Outages intensify despite record power generation
Frequent power cuts outside the cities have been making people's lives miserable for a week amid the heatwave.
Keeping in mind the surge in demand during the hottest days of summer, the government planned to produce 16,000 megawatts of electricity during peak hours in April and June.
On Monday, Bangladesh Power development Board (PDB) produced a record-setting 15,604MW, but it still fell short of meeting the peak demand of 16,221MW.
At peak hours over the last one week, the country witnessed a shortage of 1,000MW to 1,500MW, according to PDB data released on its website.
Power distribution companies say the power cuts are happening mostly in the rural areas. This means that the people not only suffer from the sweltering heat, but also fail to properly irrigate their Boro paddy fields.
Hundreds of protesters in Feni and Mymensingh demanded uninterrupted electricity in the last few days.
Alarmed by the people's "discontent and anger", Mohammad Abul Kalam Azad, general manager at Mymensingh Palli Biddut Samity-3, yesterday wrote a letter to the superintendent of police in the district, requesting police to ensure the safety of his office, colleagues and their families.
"Intolerable load shedding during extremely hot weather is making consumers suffer, and irrigation is being hampered," he wrote.
Over 50 people in 23 districts told The Daily Star that they were experiencing 10-19 outages a day and the total time they spent without electricity ranged from three to six hours.
They are particularly frustrated because the outages are unpredictable. Last year, the companies published power outage schedules in advance.
Officials at Palli Bidyut Samity (PBS), which provides electricity to rural areas, said the electricity supply was 20-50 percent less than the demand.
For the first three weeks of Ramadan, the government had ensured uninterrupted electricity in Dhaka city and other urban areas. People in the capital have yet to suffer any serious power cuts. But as the days got hotter, people in the other cities also began to feel the pinch.
Yesterday, Nasrul Hamid, the state minister for power, expressed regret on his verified Facebook page.
"We had preparations to generate record levels of electricity. But temperature in the country broke 50-year records, and this has increased demand… beyond our imagination," reads the post.
He also apologised to the people, especially the children and elderly. "The Power Division is trying to overcome the situation," he wrote.
The PDB yesterday generated 15,626MW of electricity, setting yet another record.
The country's total power generation capacity is 22,566MW. But several plants remain shut most of the time due to maintenance work, technical glitches, and fuel shortage, said PDB spokesperson Shameem Hasan.
"Because of the weather, the demand is more than what we had predicted… If it rains for only half an hour, the demand will drastically fall," he told The Daily Star.
In most neighbourhoods of Chattogram city, residents say they have been experiencing eight to 10 outages a day for a week.
Residents say they have not been able to sleep well at night because of the power cuts.
MYMENSINGH RESIDENTS: THE WORST SUFFERERS
Power cuts have been recurrent since April 5 in Mymensingh, Sherpur, Jamalpur, Netrakona, Kishoreganj and Tangail districts.
On Monday, there was a shortage of 442MW in the Rural Electrification Board's Mymensingh Zone.
Sirajul Islam, a farmer in Sakhipur, Tangail, relies on electricity to pump water to his paddy fields.
"The disruption in irrigation is worrying because the blast disease [caused by a fungus] can develop in paddy during such intense heat," he said.
According to officials, Tangail has been getting 140-180MW against a daily peak demand of 280MW.
RAMPAL HAS YET TO RESUME OPERATION
Rampal Power Plant in Bagerhat used to produce 350-450MW before it stopped operation due to technical issues on April 15.
As a result, people in Jhenidah, Chuadanga, Jashore, Khulna and Satkhira are now suffering power cuts.
In Chuadanga, the hottest district, people endure five to six hours of outage every day, thanks to the supply of only 52-53MW against a demand of 75MW.
In Satkhira's Kaliganj, people said they were unable to sleep and rest at night because of the outages.
Liakat Ali, a resident of Tala upazila, said his two children fell sick because of the gruelling heat.
Rangpur, Dinajpur, Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Thakurgaon and Kurigram districts are in the second most affected zone after Mymensingh.
The zone had a shortage of 182MW on April 17.
Abdul Malek, owner of a foundry in Bogura, said, "If it goes on like this, we will fail to deliver the goods on time."
[Our correspondents in the districts mentioned above have contributed to the story.]