The govt must come up with a clear policy on the use of public e-vehicles so that the private sector can better utilise the surplus energy
Nepal will generate surplus electricity during the summer when the 456-MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project, an undertaking of the stateowned Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), comes into operation by December. There are other hydel projects being developed by NEA and the private sector to be completed by the end of next fiscal. If everything goes according to plan, Nepal will no longer have to rely on imported energy from India, especially during the wet season, when all the hydel projects with a combined capacity of 1,100 MW start running the turbines within 2020. Nepal will not only be self-reliant in energy within a few years but will also be in a position to sell energy to India during the summer when the demand for electricity in the southern neighbour goes up. As per the Power Trade Agreement reached with India in 2014 and revised directives issued last year, Nepal can sell the surplus energy in India as and when needed. However, the NEA and the government have yet to develop a longterm policy and draft a law to use the surplus energy to the maximum in the domestic market.
As per the statistics provided by the Nepal Oil Corporation, Nepal imports refined petroleum products worth Rs 140 billion annually, and we spend most of the foreign currency importing fossil fuels. Research has revealed that a public vehicle consumes diesel worth Rs 2,800-Rs 3,000 a day in its operation in the Kathmandu Valley. However, an electric vehicle having the same seat capacity uses electricity worth Rs 600 to cover the same distance in a day. It means the fuel cost of a public electric vehicle will be five times cheaper compared to the cost of fossil fuel. Private firms are eagerly waiting for the government to come up with an appropriate policy and law to operate public e-vehicles in the major cities. In its policy outlines, the government has also announced around 300 public e-buses would be brought into operation across the country in the first phase.
However, the government officials have said they could not formulate the policy on time due to “lack of expertise” with the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport. Due to the absence of a clear policy on public e-vehicles and charging stations, the private firms, which have already invested millions of rupees, fear that their investment might be at risk. The per unit price of electricity for a public e-vehicle, customs duty and public fare are the major concerns that need to be sorted out if e-vehicles are to be promoted as per the government policy. As Nepal does not produce any fossil-fuel-run vehicle, it will be in our best interest to switch to e-vehicles sooner than later, as other developed countries have also decided to phase out fossil fuel-run vehicles by 2030 and beyond. By switching to the e-vehicles, we will also be saving hard-earned foreign currency, which will help keep the balance of payments and reduce the ballooning trade deficit with other countries. We will be using our own clean and renewable energy to give a boost to the national economy, help control air pollution and environmental degradation.
Thus, the wait for switching to e-vehicles should not be a long one.
It’s shocking to learn that a school principal in a rural municipality in west Nepal has been thrashed badly simply because he was a Dalit. He was dragged out and beaten during a meeting called by the school management committee with the locals at the residence of the committee chair. Though late, an FIR has been registered with the police against the two attackers, who could face upto a year in prison and a fine of upto Rs 100,000 under the prevailing Act against Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability, if convicted.
While one hears less of such harassment of Dalits in urban centres, the social evil continues to thrive in the rural areas, both in the hills and the Tarai. Although Dalit activism has brought the oppressed together and made it easier for them to deal with the situation, as long as the society and the authorities stay indifferent to their plight, caste-based discrimination will not vanish, at least not anytime soon. Severe punishment to the offenders could help deter intimidation of Dalits. Hence, in the above case, the two attackers must not be let off the hook that easily as it is impunity that is making it difficult to stamp out caste-based discrimination and untouchability in society.
A version of this article appears in print on May 08, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.