Life in Dhaka takes a hit as blackouts are back with vengeance

Two-month-old Yasir Ahmed has caught a cold and fever, and his mother Tanjila Islam is all but sure that power outages that last for a total of six to seven hours a day in Dhaka’s Mohammadpur now have caused his baby’s illness.

Kazi Nafia Rahman, Staff Correspondent Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 5 July 2022, 09:19 PM
Updated : 5 July 2022, 09:19 PM

“We all are suffering from a cold or fever. My mother-in-law struggles with sweating heat during power cuts. These sudden power cuts are really causing trouble,” said Tanjila.

“I remember regular power cuts when I was a child. We forgot about power cuts in the past seven or eight years,” said Jahanara Islam, a private tutor in Pallabi. “Everyone is suffering from the heat during power cuts.”

Power cuts had once been frequent across Bangladesh while many areas did not have electricity at all. People would be prepared to deal with it at that time, with candles, oil lamps and other backups.

The government recently declared full electricity coverage with a capacity to produce more than 25,000 megawatts.

But the Russia-Ukraine war has impeded the path to retaining the achievement as global gas prices have soared.

More than 50 percent of Bangladesh’s power plants are run by gas. The others depend on mainly coal and oil, the prices of which have also increased.

The country does not produce power from renewable sources on a large scale. Its plans to quickly complete the construction of its first nuclear power plant, backed by Russia, have been jeopardised by Western sanctions on Russian entities.

After apologising for the “temporary inconvenience” citing a gas supply crunch in a Facebook post on Sunday, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid on Tuesday said the price of liquified natural gas or LNG has increased past $41 per unit now from $4 before the coronavirus pandemic struck two and a half years ago.

With the domestic reserves of gas depleted, it will put huge pressure on Bangladesh’s economy if the government imports gas at such high prices, he said in a statement.

Diesel price has also increased to $171 per barrel from $77 a year ago, he noted, urging all to be frugal in power consumption.

Nasrul said in the Facebook post that the situation will normalise when the gas supply becomes normal, but he did not specify when.

In the latest statement, he dropped a hint at the time for the situation to normalise. “I hope this situation won’t persist for long. Power from the second unit of Payra thermal plant, Rampal plant and 1,600 MW to be imported from India will add to the national grid within this year.”

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called for austerity in electricity consumption and suggested scaling down power production.

“I’m thinking about cutting back on power production for some time so that we spend less on the materials used for power production,” she said.

Recalling power cuts for as long as 10 hours a day in the past, she said, “If we can make a roster for load shedding in specific areas at specific times, people can prepare beforehand. We need to take such measures to avoid any problems in future."

SUFFERINGS

People in different parts of Dhaka said they are struggling to adapt to the situation with frequent power cuts back after so many years.

“It’s become more difficult for my little children and elderly parents. My mother has diabetes and high blood pressure. And she has not faced such a situation for a long time. It appears from government statement that the situation will persist,” said Altaf Hossain, a private firm employee who resides in Nakhalpara.

The power cuts forced him to purchase a rechargeable fan just before Eid-ul-Azha celebrations when extra spending will put pressure on his purse amid soaring prices.

Tanvir Hossain, a resident of Dakkhinkhan, said he was planning to buy an integrated power supply system or IPS for backup. “We didn’t need an IPS, but now it appears we can’t continue without one. We need to survive first,” he said, noting that his mother, who has a heart condition, caught a cold from the sizzling heat.

Farida Islam of Siddheshwari said food stored in her fridge rot due to the disruptions in power supply.

Afroza Islam of Mirpur Section 12 said the outages were also causing water supply problems because the motor in their building could not pump water to the rooftop tank.

Shops which provide services that require electricity are facing trouble and losses as well.

“How can I provide service without electricity?” asked Mosharraf Hossain, proprietor of Mosharraf Computer and Photocopy in Rupnagar.

Shafiqul Islam, the proprietor of QFC General Store in Mirpur Section 12, said he could not provide mobile financial services because power cuts disrupted internet connection.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher