The damage done to two electricity interconnection submarine cables within one week of each other is a rather alarming coincidence. This defies the laws of probability. But it has happened and there needs to be a thorough and independent investigation to determine how these ruptures occurred in such quick succession. The investigation should not be about casting blame, but to determine responsibility.
The public is entitled to technical and independent analyses as to what went wrong. Any investigation should not be for the purposes of making excuses, but to find out exactly what triggered these alleged ruptures of the cables. The notion that boat anchors may have been responsible is a bit tricky, because the consequence of a boat anchor coming into contact with a submarine cable would result in the electrocution of the crew of that vessel.
The alleged damage done to the two submarine cables is causing widespread and prolonged blackouts. The lengthy and daily power outages have become an aggravation. The older generation has experienced worse. They will be tolerant of the present blackouts. But the younger generation, not accustomed to such excessive and protracted blackouts, will fume.
The power outages of the 1980’s were part of national life. The power went, without failure, every day, for as long as sixteen hours, with households usually experiencing power cuts either in the day or night. If you were lucky, the nighttime blackouts ended at 10 pm instead of midnight, because extra power was sent to the grid at around 10pm from Linden.
The suffering and disruption were enormous. Sometimes when the electricity went, the water also went.
That generation accepted the blackouts as a way of life. Production fell all across the country. Teachers started to reduce the amount of homework they assigned, because they knew that their students would not have lights at home to complete their homework. Generators were beyond the reach of even middle-class persons. Even if you could afford to import one, the foreign exchange would not have been available.
After a while, people did not need to read the newspapers to determine when the power would go off. They knew the power outage schedule like clockwork. They knew on which days and during which periods the lights would go out, and the contents of the freezer would have to be parboiled so as to avoid spoilage. The older generation became hardened to the decade-long suffering and inconveniences.
The present generation do not have such an experience. They will therefore be intolerant to the present electricity crisis. They will show far less understanding than the older generation and be far less willing to accept, on face value, the explanation that two submarine cables were damaged in just over one week’s time.
Cabinet has an obligation to satisfy the public as to the causes of the present electricity situation. It is highly unusual for two submarine cables to go down in such rapid succession, and in the same river. And even if they did, due to marine accidents, it is the obligation of Cabinet to determine the exact and precise, as opposed to the general, causes of the damage to the cable – who was responsible and what action should be taken to prevent a reoccurrence and to fix the problem.
The government should launch an investigation into the matter. The government must not assume that because Guyanese endured, without much protests, the more than a decade of daily power outages, that the present generation will show similar understanding.
It should also announce the steps they intend to take to bring relief. Solar panels, costing hundreds of millions, have been installed on some government buildings. Government is a major electricity consumer, and therefore voluntary reduction in electricity by government buildings will free up significant power for consumers.
Electricity interconnection allows for the easy sharing of power when there is a shortfall of generation in one area. But the downside is that when a major source of generation goes down or the link to that source is broken, as is the case at the moment in Guyana, it can cause major disruptions.
The power outages need to be brought to an end. It is now exam season and children are writing their examinations, literally in the dark.
An independent investigation as to how we got here should be launched immediately. Forget about the blame-game for now; fix the problem by first determining its cause.
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