Sunday, October 12, 2014

Something Good and Something Bad to Report (In a Small Way)

The bad news first; last year all of Cambodia and especially Sihanoukville had been plagued by incessant power outages ruining the country’s reputation as a viable tourist and business destination. Nevertheless, guests seemed to be unperturbed by this or didn’t read about it because they come in ever increasing numbers.
Now since August 2013 the power supply situation has changed for the better. I guess it was January 2014 when the last of the power plants went online to supply enough power for the foreseeable future. But if you think that the power woes, especially for the business community, are over, you are in for a disappointment. Particularly the past month has been marred by frequent and longer outages. Stupid truck drivers ran into power poles twice, cutting power for 4 or 5 hours each time. Circuit breakers seem to be of especially bad quality (made in China?) because according to the EDC’s hotline they disconnected and malfunctioned often. And then the prudent managers at EDC decided to do their maintenance work for the transfer stations all at once. The city was left without power for an entire Sunday. In addition, while they were at it, they replaced older power poles. This lasted well into darkness.

Just the other day, we had two more power cuts of undetermined causes on the same day again. Thankfully, they were only for 15 to 20 minutes each.

It appears that the people running the Sihanoukville branch aren’t quite up to the task. They may not have heard of preventive maintenance. Like all things in Cambodia they wait until it breaks down and then replace it. Anybody driving into Sihanoukville on National Road no. 4 can’t help but see the state of the power grid. At the turn-off into Sihanoukville the cables look like all jumbled up, and they have been left in this state for as long as I can remember. Perhaps,, this is symptomatic of EDC’s management approach to their business?

Now the good news. Normally, the road beds are washed partially away in the rainy season leading to potholes. Since most things are hauled by overladen trucks, these potholes become quite large towards the end of the rainy season. But this year, lo and behold, the local government seems to have understood that repairing those small potholes will prevent them from being made into virtual car traps by those trucks. Periodically, repair crews drive along roads filling up the potholes with dirt and small rocks and then pouring asphalt on top with a finish of gravel. It does the job and driving is no longer an off-road exercise. Of course, I am describing the road I use most of the time – I believe it is called 71 – from Sihanoukville to Stung Hao to Veal Renh where it connects with National Road no. 4.