Nepal Has 11 Hour Blackouts as Climate Change Dries up its Rivers

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The state-run Nepal Electricity Authority has had to cut power for 11 hours a day beginning this week, because river water levels have dropped dramatically, according to AllHeadlineNews.

With its steep terrain topped by glaciers, Nepal has the greatest hydro power potential in the world, at 84,000 megawatts. To date, only a small portion of that has been developed, 600 megawatts – enough to serve a small population who live a much less energy-intensive life than people in the US.

But, with warming, over the last few years, Nepal’s glaciers have already been retreating.

This reduces dry season flows formerly fed by gradual melt water throughout the spring and summer. Now river flow from glacier melt is much more unstable throughout the year, putting at risk both hydro power and agriculture. As glaciers melt, new glacial lakes are forming and overflowing making the flow erratic and unpredictable.

The increasing unpredictability of hydro power due to warming has already created chronic electricity shortages over the last few years, which has already impacted small business.

A Small Factory Foundation Survey recently found that around 41 percent of medium-scale industries have had to close due to the ongoing electricity crisis, which has led to more blackouts in recent years. Last year saw 18 hour cuts during the dry season.

Minister for Environment, Science and Technology Formullah Mansoor told Thaindian News in 2008, “Despite our negligible emission, Nepal is suffering from rapid snow-melting, expansion of glacial lake, formation of new glacial lakes, receding snow line, haphazard weather pattern resulting in flash floods and droughts.”

“Nepal has introduced policies and programmes on climate change in the current three year interim plan to create awareness and to promote private-public partnership in this direction.”

As bad as it is now, with eleven hour power cuts, Energy Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat estimates power will only be available for just four hours a day during the dry season, by 2013.

Scientists project averaged mean temperature increases of 1.2°C and 3°C by 2050 and 2100 for the region.

Image: Mike Trent

Susan Kraemer@Twitter


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