PATUAKHALI: Already hit-hard by the corona pandemic when the tourism and fisheries sectors in Kuakata, are trying to make a comeback the recent increase is load shedding has become another blow to the local businesses.
Among those who are taking the brunt the most are hotel-motel owners in Kuakata, wholesale fish traders in the district’s Alipur and Mahipur landing stations and the trawler owners, reports UNB.
Owners of hotels-motels, ice mills and fish traders said they are incurring huge losses due to incessant power cuts.
However, Kuakata Palli Bidyut Samity authorities seem unwilling to accept the fact. According to them, power cuts have no impact on the hospitality industry of the district.
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 decreasing due to load shedding.
“There are a total of 150 big and small hotels and motels in Kuakata. Although these places used to buzz with tourists in the past, this isn’t the case anymore. We’re frustrated as load shedding happens five to six times a day. As a result, tourists are losing their interest in coming here,” Motaleb said.
Motaleb added that although they had informed the Prime Minister’s Energy Advisor Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury about the problem and demanded the establishment of a power sub-station in the area, no steps have been taken yet.
“We’ve to spend more than what we earn from the boarders. We experience load shedding even on peak days like Friday and Saturday, which is resulting in the arrival of fewer tourists here. Although a 1320MW thermal power plant has been built in Payra, the people of Patuakhali are yet to reap its benefits,” Rahim said.
Ahsan Kabir, Assistant General Manager (AGM) of Kuakata Palli Bidyut Samity, denied the allegations, saying that they supply sufficient electricity to the southern part of the district.
“We’ve kept 6MW-7MW 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.
The situation started getting worse in July when the government decided to stop purchase of liquified natural gas (LNG) from the international spot market due to a massive price hike.
Catching and selling of 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 the two 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 in buying ice from Khulna and Barishal and transport it to Patuakhali.
“The government bans fishing for 22 days and 65 days during the 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’ve to buy ice worth Tk 130 at a rate of Tk 250 from other districts. As a result, the fish traders are losing their interests in the business,” said Fazlu Gazi, President of Mahipur Ice Mill Owners’ Association.
Monir Hossain, President of the Warehouse Owners’ Association, said that they have to incur losses of Tk 20 lakh after selling fish worth Tk 1 crore in a year.
“The freezing of fish has become impossible due to load shedding. Many ice mill owners have become bankrupt due to a lack of businesses. The hospitality and fisheries industries of the district’s Kalapara upazila are incurring a loss of Tk 500 crore per year due to power shortage,” said Monir.
Md Moin Uddin, Executive Engineer of Patuakhali West Zone Power Distribution Company Limited (WZPDCL), said Patuakhali municipality needs 12MW electricity, which is supplied from the 132/133kv grid sub-station.
“Sometimes power outages happen for 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 allocate 107MW electricity for eight upazilas of Patuakhali and four upazilas of Barguna. We meet the electricity demand of these two districts by combining the grids of Patuakhali, Barguna and Bhola. We’ve six power sub-stations in operation and if one of these stations malfunctions, the other stations are also impacted,” Shah said.