Power outages threaten lives and production
by Sumon Corraya

Outages can last eight to 10 hours each day, says one business owner. Higher fuel costs affect the use of generators. Power cuts impact both cities and countryside. The government says that things will get back to normal over the next two weeks, but manufacturers fear the loss of foreign customers.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Bangladesh is facing an energy crisis. Power cuts can last eight to 10 hours every day.

With the price of fuel to run generators rising and disruptions in energy supply in both cities and agricultural areas, doing business is a daily challenge.  

For people like Bablu Ratno, a Catholic printer, outages mean higher costs and delays in delivering products to customers.

Power losses are the top issue. The Rural Electrification Board (REB), the agency that supplies most of the country's villages, is getting about 30 per cent less power than daily demand.

In some areas, power supply has been halved. In others, power outages can last more than 10 hours, disrupting production chains and leaving workers to idle even at night.

The Dhaka Electric Supply Company (DESCO) and Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) supply power to the capital.

Company officials note that load shedding occurs at least three times a day in most areas, with some 600 Megawatts (MW) shed per hour.

Lack of fuel and power outages have badly affected manufacturing. Industry officials fear that disruptions in production will cut into exports, cause loss of foreign customers, as well as lead to large fines for non-compliance with contracts.

What is more, raw materials are wasted, workers lose income, and plants have to shut down.

In the last two weeks, most factories in the main manufacturing regions have had to cope with the emergency, with three and four stoppages a day. Thus, the energy crisis might soon turn into a crisis.

When Sri Lanka began having problems, foreign customers came to Bangladesh to buy clothes. Now, buyers from China and Vietnam are still interested in Bangladesh. But if the goods cannot be delivered on time, they will soon move elsewhere.

Rony Costa, a 42-year-old Catholic garment worker, told AsiaNews that output in his factory has drastically dropped. "I am worried about the dire situation,” he said. “I urge the government to take decisive steps as soon as possible" to solve the issue.

The Bangladesh government is trying to do just that, offering reassurances that it is going to act decisively to solve the emergency, but doubts remain.

“We have been working for the past two months,” said Minister of Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid. But it will take two more weeks before things get back to normal.

“There are several challenges we need to tackle. The current economic situation as well as the supply of oil and gas require focused efforts,” he explained.