The Load-Shedding Conspiracy (2009 blog)


See end of this post for the history and context of this blog.

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. After all, the generator-battery-inverter business had amassed the largest sum of money it could possibly garner in a single year.

Load Shedding in Nepal has been part of daily life, but never a subject of attention by those with power (pic: onlinekhabar.com)
Load Shedding in Nepal has been part of daily life, but never a subject of attention by those with power (pic: onlinekhabar.com)

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 duration 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, currently 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.

Conspiracy, catastrophe, mockery and irresponsibility by politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and media go on hand in hand with life, blessed 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


Note (Dec 2016): I first published this blog about eight years ago, in February 2009. During those years, the capital city of Nepal and many other regions had long hours without electricity. We call it load-shedding. At some time, there would be only 6 officially scheduled hours with electricity, often during sleeping hours. Unofficially, even that was hard to come by. Later the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) even stopped giving any reasons (like low water levels in reservoirs) while altering load-shedding hours. Nobody -not anybody with the access and resources to do so- ever bothered to ask or find out.

Recently, after Kulman Ghising was appointed as the new chief of NEA, a long-hidden scheme has been revealed, according to which electricity was provided to select people while load-shedding was carried on to the benefit the inverter and generator sellers. No newspaper, no political or social organizations, and no civil society body ever paid any attention to this atrocious crime. And although the scam has been reported after it was revealed by Mr. Ghising, nobody has been held responsible, let alone be blamed for what was done to the economy and millions of people for more than a decade.

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