Vol. 5 Num 694 Sat. May 13, 2006  
Front Page

Country reels under frequent outages

Frequent power snaps and low-voltage supply have put a tremendous burden on the people, disrupting their normal life and hampering agricultural, industrial, and commercial activities across the country.

The crisis both in urban and rural areas seriously disturbed the SSC examinees in the last couple of months and is likely to do the same to the students going to sit the HSC examinations beginning from tomorrow.

As yet, there is no sign of let-up in the acute power shortage, which appeared right at the beginning of summer, while agitation continues at different parts of the country in demand of uninterrupted and adequate electricity supply.

Business leaders and industrialists have been crying out for electricity time and again, but the government just kept on blaming system loss, problems in distribution system, and lack of large investments in the power sector for the scarcity.

People in almost all the districts said they are disappointed with the government's handling of the power situation and may take the path of agitation if it does not improve.

Khulna has a daily demand of at least 500 megawatts (MW) but the district is receiving around 200MW as several power plants in the region are out of order, our Khulna correspondent reports.

Khulna plunges into darkness several times during the night as three out of four power generating units of Goalpara Power Plant went out of order with major mechanical problems. Two 28MW and one 110MW power units are unable to generate power due to either shortage of fuel, defects in the machines or underground cables. The other unit of the plant is producing only 35MW instead of 60MW which is its maximum capability.

"Power cuts in the south-western region will take an alarming turn in the near future if new plants are not set up and steady supply of fuel is not ensured," said an engineer of Western Zone Power Distribution Company Limited.

Power crisis in Satkhira is adversely affecting the fish processing plants and cold storages as the Power Development Board (PDB) supplies only two to three megawatts against the daily demand of 8MW, our correspondent in Satkhira reports.

The Rural Electrification Board (REB) supplies 8MW against the daily demand of 31MW in the district town.

Power cuts for 16 to 18 hours a day have become a regular feature since the beginning of the summer disrupting production even in the state-run Sundarban Textile Mills and other small industries and business establishments.

Satkhira Chamber of Commerce and Industries President Sheikh Azhar Hossain said frequent power cuts and voltage fluctuations are damaging machinery in at least 39 fish processing plants, three cold storages and over 49 ice making factories.

"Shrimp export will be hampered this year as the processing plants do not get adequate power supply," he added.

Bangladesh Shrimp Cultivators Association President Aftab-uz-Zaman said huge quantities of shrimp get rotten due to power outage while Atiar Rahman, director of Satkhira Ice and Cold Storage said the cold storage company now keeps standby generators doubling the cost of running it.

Rice mills and cold storages in Dinajpur, the basket of food grains in the country, are under tremendous electricity shortage as the REB supplies electricity to run 45 rice mills and 10 cold storages, our correspondent in Dinajpur reports.

"We only receive three to four hours of electricity a day," said Noor Newaz Rana, owner of a rice mill.

The poultry farms in Thakurgaon and Panchagarh are also suffering as chickens are dying due to excessive heat, industry insiders said. Cottage industries and filling stations remain closed most of the time even during the day.

One large textile mill, 40 industrial units of Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), 100 small engineering units and five cold storages in Nilphamari are suffering from tremendous power crisis resulting in poor production, our correspondent in Nilphamari reports.

The 40 industrial units of BSCIC need about 6MW but are getting only 2.5MW, causing a loss of Tk 10 lakh per day, a BSCIC source said.

About 70 percent of the production was lost in the hundreds of small engineering factories in Saidpur due to shortage of electricity.

Sabbir Ahmed, convenor of the Small Engineering Factories Association, said people are buying low quality Indian products since they are failing to meet the market demands. The factories incur a loss of Tk 25 lakh per day, he added.

Most of the factories in Comilla are on the verge of closing down due to low voltages while farmers who irrigate fields with electricity-run deep and swallow tube-wells are also suffering, our correspondent in Comilla reports.

The demand for electricity in Comilla is 99.5MW while only 41MW of power is supplied during both peak and off-peak hours. Power snaps at least for four to five times a day and for as long as four hours during the night.

Moulvibazar needs 30MW during peak hours while only 19MW is supplied from the national grid, our correspondent in Moulvibazar reports.

Power supply in the rural areas is also poor with five to six hours of power cuts during the nights. The situation was more or less the same in the six upazilas of the district.

Power cuts for five to six hours a day is forcing the industrial factories in Kushtia, Rajbari, Meherpur, Chuadanga and Jhenidah to suspend production, our correspondent in Kushtia reports.

The situation is even worse for small factories which are unable to afford alternative power supply.

According to PDB, the districts need about 104MW daily but it can supply only 58MW.

"We are forced to cut 35 percent of production daily due to power cuts," Mozibar Rahman, chairman of BRB Cables Ltd, said.

Mozammel Haq, a ruling party lawmaker of Chuadanga also the owner of several industries, said he is forced to shutdown his factories daily for hours due to power shortage.

Kishoreganj needs at least 40MW of electricity but PDB and PBS can supply only 15 to 17MW. During May 7 to 9, Kishoreganj PDB and PBS faced load shedding for 19 hours, our correspondent in Kishoreganj reports.

In Khagrachhari PDB supplied electricity only for 8 hours a day, from May 8 to May 10, on an average, our Khagrachhari correspondent reports. The district needs about seven to eight megawatts daily but it was supplied below 3MW, PDB sources said.

PDB supplied only 40MW of electricity in Bogra, Joypurhat and Naogaon against the daily demand of 60 MW, our Bogra correspondent reports. Upazilas outside Bogra town faced power cuts for at least three hours a day, said a PDB official.

Our correspondent in Mymensingh reported the Mymensingh zone, including Jamalpur, Sherpur, Tangail, Netrokona and Kishoreganj, needs around 300MW a day but PDB supplies only 50 percent of the need.

Production in the units of BSCIC at Mashkanda went down due to six to seven times of daily power snaps.

Frequent power cuts have turned into a regular feature as the power distribution system of PDB in Brahmanbaria is mostly faulty, our correspondent in Brahmanbaria reports.

PDB sources said demand for power in the district is 78MW but the supply is only 42MW. This is incurring severe losses for the BSCIC units and other small and medium industries.

"We do not have the low voltage problem but frequent disruptions in power supply are hampering our production," said an industry owner.