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The Largest Power Outage In The World

By Hamsini

Two and a half hours after the midnight hour, while the world slept, India awoke to stifling heat and chaos. On July 30th and 31st of this year, 3 power grids that spread over 22 states collapsed plunging around 670 million people into the darkness. That’s twice the number of people who lives in the United States.

The impact was first felt in eight Northern states including UP, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. Trains were delayed by upto six hours and hospitals which did not have back up power generators were forced to scurry around looking for alternate sources. In Delhi, the nation’s capital, the morning was utterly chaotic as traffic signals merely blinked their confusion and the metro rail was shut down on all six lines till mid morning when power was restored to them. The Airport functioned smoothly as it relied on its own back up power.

As the social media raged and vented, the government hastily restored power to the most critical areas first and then diverted power from the western and the north eastern grid and even bought hydroelectric supply from Bhutan to meet the gap. Just as it seemed that things could not get worse, they did. 

The second breakdown resulted in massive blackout in the west, eastern and north eastern states and now half of the Indian population (and around 10% of the world’s population) were left without any electricity. Now, miners were trapped underground for hours, water treatment plants stopped functioning, farmers could not irrigate their fields without electric pumps, hospitals in smaller towns could not function at all and almost everyone had to bear the tortuous Indian summer without fans.

Finally on July 31st and August 1st, power was restored to all the grids. The southern grid was almost unaffected (except for parts of Karnataka) as they maintained strict grid discipline. This incident could take its toll on investment and also highlights the state of India’s creaky infrastructure.

The main reason for the power failure has been blamed on grid indiscipline as over five states have overdrawn more electricity than they were authorized. The power deficit was worsened by a poor monsoon which lowered the supply of hydro-electricity and farmers had to resort to electric pumps for irrigation. India’s electricity supply which mainly coal based is unable to meet the rising demand due to environmental restraints and the Government’s rising subsidies to farmers have drained the cash reserves of electricity distribution companies which are largely state run.
While reforms have been called for, it is common knowledge that nothing may come of it until the next power shortage.
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Basically I write, I read and I dream up fairytales. The rest of the time, I nibble at food, sing songs off tune, and pretend to be a hotshot photographer. I also love the wind in my hair, basking in the sun, a healthy dose of cynicism and coffee on the rocks.


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