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Hydro-power: Payback Time

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We, the Government

By HUGH AND COLLEEN GANTZER

It was dark and cold when we stepped into our Study this morning. We could barely discern the portraits of our family looking down at us or the titles of our books and travel diaries lining the walls. Then we switched on our lights, the small tower-heater we’ve named Toby, and our desk-top. Hydro-electric power poured in and all was right with the world!
Our late friends, the Garlahs of Woodlands Estate, often recalled Empire Day in 1907 when our progressive City Board electrified our town. Lucknow, then the capital of our United Provinces, was envious. Mussoorie’s hydro-power, surging out of our generators in Galogi, lit up our town and spread down all the way to Rajpur, Dehradun and Clement Town. And, as electricity poured out, money poured in. It made the City Board, Mussoorie (CBM), reputedly, the richest in India. Our production of electricity had become a profitable industry! We had earned it. Supported by the tax-payers of Mussoorie, our Municipal Board had planned their hydro-electric scheme meticulously. Water from a perennial stream had been diverted into huge pipes which poured it down the steep slopes of a valley, into inter-connected Sedimentation Tanks open to the sky. The accumulated sediment in these tanks, and the calcium which had been deposited in the pipes, were extracted in a regular cleansing and maintenance programme. From the last tank, the water flowed swiftly downhill, through pipes of diminishing diameter, till it gushed through nozzles as slim as a thumb to spin the humming power generators. There were two sets of generators switching over at exactly 9 p.m. Our City Board had even installed a cable car to take people and materials from the Mussoorie-Dehra motor road into Galogi valley.
Our extremely efficient hydro-electric scheme was overseen by the lone Chief Engineer of the City Board, and his staff. The Chief Engineer was also in charge of our water-works. Electricity still powers the pumps which raise water from valley springs to the high reservoirs which feed our town.
All went well till socialism, as a reaction to colonialism, hit our nation. The wonderfully on-time, privately-run trains were nationalised into our creaking Indian Railways. So were the banks which then sunk into the morass of their Non-Performing Assets. Our iconic Air-India was suffocated by the feather-bedding ways of babudom. Inevitably, our wonderful hydro-electric scheme was also gobbled up by the short-sighted netas and babus of our state capital, Lucknow, in a typical low-land high-land conflict of interests. Then, even when we snatched back the right to govern our newly carved out Uttarakhand, our own, home-grown, politicos refused to give Mussoorie’s electric revenues back to us. Quite naturally, City Board Chairpersons and members elected on party tickets declined to stand up against the party that had given them all the perks and privileges of their office!
In other words, none of our politically indebted, elected representatives had the gumption to ask our Uttarakhand Sarkar to return the revenue-generating Galogi hydel station back to us. If that had happened, we would have had enough money to finance our very essential Jumna Water-pumping Scheme.
Let us, then, presume that our hydel revenue is lost to us, what alternative do we have? According to a news-report, the World Bank has approved a Development Policy Loan of Two Hundred and Ninety-Two crore rupees for the Shimla Water Supply and Sewerage Project. Under the terms of the project, the state government would set up the Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam Limited which would cater to Shimla’s water needs for fifty years.
The first task, therefore, that the Independent Members of the Mussoorie Municipal Board should tackle is to demand an end to our state’s pussy-footing on the Jumna Project. It is likely that the other, politically-oriented, members will support you. If the netas in Dehra ask how the WB’s loan instalments would be paid, remind them of the continuing incomes being generated by our Galogi hydel power.
Mussoorie’s voters have rejected the top-down-approach of political parties. They have shown their preference for candidates who will solve our down-to-earth everyday problems. An uninterrupted flow of water is the first of many unfulfilled needs. This is the primary task of We, the Government.