Frequent load shedding disrupts industrial production

Representational image

Several industries are seeing a rise in production costs and an exponential fall in production due to frequent power outages every day in Gazipur, one of the major industrial hubs of the country. As a result, the industrialists are not being able to export products on time. They are now in fear of incurring a massive loss and losing buyers abroad for this.

Meanwhile, people in remote rural areas of the districts are passing days in absolute misery as the frequency of power outages has increased along with the temperature.

However, the officials of Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB) claim that they have a limited power supply as compared to the demand. So they have no other choice than imposing area-wise load shedding.

According to the sources in the Gazipur BREB, power is distributed in the Gazipur industrial area through a total of 155 feeders. Of them, 100 supply power to different industries. The remaining feeds provide electricity in residential areas. The total demand for power in the district is around 600 MW to 650 MW. The demand rises during the summer with the rise in temperature. However, the supply is less than half the demand. Although there is an instruction from the government to avoid power outages in industries, it is not being possible to maintain that due to the power crisis. So they have to force power outages in several phases every day.

Speaking to industry owners, it has been learnt that although Gazipur was supposed to have less load shedding for being an industrial area, it’s just the opposite in reality.

Even the government's instruction of maintaining a schedule and making prior announcements before load shedding is being ignored. Subsequently, the production cost has gone up in several industries. At the same time, the production rate is falling. So the risk of incurring a huge loss and foreign buyers is looming large.

Kabirul Hasan is the general manager of Toha Fashion Limited which has a total of 1,500 workers. The factory operates 10 hours a day. However, they are experiencing 6-7 hours of load shedding at the moment. They now rely on diesel-run generators to keep the factory running.

He further said it was possible to cope with the power outages with diesel worth Tk 1.5 million per month. Now this cost has increased from Tk three million to five million now. As a result, the production cost rose, but the production rate fell.

Sadma Group managing director and BGMEA vice-president Nasir Uddin said, “It’s becoming harder to keep the factory running due to the power crisis. We get an uninterrupted power supply for only eight hours a day at the factories. We have to depend on generators run by pricey fuel oil for the rest of the day. Subsequently, the production cost rose, but production declined. We used to produce 30 metric tonnes of products every day, which has dwindled to 15-16 metric tonnes now.”

“We are not being able to deliver the product to our foreign buyers on time. However, we don’t have the scope to delay the bank instalments or the salary allowances of our workers.”

He further said, “It’s not possible to save the industries of the country with BREB. We are not being able to maintain our production in line with the demand for our products no matter how hard we try. We purchase power for commercial purposes at a rate of Tk 13 per unit. The cost for producing per unit power using generators is more than Tk 40. So there are many factories which now have to spend Tk 500,000 – Tk 1,000,000 every day depending on their generation capacity. It’s not possible to run industries with such a loss. Production has dwindled by at least 30 per cent to 40 per cent, which is creating problems for both owners and workers.”

Gazipur BREB officials say the total demand for power in the district is 1,050 MW. The Dhaka Electric Supply Company Limited (DESCO) supplies power in the Tongi area and the Dhaka BREB provides electricity in the Kaliakair area. The rest of the area of the district is covered by Gazipur BREB authority. The load management is done directly from the national grid. Therefore, people do not know when or where load shedding is going to happen.