Power woes over the past weeks have left Lethem residents fuming, particularly owners of businesses as sporadic outages and load shedding cause disruptions to daily life in the border community.
At least five major businesses have been particularly hard hit as they have been physically disconnected from the grid, which reports said, was due to a smaller generator not having the capacity to supply enough power. This newspaper was informed that the power woes are due to mechanical problems to the larger generator that was in operation forcing it out of service and leaving an inadequate smaller generator to power the community. The management of the Lethem Power Company (LPC) could not be contacted for comment last evening.
According to reports out of the Region Nine community, the problem began on Christmas Eve and was due to a damaged “fan-belt” to the main generator. A smaller generator was pressed into service but was unable to cope with the demand. Three days ago the problem with the main generator was apparently fixed but at around 10 pm on Monday, the area was plunged into darkness and power was not restored until after 3 pm yesterday.
But for major businesses like the supermarket and hotel operated by businesswoman Linda Khan, the power woes continue. Speaking with Stabroek News after 5 pm yesterday, the deeply upset businesswoman said that power had not been restored to her operations up to that time.
She recounted that on Christmas Eve, her operations and those of four other major businesses were physically disconnected from the grid and did not receive any electricity until the following Wednesday, a week later, and this was due to her calling senior government officials regarding the problem. She said that they were then given power for a few hours. But on the last day of the year, the same situation occurred and the businesses were again physically cut off from the grid.
“I am so frustrated by this Lethem situation”, the woman said adding that she had to operate her generator to power her businesses and this costs a lot. She noted that the smaller generator that is being used by the LPC does not have the capacity to power the community and questioned why, in the face of this, new customers are still being connected to the grid. On a normal basis, Lethem receives electricity from 7 am to 1 am daily.
She pointed out that according to her information, the problem was due to a damaged fan-belt and questioned why such spare parts were not kept in stock. “I am totally upset”, she declared stating that even a few hours of electricity would be welcome.
This newspaper was informed that the other major businesses that were physically disconnected from the grid were the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company, Digicel, and two gas stations.
Meantime, sporadic blackouts due to load-shedding have left other residents upset and wondering when their woes would end and whether the defunct Moco-Moco Hydropower plant would ever be put back into operation.
“There is a need for a better system to be put in place because the generators are not big enough (to provide for the needs of customers)”, said another business owner, who asked not to be named. The resident said that there was frequent load-shedding since Christmas with some areas without power so that other areas could receive electricity. The businesswoman too raised the point about spare parts being kept in stock. She noted that they were told that a smaller generator was being used and some businesses had to be physically disconnected from the grid since it “cannot take the load”.
The business owner further pointed out that when there is no power the water supply is affected. She noted that in some areas, the residents receive water through the pipes “every other day”. She stated that authorities need to look at another source of energy particularly in light of the development of the community, which is on the border with Brazil. She said that the electricity situation is one that generates an ongoing lament from businesses and asserted that authorities should shed light on whether the Moco-Moco Hydroelectricity plant would be put back into operation or if an alternative electricity supply could be put in place.
Another resident, however, said that he was not too badly affected by the situation.
It is going on to six years since rain and mudslides put the Moco-Moco Hydro-electricity plant out of commission. Since then power in the community has been problematic. Lethem is one of the villages to be transformed into towns and is the key point for trade with Brazil. The Takutu Bridge linking the two countries is soon to be open but residents on the Guyana side of the bridge have frequently complained that the infrastructure in the community needs substantial upgrading.