THE power ministry has, to all intents and purposes, put its foot down to stop unnecessary wastage of electricity at the shopping malls in the evening as well as to start generation of power from the power stations shut down due to various problems.
The shopping centres that will fail to abide by the directive of the ministry will have to suffer the consequences according to law. But the managers of the closed power generation units or the chief executives of the state-owned power stations have not been issued with a similar ultimatum. However, a deadline of two weeks have been set for them -- a time within which their respective generation units will have to go into operation and add 600 mw of electricity to the energy-starved national power grid. It is worthwhile to note here that, at the moment the shortage of power in the national grid ranges between 800 and 1000 megawatts. The power authorities manage this shortage by way of loadshedding. The main victims of this peak-hour loadshedding are the consumers in the different districts and the outlying areas. The power administration has been keeping the urban consumers, especially those in the capital city, in good humour at the expense of the less fortunate ones living in places far away from the capital city and other important urban centres of the country.
The state minister for power has of course proved his seriousness over the issue of persistent power crisis in the country. While one cannot but appreciate the minister's stand on the power issue, the realities on the ground may well give the lie to substance of his strong posture on the issue. The chief executives and operators of the closed down power stations and generation units have already articulated their limitations regarding repair and overhauling of the inoperative power units. They may need at least three to four weeks' time to resume operation of those units. Lack of expertise and shortage of skilled manpower are the main problems plaguing those closed power stations, the executives who run those units informed the meeting convened by the power ministry the other day. Moreover, the problems of prolonged suspension of power production in the eight large power plants have not started all of a sudden either. The problems have cropped up gradually and affected the ailing units at different times. The Power Development Board has, for example, informed that four different inoperative units of the Ashuganj power stations have been out of operation since different points of time between May 04 and October 01 of this year. Similarly, the Siddhirganj power station, the Khulna power station and the shut down units of the Shahajibazar power plant have been out of production from different dates between July 07 and October 07 of the current year. The dysfunctional generation units of the Kaptai hydel have been remaining so since July 20003 and September 2004. On the other hand, the Bheramara power station has been remaining out of action since June 2003, whereas the broken down units of the Haripur power stations are idle since June this year.
How is the power minister then going to ensure resumption of power supply from the failed power stations and units within two weeks' time? The suffering consumers cannot be impressed by simple words of assurances, however soothing those may sound to the ear. The chairman of the Power Development Board has himself admitted that the problems in the power supply regime of the country have been accumulating for the last one decade and a half. If the power ministry is really sincere, it should look into the root cause of the problem and then solve those on case-to-case basis. It is not simply a matter of playing to the gallery when addressing the problem in real earnest.