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The Load Shedding Conspiracy

February 25th, 2009 Comments off

Rangeen Chara has been undergoing technical developments for a really long time. Being busy with technical stuffs, I was looking for a good article to mark the new beginning. Today I found what I was looking for: Bibek Paudel’s post with the above title in his blog. With his permission, I am posting this article here. I am sure that Rangeen Chara community members will find it thought-provoking!

For the whole of a country to remain without power for more than 2/3rd of a day- every day; a catastrophe of sorts should have had occurred. Only if the country in question is not Nepal. In Nepal, this goes on as if this is the way things should have always been.

While interacting with his students in Nepal’s premier Engineering college at Pulchowk, a prominent hydro-power expert of the country makes no bones about the fact that Nepal’s current power crisis is largely artificial. Large volumes of water from one of Nepal’s biggest reservoir-based hydro-power plants at Kulekhani, according to him, were systemically drained during Monsoon, a season when there’s water enough to flood all the rivers. Such reservoir-based plants are meant to collect water during monsoon- for use in winter, when Nepal’s rivers dry up.

The transmission lines damaged by Koshi floods have been repaired, enabling the import of some MegaWatts of electricity from India. Similarly, a quarter of a year has passed since the government released a very-long and serious sounding action-plan to minimize the effects of the power-crisis. That included the distribution of low-power electric bulbs, controlling power-leakage, cutting supplies to hoarding boards, subsidizing alternative power sources and such like. These measures were expected to save almost the same amount of power that is being imported from India. According to predictions of pundits, this would bring down load-shedding hours by half of what it is now. In the meantime, the government would re-operate some thermal power plans and start investing in newer hydro-power projects. In a matter of just ten years, Nepal would produce 10,000 MW of electricity.

It didn’t, therefore, come as a surprise to anybody, when government ministers were shouting from rooftops that load-shedding will soon be a thing of the past. After all, the generator-battery-inverter business had amassed the largest sum of money it could possibly garner in a single year, and possibly even the stocks would have emptied up. To the public eye, there seemed no reason now to continue with such atrocious durations of load shedding. But, the NEA (No Electricity Authority of Nepal) has recently announced that there will be no reduction in the duration of power-outages. Today, twittersphere was abuzz with the news of increased load-shedding duration. For the record, presently, 14 hours every day remain without power. There are some additional hours of unannounced power-cuts at arbitrary times. The rumored new routine will bring back the glorious days of 16-hours of no-power-a-day that people here were experiencing a few weeks ago.

Ok, the civil war that ran for many years (and is still running) slowed down the country’s development works and the corrupt bureaucracy helped make sure that it came to a grinding halt. There’s a difference in the supply and demand of power and some hours of load-shedding is inevitable. But the government feels no obligation to explain the reason for power-problem as serious as this. Never had Nepalese been treated so badly by a government – like they don’t even deserve an honest explanation, and we’re supposedly experiencing the most democratic political process in the nation’s history.

In the NEA’s recent statement citing inability to decrease load-shedding hours despite importing power from India, it has cited the low water levels in the Kulekhani reservoir. We never read in our newspapers about how much has the level of water decreased and why. We never hear our political leaders visiting the reservoir to check the facts and interrogate on how the present situation wasn’t foreseen. On the other hand, respected hydro-power experts complain that nobody cares about the truth and that it’s all part of a big game.

Incidentally, in today’s Kantipur (Nepal’s vernacular daily), former Managing Director of NEA writes about his first-hand experiences about conspiracies in Nepal’s hydro-power sector.

To satisfy the sadist in me, let me mention a fact that means nothing, and sounds much like a boisterous laughter from the conglomerate of Nepal’s political leadership: ours is a country whose power potential is roughly 83,000 MW, which is equivalent to the combined installed hydroelectricity capacity of Canada, the United States and Mexico (reference), although less than 1 percent has been developed (reference).

Conspiracy, catastrophe, mockery and irresponsibility by politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and media go on hand in hand with life, so blissed to be so utterly ignorant and so happily incapable of any voice and resistance, of anything at all beyond frustration, dejection and surrender. Of course, in Nepal, all this and more go on as if this is the way things should have always been.

Categories: Analysis