Dams survive the August madness

Dams survive the August madness
Water level in the reservoirs has plummeted, and is going down with every passing day. Photo of Cheruthoni dam in Idukki

Thiruvananthapuram: The August madness has calmed. And nowhere is this return to normalcy more evident than in the power sector. Daily power consumption has gone back to normal summer levels; what was 45 million units barely a month ago is now scraping 70 million units.

The dams, too, look considerably less scary. Water level in the reservoirs has plummeted, and is going down with every passing day. Till almost the end of August the water level was an alarming 98-100 per cent. Now, it has come down to 85 percent. All the three big dams have witnessed a fall in water levels.

In Idukki, the storage was 85 per cent on September 8, down from 87 per cent the previous day. The storage level in Pamba was 83 per cent on September 8, down from 84 per cent a day before. The storage level in Idamalayar dam in Ernakulam is 84 percent; it was 86 percent on September 7. The water level of smaller dams in affected areas - Kuttiady (Kozhikode), and Ponmudi, Lower Periyar and Neriyamangalam (in Idukki) - have depleted considerably. In Kuttiady, it is down to 58 per cent, Lower Periyar 26 per cent, Ponmudi 81 per cent, and Neriamangalam 62 per cent. The level in all the four dams were above 90 per cent during the crisis period.

The inflow into the dams has also dipped to safe levels. On August 15, when the intensity of the monsoon was at its peak, the inflow into the dams was a stupendous 520.5 million units. “No amount of electricity generation could have stopped the water rising to catastrophic levels in our reservoirs,” a top KSEB official said. “The maximum the KSEB could generate from its hydel stations, given various technical constraints like damage to generators, was 32 million units. But what was flowing in was 20 times the water used up for generation,” the official said. Opening the shutters was the only option left. On September 8, the inflow was, in comparison, a feeble 10.7 million units. And the shutters have been downed.

Dams survive the August madness
Shutters of the Cheruthoni dam, part of the Idukki reservoir, were opened after 26 years in August

Nonetheless, to further lower the water level, the KSEB has sustained power generation at 32 million units. As a result, the inflow is lower than, just one-third of, the outgo in the form of electricity generation. KSEB is expected to crank down generation in the days to come. “Suddenly there is a heat wave across the state. Now we have to get back to conserving the water in the reservoir. So we might have to bring down the generation to about 25 million units. The northeast monsoon is also imminent. However, a decision has to be taken at the political level,” the official said.

Earlier, there was a charge that KSEB had attempted to hold on to as much water as it can in its reservoirs. It was said that KSEB wanted to profit from the copious rains. It was also said that it was this inclination to hoard that had finally led to a situation where the KSEB had to discharge voluminous unmanageable quantities of water from its dams. The KSEB had vehemently denied the charges saying it was the rain and not the opening of dam shutters that had caused the floods. The public utility further argued that it had desisted from opening the shutters during the first half of August because it had not received any warning of 'extremely heavy rainfall' from the meteorological department.


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