When the Nepal Electricity Authority learned that King Birendra would be visiting Surkhet in 1988, it hurried to thread transmission lines to ensure that there would be power during the royal visit.
Karnali continues to get electricity from the 33 kV wires that were constructed at the time. Since then, power consumption has increased, but infrastructure has not been upgraded, and the inhabitants of Karnali have been forced to endure long periods of load shedding.
“The lights go out at least 50 times a day,” claimed Birendranagar resident Kamal KC. Except for Mugu, Humla, and Dolpa, the 33 kV central transmission line has been extended to seven districts in Karnali.
In Dailekh, Jajarkot, Jumla, Kalikot, Rukum, and Salyan, including Surkhet, the authority has roughly 100,000 consumers. The electrical connection to Jajarkot’s Nalgad was recently extended. The central line will be extended to Dolpa, according to officials.
The 86-kilometer electricity transmission line was built from Kohalpur to Chisapani, Babai, Harre, Chinchu, and Surkhet. There were no other settlements besides Chisapani and Chinchu at the time, according to Ram Bahadur KC, 55, of Birendranagar.
“The population and use of various electricity-consuming appliances has increased, yet the old electricity equipment has not even been repaired,” he said, noting that a storm had damaged the 33-year-old transmission line.
Wide voltage swings have a considerable risk of damaging equipment, according to KC.
“The energy outage has hampered hospital activities and medical care of patients,” said Dr Nawaraj KC of the provincial hospital.
“Low voltage prevents machines from running,” he explained. “Even if there isn’t a power outage, the generator may need to be turned on,” he explained.
“The utility poles are inside Bardiya National Park, and they are not accessible when maintenance work is needed,” said Manosh Kumar Subedi, accountant at the Nepal Electricity Authority in Surkhet.
“The lights usually go out at night. Because of the threat of wild animals, the army that guards the park does not allow us to approach the region at night,” he explained.
According to Subedi, 95 percent of the land between Kohalpur and Surkhet is covered with forest. He claimed that repairing the electrical poles in the Chisapani, Babai, and Harre forests took a long time.
Customers had to face the impact of low voltage and overextended power lines, according to Surendra Agrahari, provincial chief of the Nepal Electricity Authority.
A 33 kV transmission line can be expanded up to 60 kilometres according to rules. “However, the line has been extended up to 300 kilometres without a substation in some places,” he stated.
With the installation of a new transmission line, this will change, and the inhabitants of Karnali will have reliable electricity. However, the project is not without flaws. According to a field survey done by the authorities, the transmission line’s path passes through Banke and Bardiya national parks, posing challenges for the line extension project.
For the transmission line extension, the authority undertook a thorough environmental impact assessment. However, in order to extend the 132 kVA transmission line between Kohalpur and Surkhet, 13,000 trees in the national park area must be cut down, and the expansion construction has been halted due to a lack of authority.
The administration has inked a contract with RS Infraprojects, an Indian construction company, to carry out the Rs700 million project. It will take two years to complete, according to the authority.
The first priority, according to Ravi Kumar Chaudhary, head of the authority’s transmission project, will be to clear trees off the power line’s alignment.
According to him, work on bringing a 132 kVA transmission line to Surkhet began in 1988 but halted for a variety of reasons. Karnali will have constant power supply if the project is completed, he said. “The issue of low voltage will be resolved as well.”
From Kohalpur to Surkhet, 145 poles will be installed, with 26 of them being angle towers, according to the administration.
Because the proposed electricity line travels through national park areas, Chaudhary claims that many trees will have to be taken down. The authorities has requested authorization to take down trees in the national parks of Banke and Bardiya.
On September 26, the application was submitted to the Ministry of Forests and Environment. “Only after the cabinet decides to fell the trees will the job move forward quickly,” he remarked.