The residents in Phobjikha are dealing with the frequent and prolonged power outages and its consequent disruption in the gewog. The people, who now increasingly electricity dependent since connection in 2011, are frustrated with the erratic power supply.
“The blackout often lasts upto and over a week, and it severely limits my ability to handle night time medical emergencies,” said Health Assistant Yenten Gyeltshen. He is also worried that certain vaccines which require storage at certain temperatures could go to waste.
Phobjikha Gup Jamtsho said he receives complaints from the people, who depend mostly on electricity for cooking and churning milk. He added that they go up to several days with dead mobile batteries.
“There are similar problems in the power supply in the neighboring Gangtey gewog, but the intensity of the problem is far more severe here,” said the Gup.
A power supply maintenance staff of Bhutan Power Corporation said the problems could be due to punctures in the cables caused by natural elements as well as the quality of the cables. Tshering also added that maintenance of one line affected the whole grid since power to the entire area was routed through a lone supply source. Minor failures are dealt by the Phobjikha based staff while the major problems are forwarded to the Wangdue center. There are two maintenance personnel based in the gewog.
Power cables in Phobjikha have been laid underground upon the behest of the Royal Protection of Nature as the area is a habitat of the endangered Black Necked Cranes. Thus, failure detection in the underground cables is a lengthy and daunting task.
Agriculture extension officer Thukten Chophel said that the problem, bad as it already is, worsens significantly during the winter months. “It is frustrating to have my work repeatedly delayed. Failure of communications is the worst part,” said Thukten
Phobjikha Middle School is also bearing the brunt of the never ending power failures, more so for its boarding students. Vice Principal Gyan Bahadur said that the sporadic power supply has made electric stove cooking for the students’ meals a highly unreliable method. Provision of hot bathing water for the students, a necessary amenity in the cold Phobjikha gewog has become inconsistent and a problem for the students, he said.
Many of the residents have been forced to revert to the traditional means to meet their heating and cooking requirement. Solar power sources too, still play an important part in Phobjikha, at least until the power supply makes a lasting comeback.