Dark, hot summer awaits rain-deficient Kerala

Kerala is heading towards an unusually hot and dark summer with a drastic shortfall in Monsoon rains.

Updated: Dec 19, 2012, 11:42 AM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is heading towards an unusually hot and dark summer with a drastic shortfall in Monsoon rains pushing it to a crippling power crisis and creating a drought-like situation in most parts of the state.

A steep hike in power tariff and further increase in prices of rice and provisions are also on the cards for people in the `consumer state`, already reeling under the impact of inflationary pressure.

The government has already asked various departments and district administrations to work out contingency plans to tackle the drought situation by working out crisis management plans to maintain basic services like water supply.

While industry admits that the situation is serious, many entrepreneurs, including those in IT and ITeS sector, draw comfort from the fact compared to most other states, the situation is better in Kerala.

According to Indian Meteorological Department, rainfall received by Kerala during the South West Monsoon (SWM) was deficient by 24 per cent. The gap left by the North East Monsoon (NEM), with only a few days left for it to recede, has already shown a shortfall of 35 per cent.

Apart from the adverse fallout on power generation, poor rainfall would further endanger food security of the state, which already relies heavily on neighbours for rice, pulses and provisions.

The Kerala State Electricity Board has an installed capacity of 2234.4 MW with hydroelectric projects accounting for 1997.8 MW. Other sources, including NTPC`s Kayamkulam plant, has a capacity of another 633 MW.

With inflow into reservoirs running far short of the normal quantum, the supply-demand gap is set to widen in the coming days, forcing the government to manage the situation by purchasing power from outside sources and pass the additional cost on the consumers, including the households.

A one-hour load shedding, half of that during peak hours between 6 and 10 pm, is already in force for the last three months.

The state Electricity Regulatory Commission has already approved KSEB`s plan to charge double the household consumption for consumers exceeding 300 units per month from the current Rs 7.50 for consumers in the 300-500 units slab. It has also allowed the board to impose 20 to 25 per cent power cut on industrial users.

M Vasudevan, Senior Manager (Business Development), Technopark, said though the power crunch would cause difficulties, it is unlikely to push IT and ITes enterprises in the state into a crisis.

"Of course, the power crisis will have a bad impact on the economy as a whole. However, the situation in Kerala is better compared to other states", he said.

"While load-shedding in Kerala is only for one hour, in some neighbouring states it stretches for several hours. If the power cut continues, it would have a small increase in revenue expenditure of companies in a facility like Technopark where the DG sets are installed and the cost is shared by companies," he said.

An entrepreneur in Infopark, Kochi, also was optimistic of the IT sector. "Even in the prevailing situation, Kerala is better off compared to other southern states. It could also be noted that other than SMes, IT majors are spread across the country", he said.

With the failure of both phases of the monsoon, which for ages made Kerala lush and green, symptoms of a severe drought have begun to become evident in many parts of the state.

Apart from fall in farm produce, the situation would have its stress on the exchequer as government would have to make additional allocations to maintain drinking water supply through the high summer season, starting from March to June.

According to revenue department sources, the whole state is likely to be declared drought affected and central assistance would be sought to tide over the situation.