Pack a flashlight and solar battery charger for your laptop cause the power is gonna go out during your travels in India. Rolling blackouts are par for the course these days in this power hungry country. With a strong industrial sector carrying heavy usage, an increasing population with a taste for middle class comforts, and the growing tourist business that is notoriously wasteful, India’s power needs far outstrip supply.
Various areas of the country are flush with natural power sources (I.E. Himachal Pradesh) as the numerous rivers flowing from the Himalayas provide ample hydroelectric capacity. This excess is sold off to neighboring states but with increased building in the North, and more tourists seeking refuge in the cooler temperature hill stations, the energy demands are drawing down state reserves. And recently planned power generation increases are falling short of target dates for several reasons. Shortages in materials and supplies to build coal based power plants combined with a slim skilled labor force, capable of building these projects, has ground many work sites to a halt.
India’s economy continues to post impressive growth gains of 8-9%, a cycle that is not sustainable; Yet for the time being, supplying power to keep the economy churning is a real issue. Currently the government is set to miss it’s target by 60%. A planned 78,577MW of additional capacity over the next 5 years in actuality is now projected to be closer to 25,000MW. Additional concerns over water shortages in the south have slowed hydroelectric programs in Kerela, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
India’s tourism industry has gone to great lengths to hide blackouts from it’s growing visitor base. Five star hotels are all equipped with massive generators which leave guests, during a blackout, in the dark for a fraction of a second. Mid range to budget hotels, and even ashrams and hostels are often equipped with generators kicking on after a minor lag time. A walk down the street brings the unmistakable roaring hum of diesel motors combined with the thick smell of spent fuel.
Blackouts occur at all times of the day or night with no notice. Because of the generators, it’s hard to know how long the power cuts actually lasts. But in the villages and smaller towns, it’s business as usual no matter how dark or inconvenient the cut lasts. In Ramnagar, near Corbett National Park, my travel partner and I were eating in a favorite haunt of ours when the power shut off. Candles were immediately brought to the small number of tables tuck into the restaurant that now looked like a cement cavern. Our food was delivered within minutes, piping hot and fresh due to the gas burners used in the kitchen. There was no mention of the power outage by the staff or us.
While over-nighting in Delhi last year, my room lights flickered on and off multiple times for several minutes. It seemed the hotel’s generator was tripped on and off against the city’s fickle electrical supply. As if neither could make a decision, the lights went on and off at an unusually early 5:00 A.M. And just recently in Tamil Nadu, a blackout in mid-morning left my travel partner and me sitting in our hotel room waiting to hear the click, click, click of a generator coming to life.
Rolling blackouts are as common as chai in India with no end in immediate sight. But don’t let that deter you from all this magnificent country has to offer. Many sightseeing locations are smartly built historical buildings that allow sun to naturally light interiors. Outside bazaars, parks and of course beaches, require no electricity to enjoy. And the hotels and restaurants across the country have become experts on keeping tired and hungry guests happy no matter what power supply there is…or isn’t.
Related Posts You Might Like:
Recent posts in Culture