Nepal reels under 14-hour power cuts daily

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Monday, February 7, 2011

KATHMANDU - As Nepal’s new communist Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal assumed office Monday, Nepal’s power authorities announced a stringent 14-hour daily electricity blackout, citing the drying up of rivers that are the main source of energy.

The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), which has already enforced a 12-hour outage daily for over a month, now stepped up the curfew hours, plunging businesses, industries and a major tourism campaign in dire crisis.

Though the NEA said it was enforcing a 14-hour daily outage from Monday, the public actually faces almost 20 hours of non-supply of power. The new blackout schedule will provide only four hours of electricity during waking and working hours.

The new schedule frequently has power supply resuming at 3 a.m. or 1 a.m.

Though Nepal, with its abundance of fast-flowing rivers, can generate up to 40,000 MW of hydropower with economic viability, it is currently generating only about 415 MW.

The current need is for over 900 MW but generation falls drastically during the dry seasons of winter and summer.

The other communist-led government preceding Khanal’s had pledged with much fanfare to generate 20,000 MW in the next 20 years.

However, the promise has not been translated into action due to continuous opposition to new investors by the Maoists, who are now Khanal’s ruling ally, and Khanal’s own party.

One of the major hydropower projects assigned to an Australian investor - the 750 MW West Seti - is in danger of having its licence scrapped after work failed to start even more than a decade of the agreement being signed.

The project was held up by the 10-year Maoist insurgency first and then political turmoil and fresh disruption by local groups led by the Maoists.

The outages have a negative impact on the government’s campaign this year to bring in one million tourists by air and promote Nepal as one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.

Filed under: Economy

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