EDITORIAL: Power to industries

Uninterrupted supply of power to industrial sector will bring down production cost and attract more electricity intensive industries

There will be no industrial load-shedding from mid-May if the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA)’s plan to this effect is well executed. The state-owned power utility says it will be able to supply power to the industrial sector as per demand from wet season onwards. Currently, the power utility has been cutting electricity to industries for three hours a day during peak time to meet the domestic demand from available electricity supply. The NEA’s plan to end load-shedding to the industrial sector is largely based on a calculation that it will be able to sustain supply during winter and power to be generated from the 456-megawatt Upper Tamakoshi Hydroelectric Project, which will, according to NEA Managing Director Kulman Ghising, start generating electricity by the end of this year.

Despite being rich in water resources, the country had been witnessing long hours of outage until last year. Load-shedding for domestic users came to an end in mid-April last year after the NEA under Ghising initiated several measures to optimise available electricity by controlling leakage and encouraging the use of LED bulbs, among others. According to the NEA, 80 per cent of the total electricity supplied is consumed by domestic users and the industry sector consumes only eight per cent of the total electricity. Currently, the peak time load is around 1,300 megawatts whereas supply, including power imported from India, stands at around 964 megawatts. Due to regular power cuts, industries were compelled to use diesel generators, which would not only affect their machines but also shoot up production cost.

Nepali industries have long been hamstrung by power crisis. Irregular power supply has been considered as the major constraint for the country’s economic growth. Majority of energy in Nepal is generated from run-of-the-river hydropower plants. But electricity generation from the snow-fed rivers plunges to one-third of the installed capacity during winter. This results in shortage of power, due to which industries starve for power. In this context, it would be a good idea to focus on some reservoir-type power plants—like one being built in Tanahun. The Tanahun Hydropower Limited, a subsidiary company of NEA, is a storage type plant with 140 megawatt capacity and is capable of supplying peak power for minimum of six hours daily. The power utility also needs to work on some other areas. The private sector’s involvement in recent years is gaining momentum, but policy instability and procedural hassles in land acquisition and right-of-the-way clearance, among others, are major challenges to development of hydropower. Even with the higher production, the NEA may not be able to supply electricity as demanded by the industries due to old distribution system. The NEA needs to start working immediately on the plan to upgrade and augment its transmission and distribution system. But for now, uninterrupted supply of power to the industries is but good news as it will significantly bring down the production cost. Cheaper and reliable power supply will also attract more electricity intensive industries, which will generate employment opportunities in the country, thereby giving a fillip to economy.

Rich in archaeology

The Department of Archaeology which is excavating archaeological sites in Kapilvastu with support from Durham University, UK has discovered the highest number of archaeological sites. The department has so far identified as many as 136 archaeological sites in and around Tilaurakot, Kapilvastu, the ancient capital of Suddhodhana, the father of Lord Buddha. Lumbini has 99 archaeological sites while Nawalparasi has 40 such places.

During the excavation in Tilaurakot and its adjoining areas, earthenware, statues, silver coins and some metal artefacts were discovered. Laboratory tests reveal that human civilization existed there even before 800 BC. As the Tilaurakot and its adjoining areas are as old as Lumbini, the government must take initiative to declare Tilaurakot as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The federal and provincial governments need to work in tandem to protect these areas from being encroached upon. If developed well, Lumbini and Tilaurakot can attract millions of tourists not only from Buddhist countries but also from other parts of the world. The provincial government has a bigger role to play to make them major tourist destinations.