Thousands protest crippling power cuts in Kathmandu
Jan 15, 2009, 11:50 GMT
Kathmandu - Thousands of people demonstrated in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu Thursday, protesting crippling power cuts that have badly affected industries and businesses.
On Sunday, the government announced 16-hour power cuts across the country, saying electricity production and supply was just a third of the total demand.
About 5,000 people representing small-scale industrialists and operators of three wheeler electric vehicles known locally as Safa Tempos or 'Clean Vehicles,' locked up the main office of the government-owned Nepal Electricity Authority that distributes power.
The protestors said the power cuts were severely hampering their business and many are on the verge of closure.
The hardest hit have been the electric vehicles that are used to transport commuters across the city.
About 300 Safa Tempo drivers parked their vehicles on the main roads in the commercial district of Kathmandu, bringing traffic in several parts of the city to a virtual standstill for most of the day Thursday.
'The battery run vehicles need an average of 18 hours to recharge,' said Bijayman Sherchan, chairman of Electric Vehicle Association of Nepal. 'With just eight hours of power, the batteries aren't even charged to half the capacity.'
'Without alternative source of electricity we will no longer be able to provide services to the people,' Sherchan said.
Safa Tempos were introduced in the late 1990s to replace the tradition petrol power three-wheelers that were blamed for growing pollution in Kathmandu Valley.
It is estimated that nearly 130,000 people depend on the electric vehicles each day to commute to and from work in Kathmandu.
In December, the Nepalese government announced 'national energy crisis' and announced measures to reduce power cuts over the next several months.
Nepal's current electricity demand is 800 megawatt but only 250 megawatt was being supplied, the authorities said.
'The water levels in reservoirs and rivers that feed the hydropower stations are alarmingly low and that has forced us to cut production,' said Sher Singh Bhat, chief of load distribution unit of Nepal Electricity Authority.
Industries say the power cuts have severely reduced output and will impact the country's economy, which is only now beginning to recover after years of insurgency.