When the lights go outThe NEA cannot continue to maintain its lackadaisical attitude on this.
"Batti gayera match hernai paiyena" is an oft-repeated phrase among football enthusiasts in many parts of the country these days. Even as Copa America and Euro 2020 inch towards their finals, Nepali football fans have something other than the performance of their favourite teams to worry about: The frequent power outages that ruin their football viewing experience. Imagine staying up until quarter to one a.m. and still being unable to watch the match on TV and scrambling at the last minute to watch it on your mobile phone! But it is not only the football fans who are inconvenienced by unscheduled power outages.
As the monsoon rages on and heavy rainfall and lightning continues to be an everyday affair, the incidences of frequent electricity cuts have become all too common. Resultantly, Zoom meetings are interrupted as speakers’ screens go blank, professionals are unable to meet their deadlines, and rice remains uncooked in electric cookers. And most of the time, people are not even prepared for such crises.
Short-term power outages remain a problem throughout the country, but people living in the Tarai, where summers are extraordinarily hot and humid, are especially inconvenienced. Unable to use their fans, people end up sleeping outdoors, leading to other risks including getting bitten by mosquitoes and reptiles. People cannot continue to become collateral damage of a problem that can be solved if the authorities concerned were to do their jobs properly.
Nepal went through over a decade of darkness as the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) imposed power outages to "manage" electricity supply. As it turned out, it was often the result of a corrupt nexus whereby the authorities diverted precious electricity supply to business houses. That phase of darkness is thankfully over for some years now as electricity supply in large parts of the country remains mostly uninterrupted.
But all is not well with the electricity supplied by the NEA these days. As Nepalis have gotten used to living without a load-shedding timetable for a few years now, they do not keep power backup handy. In any case, backups are expensive and difficult to maintain, which makes it difficult for common Nepalis to keep them.
The NEA blames heavy rainfall and storms for the crisis, claiming that the damage to electricity transmitters, poles and wires hinder uninterrupted transmission of electricity. When consumers call the utility helpline in their respective cities and towns, the most common response they receive from authorities is that the snag was because of a tree falling over the transmission line or a short circuit in a transmitter, and that they were attending to it.
But clearly, more than natural causes, it is the weak physical and technical infrastructure set up by the NEA that is to blame. The utility must invest more on expansion of transmission lines as well as substations to ensure that electricity supply remains uninterrupted. After decades of giving the same old answers, the NEA must now come up with a more permanent solution to the power snag problem and let its consumers rest assured that their chores do not get snapped midway.
Having suffered as long as 18 hours of load-shedding at the peak of the dark days, Nepalis may find it ridiculous to complain about intermittent power outages. But uninterrupted power supply is an essential part of public service delivery, and the NEA cannot continue to maintain its lackadaisical attitude on this. It has no option but to rev up its infrastructure and human resources to ensure that its service does not get affected by natural causes or technical glitches.