The irony of Nepal’s crippling electricity deficit is that after Brazil, its water resources are the second largest in the world, worth an identified capacity of nearly 1,00,000 MW of hydro-power.
But chronic political interference has meant that almost none of that potential is being used — so against a demand of around 800 MW, the supply to its citizens is only 320 MW (including power imported from India).
Now, citing increased pressure on that demand-supply equation, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has said it will lengthen load-shedding from the existing 12 hours a day to 16 from next week — and indicated the possibility of upping that to 18-20 in the next two months.
The NEA is citing the receding water volume in its rivers as a primary reason for that skewed equation.
“This is impossible. How can we survive without power for such long hours during the winter months?” Rabindra Dangol, a Kathmandu-based entrepreneur said.
The upshot of Nepal’s inability to get new power projects off the ground is that only 40 per cent of its 27 million people have access to electricity — the rest depend on wood for cooking and heating.
And the irregular supply of kerosene and diesel in Kathmandu and Nepal’s other major cities is adding to the mess.
The most visible casualty of the power crisis — apart from Nepal’s limited industrial sector — is its tourism industry, which has been the backbone of its economy. Downtown areas of Kathmandu, especially Thamel, which generally attracts hordes of tourists, now look almost deserted.
“It is impossible for us to run our generators for so long,” Leknath Bhattarai, manager at a hotel in Kathmandu’s Lazimpat area said, adding that the supply of hot running water to his guests has also been hit.
Central heating has stopped working in many of Nepal’s luxury hotels, and the operation of lifts has been erratic.
“The mercury’s getting closer to zero and tourists will run away if our heating systems don’t work,” Dinesh Sharma, a hotel manager said.
Importing more power from India is also not really an option for the NEA as a large section of its transmission lines was washed away in the Kosi flood of the last monsoon.
Nepal has requested New Delhi to repair those transmission lines.
In protest against the power crisis, five satellite television channels on Thursday decided to halt transmission from midnight to 5 am every day — they said the power crisis is not helping their already high production costs and depressed advertising revenue.