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Feature: Power theft triggers frequent blackout in Nepal

Dec 4, 2013 - -

KATHMANDU, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Nearly 17 million people, or 60 percent of Nepal's total population, live without electricity.

It is caused not only by the deficiency in power supply but also by widespread theft by illegal users across the country. In fact, stealing electricity has become a national hobby and a way of life.

Because of the pervasive electricity theft Nepal is chronically short of power. Power cuts due to load shedding which happens when demand exceeds supply are regular occurrences in Nepal and the problem is likely to get worse since development leads to greater energy consumption.

The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the sole entity for generating and distributing power in the country, has taken measures to curb electricity pilferage.

"We have set up a special department to fight electricity theft and leakage. We have reduced the incidence by 2 percent this year. Our target is to bring it down to less than 24 percent by June 2014," Arjun Kumar Karki, managing director of NEA, told Xinhua.

Electricity theft in the country could result in a loss of almost a third of the total power generated. Although there are no hard figures, the government estimates that it costs Nepal billions of rupees every year.

The consequences of the crime far outweigh any of the short- term benefits. Sometimes electricity thieves are electrocuted or end up harming innocent people.

The problem persists because identifying and confirming individual offenders is time-consuming and costly. It's a constant game of cat and mouse since offenders often deny the charges filed against them.

While the NEA has waged a campaign against power theft, the people's attitude towards electricity theft in the country remains largely apathetic, particularly in Nepal's growing urban communities.

"Electricity leakage and stealing is more frequent in semi- urban areas. To discourage energy theft we have raised the load- shedding in the areas where electricity leakage is very high, notably in the Terai region," Karki said.

According to officials, nearly 60 percent of the electricity in the Tarai is stolen; other regions in Nepal have even higher pilferage rates.

Nepal's geography and the isolation of many communities pose great challenges to the government's rural electrification program.

Kathmandu has suffered electricity shortages for several years. The situation was aggravated by an explosive population increase, poor urban planning and the real estate boom. Power lines hang precariously over congested roads in the city and residents endure up to 16 hours of power cuts a day in winter.

People in Kathmandu check their load-shedding schedule before using computers, watching TV, recharging batteries, or doing anything else which requires an electric socket. The schedule changes daily and power rotation is a normal occurrence throughout the city.

During the recent Constituent Assembly elections, all major parties have placed economic agenda at the top of their respective manifestos. Most promised to end load-shedding in the next three to five years.

Measures are being taken to eliminate electricity theft and ease Nepal's chronic power shortage.

The NEA is aiming to bring down load-shedding to 12 hours this winter by getting more power from India. Nepal is now facing a shortfall of 350 MW to meet the population's power requirement as existing capacity is just around 700 MW.

Editor: Fu Peng



Updated: 2016/06/30

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