Kathmandu, December 9:

People in the rural areas are ready to play their role by contributing in cash or voluntary labour to have their villages electrified but the government lacks manpower and funds to help them realise their dream.

“People from various parts of the country have formed more than 400 user committees and are pressing us for immediate extension of electricity facility in their villages but we have approved only 176 such groups due to the lack of fund and manpower,” said Ram Chandra Pandey, director of the Community Rural Electrification Department (CRED) under the Nepal Electricity Authority. “Only 135 rural electrification schemes have been launched till date.”

He also said that the 80 per cent matching fund, which the government pledges to pay for electrifying a village, is limited and this has affected electrification of large number of communities who have already signed the contract for setting up the electricity distribution system are on hold and are waiting for fund allocation from the government.

Consumers have a sense that NEA employees’ behaviour is biased, they lack of accountability, they put false blame and impose unjust tariff plans. This is also a challenge for the CRED.

The rural electrification programme make consumers pay 20 per cent of the total expenditure of the electrification after which the electricity distribution system is handed over to the communities. The members of the communities are trained to operate the system.

Some 1,148 people have already been trained on different subjects. “It’s very difficult to train the non-technical people many of whom are barely literate,” Pandey said.

According to a report of CRED, only 1.644 million of the total 4.474 million households of the country have access to electricity. This becomes 39.40 per cent. Only 8 per cent of the total rural area (328,900 households) are electrified.

Pandey said the scheme of CRED would electrify new areas in 38 districts through installation of some 551 transformers benefiting some 133,614 rural households of 385 VDCs at the end of the fiscal year 2007/08.

He also said that the government should explore various ways to collect money for the rural electrification fund.