The Sri Lankan government imposed 10-hour daily power cuts across the country on Wednesday amidst a severe economic crisis, PTI reported.
Since the beginning of March, there have been seven-hour power cuts in the island country. The duration has now been increased by three hours.
Janaka Ratnayaka, the chair of the Public Utilities Commission, said that there was a shortage of 750 megawatts of electricity as fuel to generate thermal power was not available.
Officials also said that most water reservoirs in the country are running dangerously low because of deficient rainfall, AFP reported. Sri Lanka generates over 40% of its electricity from hydrological sources.
Meanwhile, the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation said that diesel will not be available in the country for a minimum of two days. It urged people waiting in queues at fuel stations to leave, and come back only when imported diesel is distributed.
Since the beginning of the year, petrol prices in Sri Lanka have increased by 92% and diesel by 76%, according to the agency.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 as the island’s foreign exchange reserves have hit rock bottom. The country had declared an emergency in August last year. Sri Lankans are now facing shortages of milk powder, cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items.
Government-run hospitals are also running out of life-saving medicines due to a shortage of foreign exchange needed for imports, according to AFP.
“The situation is very grave and we need a disaster management initiative to deal with the worsening situation,” said Ravi Kumudesh, chief of the Medical Laboratory Technologists Association.
The government said it has permitted suppliers of medical devices to increase prices by 30%. This applies to suppliers of stents to heart patients as well.
‘India working overtime to extend help to Sri Lanka’
Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said that India was working overtime, and has stepped up its efforts to support Sri Lanka during its crisis.
“In a situation like this, things cannot be done at a normal pace,” said Jaishankar, according to The Hindu. “Everything must be fast-tracked. Our system is working overtime. What would have taken weeks earlier is now taking days.”
Jaishankar’s remarks came on the last day of his visit to Colombo where he was attending the three-day Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, or BIMSTEC summit.
“We are approaching it [Sri Lankan crisis] like a sensible, good neighbour, keeping politics out of it,” he said.
On Monday, the Sri Lankan central bank said it has sought an additional line of credit of $1.5 billion, or over Rs 11,396 crore, from India to import essential supplies.
On March 18, New Delhi had extended a line of credit worth $1 billion, or over Rs 7,600 crore, to support Colombo to manage the economic meltdown. In January too, India had offered an assistance of $1.4 billion, over Rs 10,661 crore, to Sri Lanka.
On March 16, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had said that the country was in discussions with the International Monetary Fund and foreign countries on deferring loan payments, according to the Associated Press.
He had urged people to limit electricity and fuel consumption in order to deal with the crisis.