Page last updated at 06:59 GMT, Sunday, 11 January 2009

Nepal hit by 16-hour power cuts

Temple in Kathmandu
Barely 40% of Nepalese have access to electricity, the rest depend on wood.

Nepal has increased its daily power cuts to 16 hours from 12 hours due to an electricity shortage.

An official from the state-run power monopoly reportedly said the cuts are likely to last for five or six years.

Officials say demand is rising, but power generation is falling as mountain snows are not melting quickly enough.

The Maoist-led government declared a power emergency last month, and the cuts have had a severe impact on Nepal's struggling economy.

"The situation could ease a little bit in the summer, but the power cuts are here to stay for another five to six years," Sher Singh Bhat, operations director with the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), told Reuters news agency.

Yesterday, Mr Bhat told the BBC the cuts were brought forward from mid-February as demand for electricity in winter was putting further strain on generating capacity.

Power emergency

The NEA generates less than half the country's electricity needs and the amount of power it imports from neighbouring India is not enough to make up the shortfall.

Ministers are getting uninterrupted power, why is it that only ordinary people face power outages regularly?
Mani Lama
Kathmandu taxi driver

No major hydroelectric plants have been built in the past decade because of poor security during a decade-long Maoist insurgency, which ended two years ago.

The power shortage has enraged people in the impoverished Himalayan republic.

"Ministers and the president are getting uninterrupted power supply," said angry Kathmandu taxi driver Mani Lama. "Why is it that only ordinary people are forced to face power outages regularly?"

Nepal's private television stations said on Thursday they would cut broadcasting time by five hours a day as a result of the cuts.

Industries and businesses say the power cuts have reduced output and will hit the economy, still recovering from years of a deadly civil war.

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