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Power politics and candlelight dinners

world Updated: Oct 04, 2010 00:59 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times
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Last winter, our first in Kathmandu, we had countless candlelight dinners at home. Thanks to Nepal Electricity Authority's 12-14 hours of daily power cuts.

The scene will be similar this year and for another eight winters says NEA Executive Director Jibendra Jha. To make matters worse, power tariff will soon increase by 30 pc per unit.

Nepal needs to exploit its 83,000 MW hydropower potential to get out of the power crisis hole. But thanks to Maoists, the country's largest political party, that's unlikely to happen soon.

The former rebels are known to oppose hydropower projects built by Indian firms. Recently they urged the government to shelve 14 projects, 10 of which are being built by Indian companies or with Indian help.

Once completed these projects would generate 3500 MW of electricity. At present the country produces nearly 600 MW, not enough to meet the winter demand of 810 MW.

If the government fails to act, Maoists warn of forcible closure. The cited reason like always was to protect "national interest". The threat came when power development agreements for seven projects were to be signed.

Surprisingly, it's the same party which when in power in 2008 had promised to generate 10,000 MW in 10 years. Their about turn is sure to scare foreign investors.

Maoists want local entrepreneurs to develop hydropower projects. But neither the government nor domestic investors have the required money to finance large power projects.

"The projects can generate minimum export revenue of US $1.8 billion annually besides US $ 180 million from royalty and another US $ 91 million worth of free power," said an Indian Embassy official.

Revenue Nepal needs to tide over its financial crisis. Not surprisingly the Maoist stance has evoked widespread condemnation. But the party is yet to step back or assure investors.

Reason enough to buy more candles this Diwali.