Expectant mother Kalpana Nepali and her husband were hoping for a safe environment when they arrived at a health center in Surkhet, Nepal. However, they were met with darkness and minimal lighting from battery-operated flashlights held by medical staff. Realizing that Nepali was in labor, the nurses examined her using cellphone light. This is a stark reality for many residents in Nepal’s Karnali province, where the promise of electricity from the government’s Karnali Ujjyalo program has not been fulfilled.
The program, launched in 2020, aimed to provide 90% of the province’s households with electricity by 2023. However, as of now, 40 of 79 municipalities in Karnali are still without electricity and 50% of households are also in the dark.
The government has allocated a small amount of budget to the project and is now allowing foreign investment to assist. The program’s period has been extended by two years, but many are skeptical about its success.
The difficult geography of Karnali province, with its remote and spread-out settlements in the Himalayan districts, has made it challenging to connect electric poles and wires. Additionally, the province has experienced many natural disasters, leading to stalled or damaged infrastructure projects.
The chief minister of the province is hopeful that external investment will help address the issues, but some residents remain pessimistic, citing the lack of progress in previous attempts to bring electricity to their villages. Despite the ambitious plans, the reality of delivering electricity to Karnali’s residents continues to be a struggle.