India Cancels Hundreds of Passenger Trains to Ramp Up Coal Supply Amid Dire Power Shortage

© AP Photo / Anupam NathFILE- In this Oct. 20, 2010 file photo, Indian laborers carry coal to load on a truck in Gauhati, India
FILE- In this Oct. 20, 2010 file photo, Indian laborers carry coal to load on a truck in Gauhati, India - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.04.2022
This year power demand has risen to a record high in India due to a heatwave gripping the nation, a rare event in April. As India lacks dedicated freight corridors for transportation, coal stocks at power stations reached a critical level, forcing them to operate below the optimal capacity. Rural areas are facing up to 20-hour power cuts.
India's Railway Ministry has cancelled 657 passenger train services for a month to enhance coal availability at power plants in the country.
The cancellations will allow freight trains to transport coal rapidly from captive mines to power stations across the country.
Low coal availability and a significant jump in power demand have led to power deficits as people complain about daytime blackouts.
A notification has been issued to cancel 509 mail and express rail services and 148 local passenger trains.
Government officials have said that steps are being undertaken "at war-footing" to bring more cargo to thermal power plants in the shortest possible time.
An overwhelming70 per cent of India's total electricity capacity is generated by 165 coal-fired power stations. Out of the 165 thermal plants, only 15 get coal deliveries by sea, while the rest depend on rail.
According to the coal stocking norms laid down by the coal ministry in December 2021, these plants require at least 65 million tonnes of coal, enough for around 20 days of power generation.

According to the Central Electricity Authority's (CEA) daily coal-stock report updated on 27 April, 110 power plants have are at a critical level with less than 25 per cent of that minimum. Fifty-four power stations are left with 10 per cent or less coal, and a few have completely exhausted their stocks.

Sources at NTPC — the country's biggest power generator — told Sputnik that besides local coal, 4.93 million tonnes of imported coal should also reach the plants. That may help end the crisis.
The government has also instructed coal mines to ensure maximum production and introduced rationing of coal distribution to non-power sectors.
States like Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, and Haryana have the greatest electricity deficit, resulting in power cuts up to 18-20 hours in rural areas.
Meanwhile, the power shortage may worsen further in the coming days as the meteorological department warns of severe heatwave conditions. Temperatures may soar to 47 degrees Celsius in several parts of northwest India.

"[The] north-western part of the country will see severe heatwave condition for next four-five days. The temperature may come down a little bit after 2 May. But this relief will be for less than a week," G.P. Sharma, President of Skymet weather, told Sputnik.

Heatwave intensity is linked to sparser pre-monsoon season rain showers in many areas. Unusually low humidity levels this year have left large parts of India arid and dry.
According to government estimates, heatwaves have killed around 4,000 people in India since 2015.
India's Power Ministry has indicated that electricity demand may spike by 8 per cent in May. At least three states — Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan -- have announced power-rationing for industries, which could curb the country's economic growth.
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