going to pay for each unit of power if the PSEB is corporatised? Will it not be Rs 3 to Rs 4? How will it help the Punjab Government in achieving its aim of providing maximum relief to the farmers? If the farmers are to be charged that much, the PSEB in its present format itself can wipe out all losses and record sweeping profits.

Er JAGVIR GOYAL, Chandigarh

Haldea report

It is beyond doubt that the Punjab State Electricity Board suffers from shortage of power, transmission/distribution losses, cash loss, corruption, unsatisfactory service etc, but Dr Haldea is misleading the government. The model proposed by the Haldea Committee has failed everywhere in India and the committee has admitted this in its report. Dr Haldea proposes to form three corporations on generation, transmission and distribution. There are already three independent wings (generation, transmission and distribution) in the PSEB itself. Why is there a need for three corporations? Are corporations of the government making profits and serving the people better than the PSEB?

As reports say the broad recommendations are corroborated by the World Bank policy note on “key reform challenges in Punjab” and revolve around.

(1) a clampdown on theft of power through legislation

(2) higher tariff for consumers

(3) regulating power to the agricultural sector through metering to avoid water wastage

(4) reduce overstaffing through a VRS and

(5) restructuring the high cost debt profile

Can’t these objectives be met in the present setup?

DARSHAN SINGH, Lehra Mohabat

Power theft legislation

Only last week the Punjab Cabinet rejected the draft of anti-power theft legislation to lodge F.I.Rs against the consumers who resort to theft of power. This shows that the government is not serious about improving the power sector.

The PSEB can function efficiently if the state government shows its willingness to curb corruption, theft of power and political interference.

V.K. GUPTA, Ropar

Heartless neighbours

Apropos Ms Pushpinder Kaur’s letter (March 10), I am reminded of a sordid incident I faced sometime back. The retiree officers of P.N.B. have formed an association and its main objective is to share sorrow and joy of the members. Every month a meeting is held at a member’s residence, where pleasantries are exchanged, matters of mutual interest are discussed and a lunch is served.

A monthly meeting was to be held in my house at 10 a.m. But as bad luck would have it, I got a server attack of asthama at 3 a.m. I was immediately taken to the General Hospital, Sector 16, Chandigarh. I remained there for a week for treatment. Meanwhile, my wife phoned the secretary of the association about my sudden illness and cancellation of the meeting at my residence. However, the members met at a hotel near my house and had a tea party. No one visited me in hospital or called on me in my house after I was discharged.

D.R. SHARDA, Chandigarh

NPA & govt doctors

The doctors in the Punjab government service get non-practising allowance (N.P.A), but still many of them do private practice. The government has turned a blind eye to this. Go to the residences of these doctors after duty hours and they can be seen doing brisk business. They charge Rs 30 as consultation fee per visit, the cost of medicines being extra (which probably are stolen from their hospitals). Some of the doctors at Gurdaspur have small medical stores in their homes.



Poor water quality in India

According to the recent first-ever UN system wide evaluation of global water resources, India ranks at a miserable 120th for its water quality, above only Morocco and Belgium. Moreover, India has been ranked a poor 133rd in 190 countries for its poor water availability of 1880 cubic meters per person annually. What a cruel joke on this so-called one of the best developing nations in the world!

Ironically ours is a country where even distilled water sold by some well established companies is also believed to be possessing a concentration of pesticides higher than the permissible limit, what to talk of unprocessed water.

Water treatment has grown vastly in importance in the 21st century because of growth of cities and development of industry and, consequently, of pollution.

The quantity of water is not the only concern, overuse has resulted in the progressive deterioration of water quality. The seepage of mineral fertilisers (phosphates and nitrates), pesticides and herbicides into surface and subsurface has not only rendered the water unfit for human consumption but also disrupted the aquatic ecosystems. Water in rivers or lakes is rarely clean enough for human consumption if it is not first treated or purified. Ground water, too, often needs some level of treatment to render it potable. The primary objective of water treatment is to protect the health of the community.

Potable water must, of course, be free of harmful micro-organisms and chemicals, but public supplies also be aesthetically desirable so that consumers are not tempted to use water from another more attractive but unprotected source. The water should be crystal clear, with almost no turbidity, and it should be free of objectionable colour, odour, or taste. For domestic supplies, water should not be corrosive nor should it deposit troublesome amounts of scale and strain

The authorities concerned should listen to the UN’s wake-up call and supply clean water to its citizens. The people should take this matter seriously, come forward and help the government in reducing water-borne diseases.

VIPIN SEHGAL, Ladwa (Kurukshetra)


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