Attack on hydro plant leaves 3 districts without power

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    PYUTHAN, JAN 14 –

    Pyuthan, Rolpa and Arghakhanchi districts have been without electricity for the past week after Butwal Power Company (BPC) shut down the Jhimruk hydropower plant following an attack by locals on Jan 7.

    About 15,000 angry inhabitants vandalized the hydropower plant at Darimchaur, Pyuthan causing damage running into millions after the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) enforced load-shedding of six hours daily.

    The attackers wrecked the administrative office, guest house, data house, power house, machinery, generators, electrical workshop, conference hall and staff quarters. According to the police, 13 motorcycles and an automobile were also destroyed.

    Meanwhile, BPC staff have stopped work in protest against the government’s lack of interest in carrying out an investigation into the attack. “The locals attacked the staff and set the company’s property on fire in the name of protest,” said Basu Dev Pokhrel, president of the BPC Workers’ Union, Jhimruk Unit. He added that the staff had lost property worth Rs 3.5 million to looting and the fire started in their quarters by the locals.

    BPC has said that it would resume power generation only after the government ensures security at the plant.

    After the attack by locals from the three districts, electricitysupply has been stopped completely. The government has remained a mute spectator despite threats from the locals to attack again if the power supply is not turned back on.

    The local administration, BPC, the struggle committees of Pyuthan and Rolpa and local level leaders of political parties have been holding talks almost daily to put an end to the problem. However, with the government not showing any concern, the crisis is nowhere near being resolved.

    “The government has neglected our problems,” said Mukti Sharma, a former lawmaker from Pyuthan and coordinator of the struggle committee. He added that they would be forced to come up with a stringent protest programme if the NEA and the Energy Ministry remained indifferent.

    Pyuthan CDO Kamal Mani Kafle said that they had received a letter from the Energy Ministry stating that the load-shedding had been cancelled. However, the letter does not clearly state whether the power cut has been cancelled for the time being or permanently.

    The letter was sent a few hours after the attack on the Jhimruk Hydropower Centre. “Had the government sent the letter a little earlier, the damage would have been less. The government has completely ignored the concerns of locals,” said Arjun Kachhyapati, president of the Pyuthan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    According to CDO Kafle, the BPC staff have stated that they will return to work only if a team of officials from the Energy Ministry and the NEA make an inspection. The 12 MW Jhimruk plant was constructed two decades ago.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post