Power-starved Nepal government calls for a dim Diwali

October 26th, 2008 - 4:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Oct 26 (IANS) As Nepal began celebrating its Hindu festival of Diwali with five days’ festivities, the Himalayan republic’s power-strapped government is appealing to the nation to go slow on lights, one of the main accessories of the festival.Currently reeling under a three to five hours’ power outage daily and the closure of nearly 200 small to medium-scale industries due to the power crisis, the state-run Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has issued an appeal to consumers not to light electric lamps as these would further pressure the reeling power supply.

The NEA said the current crisis was triggered by the alarming decrease in the water level of the Kulekhani river, Nepal’s main source of power.

It has been further compounded by the August flood of the Kosi river in southern Nepal that changed its course and destroyed power transmission lines between Nepal and India.

Though India’s Power Trading Corporation Ltd signed an MoU with the NEA to supply an additional 60 MW to bail it out, the bounty however would not add to Diwali cheer since the offered power cannot be transmitted to Nepal till the lines are repaired.

The NEA said since the demand for power rises during Diwali, it was requesting subscribers to use alternative means to light lamps instead of electricity.

While Nepal’s southern neighbour India celebrates Diwali for a day, in Nepal it is an elaborate five-day festival, starting from Sunday.

On the first day of Diwali, worshippers feed and worship the crow in a bid to appease the god of death. It is followed by the worship of dogs, the cow and finally, Laxmi, the goddess of wealth.

Though Nepal, once the world’s only Hindu kingdom, became secular two years ago, its 10-day Hindu festival Dashain and Diwali or Tihar continue to dominate the state.

Besides being dimmer, Diwali could be quieter too this time.

As in the days of the Maoist insurgency, this year too the border town authorities have clamped down on the sale of explosives and firecrackers from India in an effort to prevent the armed groups active in the Terai from using these to fuel their war on the state.

Nearly 50 armed organisations are active in south Nepal and though the Maoist government this month formed a ministerial team to open negotiations with them, formal talks are yet to begin.

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