Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nepal to Face Cold, Dark Winter

Nepal is the second richest country in the whole globe in terms of hydro resources. It has a huge theoretical potential for hydropower, estimated to be in the region of 83,000 MW and the economically feasible potential is assessed at 42,000 MW. However, it has only produced 600 MW.

Owing to the lack of financial resources, most of the people are forced to live under darkness in Nepal. Fewer than 3 percent of Nepal's rural population has access to electricity, whereas the total population having access to electricity amounts nearly to 20 percent.

Despite such an abundant hydro potential, Nepalese pay one of the highest electricity tariffs in the world and highest in South Asian region. But still, Nepalese who have access to electricity are still not getting sufficient power supply.

Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is enforcing power cuts of two-and-a-half hours per household per week beginning Monday. The power cuts will be enforced across the nation, and will increase every month. In February, one of the coldest months, Nepal is likely to face power cuts for nearly 40 hours per week per household.

Kathmandu's temperature has gone down to three degree celsius and it will soon go below the freezing point. It reached 0.4 below the freezing point last year. In the meantime, residents will have to shiver with cold owing to the power cuts. It's embarrassing to say that power will be cut because of the power shortage.

The NEA is already facing a power shortage of some 48 megawatts. Electricity demand increased by 10 percent this year and is likely to increase further in coming years. The NEA has a single 48 MW hydro project, Mid Marsyangdi, under construction. Mid Marsyangdi was supposed to come on line by now. However, owing to continuous disputes between the construction company and workers and Maoist disturbances, it has been delayed by two years. Even if Mid Marshyangdi came on line in 2008, it is not even likely sufficient to fill the existing power shortage, let alone future demand.

The NEA has a monopoly over production and distribution of hydropower in the country. The private sector has been asking to open up the power sector. However, it has not been possible to challenge the monopoly of NEA. The private sector has been blaming the monopoly of NEA for higher electricity tariffs, which hasn't been sufficiently addressed by the NEA.

Although the government formed after the success of popular movement has multiple viable new projects, none of their work has been started. The 309 MW Upper Tamakoshi has been much talked about as the cheapest in terms of construction. The government this November decided that it will construct the project, which is estimated to cost 30 billion rupees (US$672 million) on its own resources. Still there is long way to go even for the construction of Upper Tamakoshi. And Nepalese are more vulnerable to power cuts for more hours in the future. According to NEA's prediction, the nation will face progressively worse power cuts during dry seasons at least till 2012, even if a major project enters construction immediately.

Published: http://english.ohmynews.com/ 2006-12-04

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