Nepal's Energy Dilemma
Geographical Magazine & Monocle
The world's youngest republic is one of the poorest countries on the globe; despite having more hydropower potential than almost any other country on earth. Every year its mountainous waterways could power the whole of Britain twice over yet only a tiny fraction of that energy, less than 1%, has been exploited. Today the majority of the country remains without electricity, and Kathmandu regularly suffers power cuts that last up to 16 hours a day.
The government, which has lurched from crisis to crisis since the King was forced out and the decade-long Maoist insurgency came to an end, now declares that building new hydropower plants and expanding energy production is its highest priority. There is an ambitious programme in place to increase annual hydropower capacity by 10GW over the next ten years (enough to meet the whole of London's annual electricity demand). The World Bank and other international donors have pledged support, foreign investors are piling in, and vast new mega-projects are under construction. Nepal's energy-hungry, rapidly-industrialising neighbours India and China - both facing staggering energy deficits of their own and both under pressure to reduce the growth of carbon emissions - are eyeing up developments excitedly.