Power cuts last for weeks and months sometimes

Electricity: After decades of waiting and years of contributing labour, the remote gewogs of Serthi and Lauri in Jomotsangkha dungkhag finally received electricity last year. But the supply is erratic and blackout has become a part of life in the gewogs.

Since August 30, the gewogs were without the electricity, which the villagers and gewog officials said was nothing new.  Jomotsangkha is 179km from Samdrupjongkhar.

Supply was restored about two days back but villagers said, it has been erratic and it lasted only few hours. “It comes for a few hours and goes off for days,” said a villager.

The gewogs usually remains cut off from power supply for days and sometimes even weeks, but this time, gewog officials said it has been for more than a month.  This is the second time in both the gewogs. Lauri experienced frequent and prolonged blackout in February and Serthi in April.

Villagers said they still feel like they are still without the electricity. “Every time we call, officials say they are fixing it and always blame the terrain,” said a villager.

Serthi gup Kencho Chophel said officials are aware of the problem, but they cannot find a permanent solution.  “We don’t know if it was the lack of human resources or if the power stations and electric poles are at fault,” he said.

Gewog officials said official works are interrupted as they depend on computers, Internet and printers.

After the gewogs were connected with electricity, most villagers discarded their solar panels and generators. They have resorted back to using kerosene lamp and firewood again.

“Villagers feel we’re not doing anything. We receive electricity complain almost every day and they often call the Bhutan power corporation’s toll free number but even the receiver don’t have answers,” Kencho Chophel said.

Lauri Gup Pema Dhendup said they will maintain an electricity calendar to record numbers of power shortages they face in a month and record the reasons for shortages and submit a report.

“We know BPC officials are working hard and are responsive but we really need to discuss the problem,” he said. “May be they should come up with road or bridges over the rivers so that it would be easy for field officials to find the fault soon.”

Minjoowong central school principal Rinzin Wangdi said because of blackouts, students are deprived of evening and night studies. He said the pre-primary students were the most affected and office works are affected. The school at least has its solar panels and generators working. The school staffs are worried if this will affect the IT examination for the students.

Both the gewogs were still without electricity as of last night.

BPC’s regional manager, Kuenzang Dorji said the gewogs could expect electricity by today or tomorrow since almost all the poles that were damaged, are restored and insulators and conductors rectified.

Agreeing on the power blackout, he said the heavy monsoon, wild animals and dense forest including swollen rivers hampered restoration work. “It takes time to find the fault because almost all the electric poles were damaged, insulators were leaking and conductors had snapped.”

He said his staffs were still in the forest since August 30 working on the faults. “Another problem was it is difficult to pass through the border where lot of restrictions are there, so it’s difficult to solve problem in short time.”

But once it is rectified, they should not worry about blackouts until next monsoon, he assured. “When the gewogs received electricity, we already warned them that in case if power cuts, restoring would consume time because of the geographical difficulties,” he said.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar