KATHMANDU, NEPAL – On a recent evening in Kathmandu, dinner was not served at Tara Gurung’s house.
Gurung could not prepare dinner for her children because she did not have any water to cook the food.
An unscheduled power outage restricted the Gurungs from using the electric motor that transfers water from their underground tank to the one on top of their roof, which is connected to the water pipes in the house.
When Gurung woke up at 6 a.m. that day, there was no power. When she and her husband left for the office at 9 a.m., there was still no power.
By the time they returned from work, it was 6 p.m. and the area’s scheduled power cut, commonly known as load-shedding, had already begun.
“This is the fourth time this year that we haven’t cooked dinner due to scarcity of water because of no electricity,” Gurung says.
And the Gurung’s aren’t alone.
Almost every household in Nepal deals with scheduled power cuts daily. Nepali citizens say the lack of power reduces their access to basic human rights. Business owners report drops in production and profits, with the health sector particularly concerned about patient care. Nepal’s dependence on hydropower means that the severity of load-shedding fluctuates between the dry and wet seasons, according to Nepal Electricity Authority, the state-run power provider. The untapped potential to generate hydropower is vast, but political instability has hampered long-term projects to build more plants. The government is seeking foreign and private investors to move forward with these plans.
Load-shedding began briefly in Nepal in 1999, says Kiran Kumar Shrestha, deputy manager of Nepal Electricity Authority. But in recent years, it has returned and has become a permanent facet of life.
“The country didn’t face shortage until 2005,” he says. “However, the crisis became acute in 2006 and is continuing to date.”
The crisis here continues as demand for electricity is rising by 10 percent each year, according to Vidyut, Nepal Electricity Authority’s publication.
When it comes to water, Nepal is the second-richest in this resource in the world, according to a 2011 article by Sunil Kumar Dhungel, director of Nepal Electricity Authority, in the company’s publication, Vidyut. But the country currently accesses less than 1 percent of its hydropower potential.
Sushma Sharma says she is frustrated because she does not have power at her house for the majority of the day. She lives in the Bishalnagar area of Kathmandu.
“In this country, so-called rich in water resources, for how long do its citizens have to live in darkness?” she asks.
Sabita Shrestha, an 18-year-old student from the Lalitpur district of the Kathmandu Valley, says power cuts affect her studies.
“There’s no time to study during the day,” she says. “And at night, there is no power to study. So how do I study? And I really can’t study under candlelight.”
Shrestha’s neighborhood faces power cuts three times per week during evenings and nights.
“We’re accustomed to living