More than a third of Bangladesh's 166 million people lives without access to electricity

Bangladesh in the dark due to major blackout

Bangladesh experienced a 24-hour blackout over the weekend after a malfunction of a critical grid connection bringing power from neighbouring India.

The power outage, the worst to have hit the poverty-stricken south Asian country since 2007, affected the whole area of Bangladesh and brought much of public life to a standstill.

The power was restored on Sunday afternoon after 24 hours, exposing the insufficient and improperly secured infrastructure.

The blackout started around noon local time on Saturday after a 400-kilovolt transmission line connecting Bangladesh with India failed. The fault subsequently triggered a cascade effect, which spread throughout the country’s national grid and shut down power plants and substations.

The transmission line was only launched last year as part of a solution of the Bangladeshi government to address the country’s critical energy shortage.

Running from Baharampur in the Indian state of West Bengal to the town of Bheramara in south-western Bangladesh, the line contributes a considerable amount of energy to a country that struggles with domestic generation producing as little as 11,500-megawatts.

The blackout forced hospitals in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka as well as the international airport to turn on their emergency generators to maintain operations. However, most companies and offices, not being equipped with alternative resources, had to send their employees home.

"This is terrible," said Mohammad Hasan, a resident of Dhaka's upmarket Bashundhara neighbourhood. "We had some confidence in the government over last few years that the power sector was improving slowly. But what is this?"

Power in Dhaka, which has a population of 10 million, was restored by 1am local time on Sunday morning, with other regions getting power back gradually over the day.

"The production of electricity is hovering around 5,000 megawatts, meaning now we are able to feed almost all the demand," said Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, an adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, responsible for power, energy and mineral resources.

"The relay system failed due to massive disruption and that caused a country-wide blackout," he said.

Bangladesh is considered one of the most energy-poor nations, with one of the lowest per capita electricity consumption rates in the world. More than a third of Bangladesh's 166 million people still have no access to electricity.

Power cuts blamed on old grid infrastructure and poor management are common in Bangladesh. The country has tried to improve its energy situation, extending access to electricity to about 3.45 million more people since 2008.

It also has signed agreements with energy companies in Russia, Japan, China and the USA to build power plants and improve energy infrastructure.

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