Greetings from the dark(ening) continent

October 25, 2006

Long overdue update from the aptly named ‘dark continent’. I normally strongly object to this term but it seems, as far as Tanzania is concerned, the future is literally dark. Time for yet another update on the power situation over here…

We’re on our second, or is it third, day of power. Probably cause of Eid El-fitr, the end of Ramadan, but worrying none the less. As you can read in the papers, or nicely collected on Powernell’s Tanzanian Power log, we’re very near doom. The Mtara dam, one of the bigger suppliers of electricity, has shut down already and apart from a day or two of rain, the water is not coming in… Moshi and Arusha apparently run on a different grid, powered by the Pangani dam, but that one might shut down any moment (running at a measly 2MW). There’s conflicting information all day, warnings of complete blackouts being kind of invalidated by whole days of power, rumors of light at the end of the tunnel being followed by days of powercuts. The wisdom of having power days in a row instead of spreading out the remaining watts over some more nights is beyond me, but hey, I don’t make the rules.

Why would a complete blackout be so bad? Security, for one. It’s reassuring every day when around 7 the lights come back on. We’ve got about half an hour of darkness but then the candles can be put away. The outside lights and lights at the gate start working, giving a feeling of security in the dark hours. Then, there’s the no-break we just bought. Twenty dry cell batteries are now giving us eight hours of uninterrupted office power, providing(!) we can charge them at night. Think of the amount of mobile phones that run out of power if they cannot be charged for 48 hours. The internet going down because the ISP’s no-break also runs out of juice. The petrol stations that’ll be out of stock because the demand for generator juice doubles overnight. Water stops flowing because the pumps needed to create pressure stop working. Food rots, fridges are out, the economy? Ah, yes, and what have our schools been doing with their computers? We know ICT can help people forward but you have to be able to switch the things on…

More uplifting updates coming, nice stories and pictures of the first car to get stuck in the mud this season (Jimny!) and an update on some more bush experiences but for now, let’s use the available electricity for some proper work…

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