Monday, February 18, 2008


Nepal is heavily reliant on hydro-electrical power for its energy needs, which is hardly surprising in this mountainous, water-rich nation. Unfortunately, supply has failed to keep up with growing demand, largely due to a lack of political will. Since Maoist agitation began in 1996, and even more so since the palace massacre of 2001 (where the crown prince wiped out 12 members of the royal family before turning the gun on himself), the Nepali government has been largely ineffectual in fulfilling even basic functions. The government is broke, elections haven't been held since 2001, and the people have completely lost faith in government and the political process. The Maoists and their affiliates continue to engage in violence even after having joined the government and paying lipe service to the democratic process (just recently the leader, Prachandra, stated that the Maoists would take power after the Constitutional Assembly in April, even if a coup were required).When I was in Nepal last October, the rainy season had recently wound up, and there were no apprent power problems. When I returned again in December, Kathmandu was experiencing three hour power cuts two days a week in load shedding. Weeks later, Kathmandu was up to twelve hours of cuts per week. At present, the nation's capital is without electical power 8 hours per day, and recently Pokhara has followed suit. There also happens to be a shortage of diesel fuel (and massive queues at petrol pumps), which is of course exacerbated by the increased demand to run back-up generators at businesses that can afford it. Much of Industry, never particularly healthy, is on its deathbed.You can get used to the power cuts easily enough when you're a visitor and you know that it's not going to affect you indefinitely. And the locals don't seem to be complaining too much.


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