April 22, 2011Bihari K Shrestha
Cc: Dipak Gyawali; Narayan Shrestha
I am delighted to learn that you were able to watch the captioned program, notwithstanding the “energy crisis”; most of my friends and family were unable to do so due to the very “energy crisis.”
Actually, in this instance I don’t blame the moderator, rather I appreciate that he didn’t “edit out” that particular portion because the theme of the program was energy crisis which is very wide and open ended and he did have to cut out a number of other bits.
I triggered the discussion on this vein by pointing out the foolhardiness of the provision to shoot people (with bullet, not camera!) if anyone was to obstruct the efforts of the members of the proposed commission to curb electricity theft in a country where death penalty has been abolished. I had pointed this out in the very beginning of the program and drew attention of the people towards the potential abuse of this provision to “eliminate” the likes of this scribe and DipakG (I did offer to be at the forefront when they start shooting pursuant to the provision of the proposed). When the discussion again focused back on this issue and NEA people were trying to lamely justify this provision, I used the opportunity to point out that the solution lies in community based electricity distribution. I definitely agree with you that this issue deserves to be intensely discussed because the experiment (I am proud to have been a member of the team that initiated it while DipakG and I were in NEA board) has proved that this is the best way to curb electricity pilferage instead of shooting at people. Besides, this is the best way to spin out various activities of NEA such that element of competition could be introduced in a vertically integrated utility that is hemorrhaging at the cost of national treasury which deprives the people without access to electricity from funding for the essential services and much needed infrastructure.
I am sending a copy of this email to Narayan Shrestha, moderator of the program.
With best regards,
Ratna Sansar Shrestha, FCA
Senior Water Resource Analyst
From: Bihari Krishna Shrestha [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, April 18, 2011 18:06
To: Ratna Sansar Shrestha
Cc: Dipak Gyawali
Subject: Sajha Sawal
Dear Ratna jee,
Your attempt to bring in the Community Electricity Cooperative in the BBC-run Sajah Sawal debate in Kantipur TV last evening was very apt. But unfortunately, probably due to the moderator's insufficient familiarity with the concept and the institutional arrangement, it did not receive proper coverage during the discussion. The subject, however, deserved to be more intensely discussed at the session, because, given the present state of misgovernance and lawlessness in the country, the locally owned coops would be the only viable mechanism to restore order to power distribution particularly in the rural communities, and resolve the problem of the electricity pilferage that is taking place in the country on a very large scale. Under this system, as we have seen, although on a limited scale, it is the community leaders themselves who have the legitimacy and unavoidable responsibility punish the pilferers, because failing to do so would lead to the transfer of the cost to the honest member-customers as well as loss of income to the coop, neither of which conditions the larger membership of the cooperatives would be willing to condone. This is what has been at the heart of the success of community forestry in the country. It is the user groups that managed their forests most optimally, and due to appropriate legal provisions in their favour in the Forest Act, the forest bureaucracy, which otherwise sucked up the forests to the point of near-desertification by mid-80s, remains constrained to contribute to the capacity building of the former. Therefore, the sooner the NEA and the Energy Ministry begins to realise the wisdom that inheres in this approach, the quicker would be the respite for the NEA, its customers and the country.
However, I gather that, despite its demonstrated effectiveness, the coop approach enjoys no real priority in the NEA, apparently due to mundane considerations. Therefore, an occasion like the Sajha Sawal discussion with its large army of devoted viewers, would have been a real platform for building public pressure on the largely unaccountable NEA, the political parties and their leaders too. From this perspective, I felt that the session was a very valuable opportunity that was lost particulary for instituting a system of electricity management under which the NEA would be forced to act professionally and accountably. This was exactly the kind of transformation that the Forest Ministry had to go through in restoring Nepal's forests.
To conclude, your message about the need for a holistic approach to energy planning and the building of hydro projects in Nepal was loud and clear.
Unfortunately, I did not take down Sajha Sawal's email address. If you think fit, please pass this on to Narayan Shresthajee of the programme.