EDITORIAL: Theft of energy

The NEA board should take stern action against those involved in pilfering energy and realize the money they had stolen in the past

In a major crackdown, the police have arrested 16 persons, including 12 serving and former employees of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the sole distributor of energy in the country, and businessmen for their direct involvement in tampering with electric meters installed in factories and business enterprises.

This is probably the major crackdown in NEA history that such a large number of people, including former NEA employees, have been arrested on charges of tampering with the meters of factories and businesses for personal gain. As per the reports, the accused had developed a nexus with high NEA officials. They have been charged with bleeding the NEA dry and causing prolonged load-shedding for the last 12 years.

According to police, the accused would tighten a screw in the electric meters so that the meters would show less energy consumed that the actual amount so that particular consumers would have to pay much less in electricity bills. NEA supervisors, meter readers and technicians were found to have bargained with the potential clients for breaking the seal or reversing the meters so that they would not need to pay the actual price for the energy they consumed.

Tampering with the electric meters or breaking of their seals is not possible without the knowledge of the high officials concerned. First, the technicians suggest a way out to the potential clients as to how to pay less for the use of actual amount of energy consumed, and then they negotiate with them about the monthly kickback to be shared among the NEA employees from top to bottom.

Such malpractice had been going on for several years. But the higher officials did not bother to control this racket as they were also benefiting from this clandestine business creating energy crisis in large parts of the country. So much so, most of those employees arrested did not attend their office regularly and moved around their areas with equipment tampering with the meters on their vehicles.

The accused have been found to have collected Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 50,000 per month from an industry for tampering with its meter.

NEA has always been a loss-making business not because it cannot sell energy to its clients, but because its own employees are directly involved in bleeding the government entity dry. The financial condition of the NEA shows that it suffers a loss of about Rs. nine billion every year due to electricity pilferage by the high-paying consumers.

If this amount of money had been saved from energy pilferage every year, the NEA could have been able to build hydroelectric projects equivalent to 600 MW in the past 12 years. It means that the NEA employees themselves were responsible for load-shedding and making the government-owned entity a loss-making venture. A NEA report shows energy leakage stands at 26 per cent.

The fact, however, is that the system leakage stands only at 12 to 14 per cent and the rest 10 to 12 per cent pilferage is man-made, like tampering with meters. The NEA board should take stern legal action against those involved in pilfering energy and realize the money they had stolen in the past by tampering with the meters and other malpractices.

Go green

Greenery in the urban areas not only adds to the aesthetics of the cities but also reduces the pollution, balances carbon dioxide, controls erosion, makes the temperature more moderate apart from providing open spaces and serving as recreational areas for their denizens.

However, the unmanaged urban growth has led to the depletion of forest cover. According to the latest available figures in 2011 only three per cent of land in Kathmandu had forest cover and Pokhara 10 per cent. Although many people are aware about the advantages of having more greenery we need to promote and support urban forests. For this effective land use polices should be there.

It is not clear what role the municipalities have to take in the promotion and protection of urban forests. Therefore, there is every need to carry out innovative schemes and provide the required incentives so that the people are encouraged to plant more trees in their private land.

Meanwhile, most of the tree saplings planted on the side of the roads fail to grow as they are eaten by cattle or uprooted.

Moreover, the concerned seem to be least concerned about this state of affairs and should do all they can so that there is more greenery pleasing to the eyes.