Dark Nepal seeks power supply from India

January 1st, 2009 - 6:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Jan 1 (IANS) Ushering in a dismal New Year with 12 hours of power outage daily and facing a 16-hour blackout next month, Nepal is seeking to buy power from its southern neighbour India to cope with the unprecedented crisis.Shankar Koirala, secretary at the water resources ministry, said from Thursday the government was importing 20 MW from Tanakpur in India.

However, it would be just a drop in a deficit of nearly 500 MW.

While the Himalayan republic of over 29 million people currently requires 770 MW, the supply has dropped to 255 MW due to the water level in its hydro projects, the main source of energy, dipping because of a lean monsoon.

Last month, the new Maoist government declared a state of power emergency that includes switching off billboard lights and seeking to run thermal power stations.

From Monday, the state began facing a 12-hour daily outage that has caused over 40 percent industries to close, compelled bankers to seek the regulating body’s permission to open only five days a week and made Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda face angry protests by students, who hurled stones at his car.

In February, the nation’s woes will increase with the likelihood of a 16-hour outage daily as the deficit nears 600 MW.

Koirala said the scenario would improve by March when transmission lines connecting southern Nepal with India are reconstructed. They were damaged during floods in August.

As a result, though Nepal signed an agreement with India’s PTC India Ltd to import an additional 40 MW, the transaction is yet to start.

Koirala said the government is also taking steps to buy 65 MW from India to be supplied through Forbesganj, Sitamarhi and Jaynagar.

Besides, Nepal is hoping its 70 MW Middle Marsyangdi hydropower project will start generating power by March.

To have been completed in 2006, the project in Lamjung district was obstructed by the Maoist insurgency that caused its cost to rise exponentially.

Ironically, Prachanda inaugurated the project Sunday with much fanfare. But the inauguration became the butt of ridicule after the discovery that it was still not completed.

Even if it finally kicks off in March, Middle Marsyangdi will initially produce only 35 MW.

Economists have warned that the bleak power situation will hard-hit the republic’s fragile economy that is currently running on the money sent home by Nepalis working abroad and foreign aid.

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