Already hit-hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, when tourism and fisheries sectors in Kuakata are trying to make a recovery, frequent load shedding have dealt another blow.
Bearing the brunt are hotel and motel owners in Kuakata, wholesale fish traders in the district’s Alipur and Mahipur landing stations, and trawler owners.
When the government decided to stop buying liquified natural gas (LNG) from the international spot market because of a sharp price hike in July, the power supply situation began to deteriorate. Daily hour-long area-based load shedding started across Bangladesh from July 19, 2022 to tackle the ongoing energy crisis.
Owners of hotels, motels, ice mills and fish traders said they are counting huge losses due to incessant power cuts.
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Motaleb Sharif, General Secretary of Kuakata Hotel Motel Owners Association and Owner of Kuakata Guest House, said that the number of tourists in Kuakata is dwindling due to rampant load shedding.
“There are a total of 150 big and small hotels and motels in Kuakata. Although these establishments were abuzz with tourists, this isn’t the case anymore. We’re frustrated with up to six load shedding every day. Tourists are losing interest because of the inconvenience,” Motaleb said.
He added that although they had informed the Prime Minister’s Energy Advisor Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury about the problem and demanded establishment of a power sub-station in the area, no steps have been taken yet.
Rahim Khan, owner of Khan Palace, said that refrigerators and air conditioners are being damaged due to the frequent power cuts.
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“We have to spend more than what we earn from the boarders. We experience load shedding even on weekends, which is discouraging tourists. Although a 1320 MW thermal power plant has been set up in Payra, people of Patuakhali are yet to reap its benefits,” Rahim said.
Kuakata Palli Bidyut Samity authorities, however, seem unwilling to accept the fact. According to them, load shedding has had no impact on the hospitality industry in the district.
Ahsan Kabir, Assistant General Manager of Kuakata Palli Bidyut Samity, said that they supply sufficient electricity to the southern part of the district.
“We have kept 6 MW-7 MW electricity in reserve for Kuakata. There is no shortage in electricity supply. Sometimes load shedding happens if branches of trees fall on the transmission lines during natural disasters,” Ahsan said.
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Catching and selling fish are the primary sources of income for the coastal people. There are a total of 5,000 fishing trawlers, 25,000 fishermen and 86 warehouses in Alipur and Mahipur of Patuakhali. Besides, a total of 46 ice mills have been built on both sides of Khapravanga river to preserve fish.
Almost half of the district’s ice mills have been shut down due to load shedding. As a result, traders have to spend extra bucks for buying ice from Khulna and Barishal and have it transported to Patuakhali.
“The government bans fishing for 22 days and 65 days during six months of the fishing season. Besides, the met office hoists cautionary and danger signals for 30 days during the disaster-prone months. The few fish that the fishermen catch in 2-3 months can’t be stored in ice mills due to load shedding. We have to buy ice worth Tk 130 at a rate of Tk 250 from other districts. Fish traders are losing interest in the business,” said Fazlu Gazi, President of Mahipur Ice Mill Owners’ Association.
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Monir Hossain, President of Warehouse Owners’ Association, said that they have to incur losses of Tk 20 lakh after selling fish worth Tk 1 crore in a year.
“Freezing fish has become impossible due to load shedding. Many ice mill owners have gone bankrupt due to lack of business,” said Monir.
Md Moin Uddin, Executive Engineer of Patuakhali West Zone Power Distribution Company Limited (WZPDCL), said Patuakhali municipality needs 12 MW electricity, which is supplied from the 132/133kv grid sub-station.
“Sometimes power cuts last 1-2 hours due to grid failure during storms and rains. We even supply electricity to Barishal from the Patuakhali sub-station,” said Moin.
Shah Md Razzakur Rahman, General Manager (GM) of Patuakhali Palli Bidyut Samity, said that the electricity problem will be resolved once power supply starts from the Payra grid.
“We have allocated 107 MW electricity for eight upazilas of Patuakhali and four upazilas of Barguna. We can meet the electricity demand of these two districts by combining the grids of Patuakhali, Barguna and Bhola. We have six power sub-stations in operation and if one of these stations malfunctions, the other stations are also impacted,” he said.