In Humla and Mugu 700 households without power for eight months

The powerhouse of the 65 kW Nerkhola Micro Hydropower Project in Neragaun in Mugu district in this recent photo. The project broke down eight months ago, but repair work has yet to start due to the unavailability of technicians. Raj Bahadur Shahi/TKP

The 65KW Nerakhola Micro Hydropower Project broke down in December last year, but repair work has yet to start.

Some five years ago, Kaliman Nepali’s happiness knew no bounds. The 61-year-oldresident of Nergaun in Soro Rural Municipality, Mugu, had not imagined electricity would reach his remote village, but when the 65 kW Nerkhola Micro Hydropower Project in Ward 5 came into operation in the fiscal year 2018-19, Nepali’s long-held desire to see his village light up came true. However, Nepali’s happiness was short-lived. The micro hydropower project went out of operation in December 2022 after the powerhouse equipment including the turbine generator broke down, according to the project officials.

Repairs have yet to be initiated.

“Electricity made our lives easier and brighter. We had access to communication and entertainment. The children could go online to study course materials. Our lives had really changed for the better,” said Nepali. “But since the powerhouse broke down, we have plunged into darkness. The hardships are back. We have been deprived of communication and emergency services. If disasters hit or during medical emergencies, we have no way of calling for help.”

Using traditional lamps to light up the house does not come without challenges, says Nepali. “Building a fire or even lighting a candle can prove fatal with a high chance of fire-related incidents,” he said.

There are eleven wards in Soru Rural Municipality, encompassing 55 settlements. Out of the 55 settlements, only two villages are connected to electricity. The other villages do not have the infrastructure for electricity supply.

The 65 kW Nerkhola Micro Hydropower Project, which is connected to the national grid used to supply electricity to 200 households in Nergaun and Tajagaun of Soru-5 and500 households in Jairgaun in Sarkegad Rural Municipality of Humla.

The project, which was providing electricity to 700 families in three remote settlements in two mountain districts with challenging topography, has not been able to produce electricity for around eight months.

Chin Bahadur Shahi, a 41-year-old local man of Nergaun, says only five to six households in the settlement have solar panels installed. Shahi pays Rs, 20-40 per device to charge mobile phones and other electronic items including torches and lamps at the houses of those with solar power.

“I have to spend money just to use my mobile phone. What use are these communication tools without electricity?” said Shahi. “The project has faced malfunctions in the past too but they would get it fixed in a couple of days. But this time eight months have passed and they are nowhere close to fixing it.”

Shahi believes the unavailability of skilled workers at the project site has also caused delays in repair work and affected regular maintenance. “The project official disruption in electricity supply has affected students the most, harming their academic performance.

Baram Shahi, a teacher at Mahadev Basic School in Nergaun, says the students have been struggling to complete their homework since it already gets dark by the time they reach home after school. “The students can’t get any schoolwork done at home because there is no light,” he said. “Students tell me to not assign them any homework since they can’t study at home and that their parents can’t afford to install solar panels or even buy candles every day. But we can’t complete all the coursework during school hours. It is important for students to study at home too.”

There are around 200 students from Soru Rural Municipality enrolled in the school. Hari Bahadur Shahi, operator of the powerhouse, says the lack of skilled technicians on the project site has prevented them from frequent maintenance checks of the equipment. “The company has not hired a skilled technician, and because of that, we don’t know where the technical fault is,” said Hari Bahadur. “That is why we have shut down all the machines in the powerhouse to prevent further damage.”

Similarly, Prithvi Bahadur Malla, chairman of ward 5 of Soru Rural Municipality, said he has requested the rural municipality to send a technical team to resolve the issue. “We are coordinating with the rural municipality to seek help from higher authorities to send a technical team soon.”

Source: The Kathmandu post