The tiny Himalayan nation of Nepal, home of Mount Everest, has long prided itself on its environmentalism and low per-capita consumption of energy. Today the government announced a major step forward on that front.
Earth Hour, a worldwide movement celebrated on March 29th, included a shut-off of lights for an hour in countries from Australia to Zanzibar. Nepal also participated, with butter lamps illuminating famous monuments like Boudhanath Stupa, and hotels offering candlelight dining to guests. Ordinary homes went dark on Saturday evening too.
But Nepal wants to elevate the Earth Hour movement far higher than that.
“One hour on one day of the year isn’t nearly enough to show our commitment to saving energy,” said Nepal’s prime minister, Sushil Koirala. “Nepal uses about 130 KwH of electricity per person. We think that number should be zero,” he said. “Only that way can Nepal be a truly green nation.”
By comparison, the United States uses about 13,000 KwH per person.
Prime Minister Koirala announced that in pursuit of the new zero-electricity-use goal, power would be switched off on a scheduled basis for 16 hours per day in April, 17 hours per day in May, and so on until the end of 2014, after which there would be no electricity supplied at all.
A spokesman for the Nepal Electricity Authority, Batti Chhaina, pointed out that the administration’s move was simply a logical extension of the ‘load-shedding’ programs of governments for the last decade and more. “Each year,” said Chhaina, “we have arranged to supply less and less electricity to our citizens. Many people thought this was due to our incompetence, but it was actually a careful plan that only a few senior leaders understood in full.”
A staffer at the Ministry of Water Resources agreed. Speaking anonymously as he was not authorized to comment to the press, he explained that the extremely difficult and time consuming process for getting a hydroelectric project license has been deliberate. “We’ve tried everything to stall development of new power sources,” he said, “including changing the rules frequently and demanding impossibly high bribes.” He explained that it all has had a simple rationale: “If we allowed new projects then electricity consumption will increase. That has never been in line with government policy.”
To help enforce the new super-green plan, imports of gasoline and diesel fuel will also be suspended starting in September. “Too many businesses and homes use generators to keep their lights on during load-shedding,” said spokesman Chhaina. “If we are to fulfill the government’s promise and have Earth Hour full time, we have to prevent that. We all need to get used to sitting in the dark as our ancestors did.”