EDITORIAL: Use energy for growth

As we have started generating enough energy, focus should be on using it in the productive sectors that will help achieve economic growth

With regular, uninterrupted supply of electricity, industries, businesses, service sector and households have been switching to clean energy in recent times by reducing their over dependence on imported fuels – diesel, petrol, cooking gas and kerosene. Industries, business houses and the service sector have reduced their stock of diesel by almost 50 per cent to operate their businesses, thanks to the uninterrupted supply of electricity. The saga of perennial load-shedding for more than 18 hours a day has now become a thing of the past as the state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has started generating more energy and addressed the leakage in the distribution system. Domestic Independent Power Producers (IPPs) have also contributed a lot to remedy the energy crisis, giving a sign of hope that the country will march towards industrialisation through the use of abundant water resources available within the country.

According to the latest figures, growth in the sale of diesel, which is widely used by industries, shopping malls and hotels, has gone down in the last three years – from 24.4 per cent in the first four months of 2017-18 to 9.5 per cent in the same period of the fiscal 2018-19. The growth further slumped to 1.9 per cent in the first four months of the current fiscal. Overall, growth in the sale of fossil fuels has slumped to 4.1 per cent in the first four months of this fiscal compared to 10.7 per cent in the same period a year ago and 24.6 per cent in the same period two years ago. More households are also switching to electric heaters or inductions to cook food as the sale of LPG has dropped heavily in the first four months of this fiscal. Currently, the NEA is supplying 1,285-MW of power through its national grids while the total demand of power during peak hours stands at around 1,335-MW, still a shortfall of 50 MW. The NEA is still importing 540 MW of electricity from India during the dry season to meet its peak demand. At the end of this fiscal, the NEA, however, expects to add an additional 1,000-MW of energy to its grids, both from its own plants and IPPs.

Figures show Nepal has so far imported fossil fuels worth Rs 58.26 billion in the first four months of this fiscal as against Rs 68.91 billion during the same period last fiscal. It means Nepal has imported 15.5 per cent less fuel in the current fiscal, thanks to regular supply of electricity. This is a good sign. Nepal not only needs to export energy but also utilise the clean energy domestically by encouraging investors to invest more on industries, manufacturing and service sectors that help create job opportunities within the country. There can be economic growth even by not exporting goods; we can do so by cutting down on the import of fossil fuels, for which we spend a large chunk of hard-earned foreign currency annually. As energy is the backbone of economic growth and sustainable development, we need to link it with production, manufacturing goods and services. But for this, the NEA must work out a plan of upgrading its existing distribution system that has caused huge inconvenience to the consumers during the peak hours. Keeping the distribution system intact is as important as generating electricity.

Juvenile offending

The alarming increase in cases related to juvenile offending in the country is a matter of concern for both parents and the authorities. As many as 821 children below 18 years of age, including 23 girls, were sent to juvenile correction centres in the country in 2018-19, up from 380 the previous fiscal, an increase of 115 per cent, for crimes ranging from rape and murder to drug smuggling and theft. Delinquent acts like underage smoking and drinking and skipping school would not find children in correction centres in the country. If the trend is any indication, the number of cases of juvenile delinquency will only rise in the future.

There are many reasons why juvenile delinquency takes place. They include broken homes, financial difficulty, lack of ethical education, bullying and absence of conversation between the parents and children on issues that bother the latter. It is thus important that both the parents and teachers keep close watch of what the children are doing and provide mentoring on problems, including sexual curiosity, they may harbour as they start growing. Preventing juvenile offending will not only improve the quality of life of kids but also make the community safer.