NEW DELHI: The government is implementing a Rs 1,200-crore project to hook up Nubra valley in the country’s northern tip, and Zanskar, among the least-explored regions of Kargil, with the national power grid, casting one of the first building blocks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to make Ladakh carbon-neutral.
“We are extending the Srinagar-Leh transmission line to power Nubra and Zanskar. REC (formerly Rural Electrification Corporation) has been asked to implement the project. It will improve ease of living for people living in these areas with regular power supply and remove dependence on diesel generators,” power minister Raj Kumar Singh told TOI.
The project envisages laying two 220-kv lines across some of the world’s highest mountains and inhospitable terrains. A 200-km spur will run from Dras, the world’s second-coldest inhabited place about 50 Km from Kargil, to Padum, the main habitation in Zanskar. Another line will be strung from Phyang near Leh to Nubra block HQ Diskit, 120 km in the north. This will run across the 18,380-ft-high Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable pass. Both the lines are to be completed in 24-36 months, depending upon weather conditions.
Nubra, a popular tourist destination, is strategically located with Baltistan in POK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) on the west, Siachen glacier – the world’s highest battleground – in the north and Chan-Chenmo range in the east. Historically, it connected India to the southern branch of the old Silk Route from China through the Karakoram Pass.
Assured power supply is expected to promote local economic activity and create employment through winter tourism. Environment will also get respite from carbon emission from diesel generators used for supplying power for about 5 hours in the evening.
Ladakh remained isolated from the national grid till January 2019 when Central utility Power Grid switched on a 350-km transmission line linking Leh with Alusteng near Srinagar via Dras-Kargil, first reported by TOI on January 16 that year.
Prime minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the project on August 12, 2014 and formally inaugurated it in January 2016. The project has improved power supply in the region, road connectivity to which remains cut off for 6-8 months during harsh winters when temperature dips to 50 degrees below freezing.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the project on August 12, 2014 and formally inaugurated it in January 2016. The project has improved power supply in the region, road connectivity to which remains cut off for 6-8 months during harsh winters when temperature dips to 50 degrees below freezing.
Leh and Kargil towns have been getting power since 2013 from two NHPC hydel projects, built at a combined cost of nearly Rs 2,000 crore at Nimmoo-Bazgo and Chutak, respectively. Built as part of India’s strategy to exploit the potential of Indus before it enters Pakistan, the hydel stations were running at sub-optimal levels in the absence of grid connectivity.
The Srinagar line will allow the stations to run at full capacity, feeding surplus power into the northern grid during summer and draw 100-150 MW in winter when reduced flow impedes generation. In the long term, the line will help Ladakh-Kargil region emerge as India’s power house by allowing evacuation of power from proposed solar projects with aggregate capacity of 7,5 GW (giga watt).
Due to their isolated locations, Ladakh and Kargil have remained 95 per cent power deficit regions. Habitations, including district headquarters Leh and Kargil, till recently received a five hours of power supply in the evening from diesel generators and a few micro hydel projects.