No hollow promises

  • People should express outrage at 86 hours of load shedding a week

Jan 6, 2016-

Load shedding hours have increased once again. From Monday, they went up to 86 hours a week from the previous 77. There had been a seven-hour increase in load shedding just over a week ago. With the new schedule, people will be without electricity for up to 15 hours a day. They will experience a power outage for 13 hours three times a week, and for 15, 14, 10 and eight hours once a week. Official explanation is that the depleting water in rivers feeding major hydropower plants because of inadequate rainfall has forced the Nepal Electricity Authority to increase load shedding. Disturbingly, power generation has decreased to less than 300MW at a time when the demand for electricity has surged due to the ongoing fuel crisis. Currently, peak demand stands at 1,300MW. Despite the government’s pledge to supply electricity during “cooking time”, it’s been long since Nepali people stopped relying solely on electricity for cooking. So much for people’s faith in the government.  

Power outages have become an ordinary phenomenon—so much so that keeping pace with a frequently changing schedule seems to be the most annoying aspect of the problem. People would at least get some respite if the given schedule was properly followed. 

A power outage of 86 hours a week in this day and age is simply outrageous. It has serious long-term impact on individual productivity, industrial output and development activities. While that’s bad enough, Nepali people’s fatalistic acceptance of the problem as routine has allowed the nonperforming political class to get away with empty promises. For decades, Nepalis have heard their politicians wax eloquence about bringing load shedding to an end. The problem, if anything, has only worsened over the years. 

Prime Minister Oli’s announcement in November to end load shedding within a year is nothing new for Nepalis: yet another official making yet another tall claim. Nothing came of the 2008 energy emergency declared during the tenure of the then Water Resources Minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel. The announcement made through a Cabinet decision had decided to set up thermal plants to add some 200 MW to the national grid.

But things can change this time round. At some point, things must change. People have to start demanding accountability from politicians. Oli’s promise, though tall, may not be impossible. At least, significant progress can be made in a year in reducing, and eventually eliminating, load shedding if the most powerful person in the country is determined to do so. If Oli is told in unequivocal terms that his political future depends on fulfilling his promise, he is more likely to work seriously towards it. More generally, politicians should be held accountable for their performance on numerous small but specific issues. That way, they will think twice before making hollow promises and will approach the particular issues with greater gravity and resolve.

Published: 06-01-2016 08:45

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