Northern India hit by worst blackout in a decade | News | DW | 30.07.2012
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Northern India hit by worst blackout in a decade

Northern India has largely returned to normal after the country's worst power outage in 10 years. Analysts say it points to the need for major investment in India's infrastructure.

Officials with India's Central Electricity Authority largely restored power by late Monday, after struggling to cope with a major blackout that left more than 300 million people without power.

Officials said about 60 percent of the usual power output in the eight northern states affected had been restored by mid-morning, largely by drawing electricity from the eastern and western grids. The Associated Press reported that power had been fully restored by Monday evening.

The northern power grid had crashed in the middle of the night for reasons that remain unclear. While officials in the sate of Uttar Pradesh blamed the blackout on increased demand due to high summer temperatures, India's power minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde said he had launched an investigation to determine the cause.

The power outage played havoc with the morning commute, as New Delhi's metro transit system, which transports nearly two million passengers daily, ground to a halt for several hours. The capital's always-busy roads were jammed, as some passengers took their cars to work.

Electrically powered trains were stopped in their tracks or reached their destinations several hours late. At least 200 scheduled trains were cancelled outright.

Infrastructure investment needed

Many major factories and other offices continued to operate though, using their own dedicated power plants or generators.

Blackouts are frequent in some parts of India, but this was the worst the country has seen in a decade. The Central Electricity Authority has reported power deficits of around eight percent in recent months.

Analysts said Monday's blackout highlighted the need for major investment in India's infrastructure.

"This kind of breakdown shows that the system needs some big overhaul to increase credibility and increase the confidence in the system of India. More homework needs to be done." Jagannadhan Thunuguntla, equity head at Delhi-based brokerage SMC Capital told the Reuters news agency.

However, economic growth in India has slowed to its lowest level in almost a decade and the government recently scaled back plans to invest around $1 trillion in infrastructure projects over the next five years.

pfd,slk/lw (Reuters, AP)