As the lights slowly flickered back to life across India, the heated argument over who is to blame for the massive blackouts was already underway, the New York Times reports:
The nation’s new power minister distanced himself from assertions by his predecessor that state officials were responsible for Monday and Tuesday’s blackouts by drawing more power for their regions than they were allotted. But the former power minister, who was promoted in a cabinet reshuffle, kept right on making those claims.[…][The Minister’s] statements were mocked by a number of political observers and became grist for severe criticism from opposition lawmakers. Prakash Javadekar, a spokesman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said that the government was merely trying to divert attention from its own incompetence.
It’s no secret that India’s infrastructure hasn’t been able to keep up with its population growth or industrial expansion. The power grid is no exception. India’s Central Electricity Authority has reported up to 8 percent power deficits in recent months, forcing many to rely on portable generators rather than the fickle power grid. Still, even a generator is a rare luxury in a country where more than a third of the population has no access to public utilities whatsoever.Sometimes a problem has to turn into a crisis before anybody takes the trouble to fix it. Optimists hope that India’s two massive blackouts will be the spur that forces the country to address its deep-seated problems with building and maintaining a modern infrastructure that can support the kind of economy India wants. Pessimists think the forces of inertia are just too great to make any real changes.But if you think it’s only developing nations like India that are afflicted by the problem of an overwhelmed, decrepit power infrastructure, think again. The Washington Post reports:
The United States doesn’t yet face the critical shortage of power that has left more than 600 million people in India without electricity this week.But the U.S. grid is aging and stretched to capacity. More often the victim of decrepitude than the forces of nature, it is beginning to falter. Experts fear failures that caused blackouts in New York, Boston and San Diego may become more common as the voracious demand for power continues to grow. They say it will take a multibillion-dollar investment to avoid them.
I’ve been reading the stories about India’s blackouts with special interest as I am leaving tomorrow for a visit to this amazing country. It will be my third, and this time I’ll be returning to some cities I’ve visited before and also breaking new ground. I’ll continue to blog while visiting; I only hope I won’t be blogging by candle light, hoarding the last few precious moments of battery charge.