It is heartening to note that the incidence of power disruption in Dhaka and other major cities of the country has lately come down significantly. The residents of the capital in particular nowadays find themselves nearly free of the scourge of power outages. This disruptive style of power supply once crippled people's lives --- even for years in a row. Apart from the household consumers, the nation's industrial sector had to go through frequent spells of load-shedding and plant shutdowns. Thus, the economy had to pay a heavy price with their production capacity plummeting miserably. Those days appear to be over. The country's available power generation increased by about 2,200 MW in the last one year. The installed production capacity witnessed an increase by around 4,000 MW, according to statistics released by the Power Development Board (PDB). The Board's data on its website show that the country's installed capacity reached 17,685 MW in December 2018 from 13, 846 MW in the corresponding period in 2017. The overall power generation of the country is now 10,000-10,800 MW against 8,600-9,200 MW in 2017.
All this augurs well for the rural areas of the country, as a considerable chunk of this power goes to village consumers. The Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (REB) targeted 2018 to bring 90 per cent of rural people under its coverage. The Board has worked relentlessly, despite hiccups, to bring 1,56,25,000 consumers under its power supply network and provide new connections to 1,59,000 consumers till June last year on being aided by 78 Palli Bidyut Samitys ( PBSs) across the country in the 38 years of its service, says REB sources. With these improvements in power supply, optimists find reasons to look forward to better days. However, due to systemic drawbacks and some irregularities, the rural power sector somehow undermines the country's successes in the power sector.
Isolated rural pockets still remain without regular power supply. These snags become punishing in the hot seasons of summer. In general, electricity in outlying villages is available only sporadically. The onus naturally lies with the REB and the PBS units, with slipshod performance reported by the media against a section of staff on the Board. Apart from households, small industries at the commercially vibrant areas in rural areas also suffer production losses. Operation of power-run domestic appliances and infrastructure also is disrupted and at times such gadgets are led to malfunction.
A nation aspiring to be a fully developed country can in no way deny its people the right to easy availability of power. That electricity plays the role of a fulcrum in its all-round progress is beyond doubt. The rise in the power coverage percentage is indeed a feature for policy makers to take pride in. But more ought to be done in the task of full-scale rural electrification, because it is a prerequisite for rural development. The government is pledge-bound to turn Bangladesh into a country with 100 per cent electricity coverage. So, it keeps working in this direction. Given this firm goal, there is no scope for wavering. The country has lately targeted a few ambitious national goals. The most notable of them is attaining the middle-income country (MIC) status by 2021. Wise management of electricity has a critical role to play in attaining this goal.
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