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Dark Valentine's Day looms in Nepal

Candles will usher in Valentine's Day with the electric board in Nepal set to impose a seven-hour power cut.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2007 18:27 IST

Candles will usher in Valentine's Day in Nepal Wednesday, not as a sign of romance but out of sheer necessity, with Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) imposing nearly a seven-hour power cut a day to reduce consumption by 25 per cent.

Plagued by soaring power needs and a dry monsoon, the NEA will enforce a 40-hour weekly power cut.

"We plan to keep one day power cut free with power cut schedules on the rest of the days," NEA's load dispatch centre officials told the agency.

The spectre of power outages has been stalking the Himalayan kingdom since late last year and the NEA reduced supply to each locality for three hours from last month.

The kingdom can have some respite in summer after rains when water is available for power generation.

However, if that doesn't happen, in the worst case, the outages could go up to eight hours daily, NEA has warned.

The announcement comes as a fresh blow to Nepal's business houses and industries reeling under transport and general strikes.

From late January to last week, hundreds of factories were forced to close after running out of raw material due to the unrest in the southern Terai plains.

NEA said it was in consultation with the industrial areas.

"We have requested them to try cut down consumption by 20-25 percent," said NEA official Sher Singh Bhatt.

"If that happens, the situation will improve."

Business houses are revising their shifts with some also considering a five-day week till the power situation improves.

However, there are some who can't afford to do so since the bulk of their exports are manufactured in Nepal.

Dabur Nepal, Dabur India's wholly owned subsidiary and one of Nepal's biggest exporters, said with exports comprising 80 per cent of the sales value, it would have to keep its factory in Birgunj running to meet the shortfall created by the Terai unrest.

"We also run a greenhouse as part of our corporate social responsibility," Udayan Ganguly, Dabur Nepal's CEO said.

"So we will have to look at alternative sources of energy. As a result, our energy bill is bound to rise manifold."

Though Nepal has been trying to buy power from the neighbouring Indian states, efforts have been thwarted by lack of high-voltage power links between the two countries and the growing energy needs in India's own states.