When the Games Come to Dehli...will the lights work? When the Games come to Delhi, will the lights work? - The Globe and Mail
crowd of journalists followed the chief organizer of the Commonwealth Games as he strode under a trellis of fluttering ribbons and onto a red-carpeted stage. Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Games organizing committee, was not ducking the fact that he has less than 200 days left to transform New Delhi into a venue for the first major international sporting event India has hosted in a generation. He threw a party to celebrate the looming deadline, bringing professional kite flyers and mural painters to serve as a backdrop for his brash statements.
“All the infrastructure is upside down at the moment,” he said. “But I tell you one thing: You will have a great city.”
India is tearing up its capital city in a frenzy of construction, hoping to use the Games to show off its status as a rising power. But the spotlight may prove unflattering when the event starts on Oct. 3. Electrical engineers warn the festivities will draw too much power from the national grid, causing blackouts in areas surrounding the city. New electrical plants are among the many infrastructure projects not likely to get finished before the opening ceremony.
Part of the problem may be the scale of India’s ambition. Its winning proposal, which beat out competitors such as Hamilton, Ont., called for a sweeping overhaul of the city. An estimated 400,000 labourers are working day and night on a dizzying number of roads, bridges, subways, overpasses, airport facilities and sports complexes.
Half-finished buildings stand like skeletons on the skyline. Tens of thousands of homeless people have been evicted and their shelters bulldozed. Other slums are screened from public view by bamboo fences.
The government has started a campaign to teach English to workers in the hospitality industry, and the tourism ministry is cajoling residents with billboards and leaflets urging them to be polite.
However, India aims for even bigger things. During his press event, Mr. Kalmadi wore a straw hat with the Olympic rings embroidered on the brim. If his team can successfully host athletes from the 71 countries of the former British Empire, the accomplishment will support India’s claim that it can handle delegations from more than 200 countries for an Olympics.
For the moment, however, it seems that India may have trouble just keeping the lights on.
Shailendra Dubey, secretary-general of the All India Power Engineers Federation, says three of five coal-fired plants envisioned as sources of power for the games are nowhere near finished. Delhi already experiences regular shortages of electricity; estimates of the additional load required by sporting venues and the influx of visitors range from 100 to 500 megawatts.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/controversies/29657-when-games-come-dehli-will-lights.html
Those shortfalls are not likely to come from the city’s supply, but are expected instead to result in load-shedding in rural districts. Mr. Dubey suggested that the surges in demand predicted for the Games could result in 12-hour shutdowns of the electrical system in his home state of Uttar Pradesh.
“The whole state will suffer,” he said.
Kunwartal Singh, a spokesman for the Central Electricity Authority, disagrees. “No, no, this is not the situation.” he said. “We’ve made arrangements for electrical supply.” He referred to the authority’s website, with projections that show Delhi will have an electricity surplus in the coming year. The same projections, however, also show shortages in neighbouring regions.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=29657
Even if the government drains electricity from outside the city for the Games, there are questions about whether Delhi’s ramshackle power lines can handle the additional current. “They are snatching the quota from other states,” said Satya Pal, general secretary of the Delhi Vidyut Board Engineers Association. “But we have no capacity for it. The internal system is weak.”
If it happens, the electricity shortfall will be another hardship for the workers who are building venues for the Games. Thousands live in camps around the construction sites. The electrical engineers say it would be a bitter irony if those new buildings caused blackouts in the workers’ home villages.
Still, the work camps also stand as an example of India’s ability to fix its problems. The sprawling site of the Commonwealth Games Village became an embarrassment last year when reports described fatal outbreaks of meningitis and degrading living conditions for the labourers. Now the camp has a daycare, washrooms and medical facilities.
Mritunajay Kumar, 24, a carpenter, earns the equivalent of about $4.50 for an eight-hour shift and sleeps in a tin-roofed hut. His hometown is a 28-hour train ride from Delhi, but he says it was worth the trip to earn a little extra money.
“We probably have a year of work left, not 200 days,” he said. “But they can hold the Games, and we will continue working on the side. Everything is almost done, but not finished. The finishing touches will be during the Games.”
So, he was asked, will visitors see carpenters hammering at the venues? “You won’t see us,” he said. “But we’ll be there. We’ll be working.”
He added, helpfully: “Nothing will fall down.”