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Inconsistent Electric Power Source Ripple Through Gewogs of Dagana, Affecting Daily Lives and Safety

โ€ฆ๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’Š๐’…๐’†๐’๐’•๐’” ๐’–๐’“๐’ˆ๐’† ๐’”๐’•๐’“๐’‚๐’•๐’†๐’ˆ๐’Š๐’„ ๐’‘๐’๐’‚๐’๐’๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‚๐’” ๐‘ฉ๐’‰๐’–๐’•๐’‚๐’ ๐‘ท๐’๐’˜๐’†๐’“ ๐‘ช๐’๐’“๐’‘๐’๐’“๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’‚๐’…๐’…๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’”๐’†๐’” ๐’‘๐’๐’˜๐’†๐’“ ๐’๐’–๐’•๐’‚๐’ˆ๐’†๐’” ๐’Š๐’ ๐’„๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’๐’†๐’๐’ˆ๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’†๐’“๐’“๐’‚๐’Š๐’

Susmika Subba

For years, a consistent power supply in Lhamoizingkha, Nichula, and Karmaling gewogs under Dagana Dzongkhag has been a source of frustration. However, despite some progress, these remote areas continue to struggle with inconsistent power supplies. Presently, the administrative jurisdiction of Nichula Gewog encompasses a total of 165 households, whereas the demarcation of Karmaling Gewog accommodates 348 households. This substantial number of households finds itself subjected to the inconvenience of intermittent power supply, grappling with the associated difficulties arising from the absence of continuous electrical provision. The challenges have escalated concerns, especially in villages where dependable access to light is still a struggle, particularly at night when young children encountering wildlife face risks.

The pressing issue of inadequate power supply has been acutely felt due to the heavy reliance on online services, such as a digitized platform for generating official forms intended for submission to gewog authorities for diverse tasks, including Security Clearance applications and Family Tree documentation by the communities, as well as availing online public services. The lack of a stable power source also hampers their ability to access essential services like procuring timber resources from the Forest Authority for residential construction and crafting wood-based artifacts such as cupboards, tables, and chairs. Furthermore, even after power restoration, the internet often remains inaccessible, compounding the difficulties faced by these communities.

These gewogs contend with scorching summer heat, with temperatures soaring up to 40 degrees Celsius. The region also experiences intense monsoon rains.

A resident from Lhamoizingkha gewog said, “Dependable and consistent power remains far-fetched. When reaching out to the Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) for answers, the responses often point to reasons like trimming bushes and pole painting as explanations for the power outages. While the necessity of shrub trimming is acknowledged, the logic behind pole painting during the current monsoon raises doubts.”

The current power supply to these areas originates from the 33 kV Gesarling feeder, linked to the 132/33 kV Dagapela Substation. This arrangement was implemented following earlier connectivity via the 66/33 kV Gedu substation and the 65 km long 33 kV Gurung Dangra feeder 2. The latter route traverses through challenging terrain with dense vegetation.

The impact of power outages extends beyond the residents of these gewogs and affects local schools. A teacher from Nichula primary school expressed the educational challenges posed by intermittent power, saying, “Power outages disrupt our ability to teach effectively. Modern tools like projectors, crucial for our digital lessons, rely on stable power. Our curriculum includes His Majesty’s self-improvement program-Code Monkey. Interruptions in power hamper our lessons, particularly during Information Technology (IT) sessions, holding back the learning process.”

According to the statement of Nichula Gup, “In the past, there were concerns about the power supply, and we took the initiative to address this matter by sending a letter to the Drungkhag. Over time, the power supply situation has improved, leading to a considerable reduction in related issues. While occasional power outages still occur, BPC officials ensure that advance notices are provided for such disruptions. Occasionally, unexpected power outages occur due to adverse weather conditions and technical adjustments.”

The Karmaling Gup highlighted the growing inconvenience caused by the electricity supply in the area. Previously, power outages were primarily limited to the rainy season; however, nowadays, the occurrences are seen during both rainy and sunny days. A meeting was convened on August 24 involving the heads of various sectors in the gewogs and representatives from the BPC to address the issue of frequent power cuts. The BPC attributed the problem to the extended distance of the power supply.

Additionally, the community has approached the BPC with a request to consider establishing a power station at Lhamoizingkha. This request is fueled by the fact that Lhamoizingkha is part of the town planning and is currently experiencing multiple ongoing development activities. The Karmaling Gup emphasized, “This move could greatly assist in alleviating the power supply challenges that we are currently facing.”

Though residents have grown accustomed to power outages during rainy days, their foremost concern is the inconsistency even on sunny days. The communities in the gewogs suggest strategic planning, such as conducting maintenance like trimming bushes and painting poles during the winter or dry seasons. These measures would help both BPC staff and the community.

The residents of these gewogs believe that a steady power supply is the source of true happiness for them. Despite being powered by two substations, these gewogs still grapple with power issues. A BPC representative said, “The challenges arise due to the extensive power lines cutting through dense vegetation and challenging terrains. Inclement weather conditions like heavy rain, lightning, and windstorms often lead to infrastructure damage. The task of the Operation and Maintenance team to swiftly locate, repair, or replace damaged components during such adverse weather is demanding and risky. Moreover, remote areas add complexity and time constraints to the restoration process. However, notable progress has been made. The outages are minimized in these areas by utilizing the Dagapela Substation as the primary source and the Gedu Substation as a backup. The implementation of distribution feeder automation equipment, including in Lhamoizingkha in 2022, aids in pinpointing faults faster and isolating problematic sections. These measures have reduced outage durations. BPC’s investments, totaling Nu. 128.52 million in 2021-2022, are aimed at enhancing reliability. Further initiatives include installing the first phase of Smart Load break switches (SLBS) at an estimated cost of Nu. 12 million for this year, 2023.”

BPC remains committed to supplying steadfast services, acknowledging the vulnerability of distribution infrastructure in rocky terrains. Despite resource constraints and adverse weather conditions, the utility continues to prioritize reliable power supply to these regions.

In pursuit of enhancing the villagers’ quality of life, BPC has formulated a five-year plan focusing on reliability improvements. Initiatives include the interconnection of Lhamoizingkha and Gesarling feeders, incorporation of load break switches, and expansion of distribution automation equipment. These efforts are projected to significantly bolster reliability.

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