Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Frequent power disruptions are hampering education in several remote schools in Chukha.

The principal of Lingden Primary School of Phuentsholing gewog, Tobgay, said frequent power blackouts are hampering them since the new curriculum is ICT-based. “Just recently, there was no electricity for two days in a row.”

He said Lingden is almost at a similar altitude as Phuentsholing and it becomes difficult for children in the classrooms due to heat. “The power is erratic.”

Schools in gewogs such as Phuentsholing, Lokchina, Dungna, Metekha are affected the most.

The power supply to all these gewogs are from the Bhutan Power Corporation’s (BPC) 33kv line substation in Phuentsholing, which is located below the hospital. The line is distributed as far as Samtse.

Another principal said power disruptions are quite frequent. “The problem doesn’t stay with the classrooms. Power disruptions impact the school office as well.”

He said the school has daily computer lessons and without electricity the computer lab is useless.

Another school principal said that there are four boarding schools in Dungna, Lokchina and Phuentsholing gewogs.

“Students have to bear the brunt. We have no generator,” he said, adding it affects students’ studies.

The principal also said that the students, teachers and the community people often helped BPC linesmen to get the power back.

“However, the problem persisted.”

Meanwhile, BPC officials said the main problem is because all these gewogs have a common power line that comes from Phuentsholing substation.

“As all the places take a common line from the substation, a disruption anywhere will hamper all the places,” BPC’s head of the operations and maintenance in Phuentsholing, Namgay Tshering, said.

He said if the line is affected at a particular point in Dungna, there will be disruptions in all other gewogs as well.

“Further, the line penetrates through thick forests and lands prone to landslides. The area it covers is huge and it is challenging for BPC to provide immediate interventions.”

Namgay Tshering said a small problem such as the puncture of an insulator can disrupt the entire power connectivity the common line provides.

“And it is so difficult to locate that insulator because the area is so vast,” he said.

However, it is also because of the summer season as rainfall, windstorm and landslides that damages the line.

BPC has a village electrician each in three places and a regular staff in two places. However, due to the vast expanse, it is still challenging for them to cover all the areas.

Namgay Tshering said lockdown also impacts power restoration works.

He said most of these gewogs fall under low-risk areas and it takes time for BPC staff to reach on time due to restrictions.

“The roads are also bad,” he said. “All these problems further delay the restoration works.”

The current power connectivity of the 33kv line has just the small poles taking the line. For improvement, BPC will have to install high towers for transmission lines and substations in various places.

Phuentsholing Gup Birkha Bahadur Rai said the biggest challenge was the geographical conditions and the vast area the power line covered.

“BPC is doing whatever they can.”

Edited by Tashi Dema