Nepali Times
You ain't seen nothing yet

The bad news is that despite us being in the middle of the monsoon, NEA has just raised power rationing to seven hours daily. Even worse news is that this winter there will be electricity for only four hours a day.

Load-shedding is now a given, and like with all other shortages in this country, people have learnt to cope. Just like organisms adapt to small incremental doses of poison, Nepalis adapt to hardships heaped on them. But nothing is going to prepare us as individuals, families and as a country to the looming dark winter ahead.

There are lots of excuses for the current crisis. The conflict delayed big projects like Middle Marsyangdi and Kali Gandaki A. In the absence of storage projects, in the time of peak winter demand we have the lowest generation capacity from run-of-the-river schemes.

But Nepal's successive rulers can't say they had no warning. Alarm bells have been ringing for decades. Politicians were distracted by fighting, by infighting, by greed and corruption, but by and large, they were just incredibly incompetent. The prolonged transition since 2006 has meant that there was either no political will, or too much political interference, to recognise and resolve the emergency.

Which is why we are now faced with the spectre of 20-hour power cuts this winter. Despite all the warnings, only 8MW of power was added to the grid in the last fiscal year, while the increase in demand was 100MW. This fiscal year is even worse: there has been zero augmentation in supply. Not even in the worst-governed country in the world is there such ineptitude and irresponsibility. Our rulers have ensured that we as a nation take a great leap backward to the dark ages.

To shed some light into the crisis, as it were, let us look at the short-term projections. In five years, demand is set to rise to 1500MW which means we will need an installed capacity of 4500MW so as to cover for the winter deficit. The projects expected to be completed in the next few years, including Upper Tamakosi, Upper Trisuli 3A and 3B, and Chamelia, will only add 586MW to the grid. Which means the shortfall is here to stay for the next five years, even if those projects are completed on schedule. But at the rate at which licences are being mysteriously revoked, and then equally mysteriously re-issued a week later, that is not likely.

Foreign investors are being harassed either by the government, by local extortionists, or by the hydro mafia. Projects that were on the verge of starting construction have suddenly been stopped, local opposition has stalled three big projects with Indian investment, like Arun III, Budi Gandaki and Upper Karnali. The Brazilian investor, Engevix, is on the verge of pulling out of the 400MW Lower Arun.

The only long-term solution is to start building new plants in the 2,000MW range right away, and it would be even better if they are storage projects like the West Seti. For that to happen, Nepal needs to be more investment-friendly, tariffs need to be revised to make it worthwhile and the bureaucratic hurdles need to be smoothened.

NEA has said that the reason for the electricity shortfall this monsoon season was less than average rainfall in July and August and the grid collapse in northern India which lead to the reduction of Nepal's power import. What they fail to mention are the real reasons: incompetence, corruption, mismanagement and political interference.

To be sure, things have been moving. In the last government, the UML Energy Minister Gokarna Bista tried to remove the log jam on projects until his government itself was removed. The former parliament's Committee on Natural Resources completed the most detailed analysis yet of the problems and recommended solutions. Prime Minister Bhattarai doesn't have to re-invent the wheel, he should just read that report and get into action. Among the recommendations:

• Political consensus on future strategy, less political interference in the work of NEA
• Generate enough power to meet domestic demand for value-added industry and only then export
• Immediately commission a reservoir project in each development zone
• Unbundle transmission and distribution, address inefficiencies, corruption, pilferage

Power used to come out of the barrel of a gun for the Prime Minister's party. It should now come out of a hydro-electric turbine. If there is one thing the Nepali people will thank Baburam Bhattarai for, it will not be the token gesture of riding a Mustang, but acting now so there will be no power cuts by 2018.

Read also:
Coming this winter: 20 hour power cuts daily

Hello darkness my old friend, BHRIKUTI RAI
The politics of power is making Nepal powerless

1. K. K. Sharma

Darkness, is one of the gift of New Nepal............rejoice. Our intellectuals have had netas, they had supported and hailed. 

2. renu sakya
there is an urgency to look at a situation from lateral view, the complains on loads hedding has been happening for many years by bow, and  there is no reverberation of anything except complain, however apart from the issues discussed above in the article, there are now more issues surrounding above , during our research on climate change and it;s impact on subsistent farmer among karnali and terai region of Nepal, there is an outcry of voices who have reported decreased rainfall affecting their subssistent farming, this news is not a a local news with local impact anymore, people of cities who have lost their farms for the greed and desire should be aware of the current situation of our mother earth now, so far power cut is just an issue, in ten years time, there could be food cuts, and many other cuts which is unimaginable at this point, so we need constructive and humanitarian actions generated after understanding the holistic situation, not any more complains only!

3. Anil Rajbhandari
Nepalis deserve to live in darkness because we are yellow bellied. Political leaders have looted with impunity for over two decades and we as the people did not do anythin. PKD wants to devide Nepal, turn Nepalis against Nepalis, kill Nepalis and the people of kathmandu put him on pedestal. Nepalis have lost their vision, are used to darkness and hence they do not mind living in darkness. Oh yes, when its dark, then evil can thrive.

4. Santosh K C
Nepali skin is thicker than the famed 1 horn Rhino. For 2 decades Nepalis have been used and abused by the lowest grade of politicians and everyone seems to be quite happy. Maybe this is a result of the smart ones going to foreign lands so we are stuck with the dumb and dumber. Load shedding is a way of life in Nepal so its not even news. Nepal could be selling electricity to energy starved India and Nepalis would be thriving as middle class citizens, maybe in a dream world. Does you ai'nt seen nothing yet mean the loot of Nepali will continue and every will live happily ever after.

5. sabitri karki

With the degree of corruption and the never-ending political bickering that goes on, it's hard to say whether mega-projects like Middle Marsyangdi and Kali Gandaki will be completed in the next 10 or even 20 years. Since the power crisis is here to stay, the state and the private sector need to look to invest in alternative energy as the short-term solution. Why not install solar PV panels in all urban and rural homes and offices across Nepal that will provide both hot water and constant supply of electricity. This way, households and businesses can cut down on their electricity bill and lower their dependence on the national grid. Those who can afford the technology should convert to solar on their own and for those who can't the government and NGOs should step in to subsidise PV panels and support local user groups.  

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)