Camel blanket and home circus - how Abkhazians are experiencing "dark times"
Power cuts in Abkhazia
On November 8, most of Abkhazia will be without electricity for six hours. And while power outages in Abkhazia are a common “seasonal” problem, this year the situation has been exacerbated by a failed repair on the Achguara high-voltage line and Russia’s refusal to supply electricity.
Winter in Abkhazia comes when rolling blackouts begin, the surest sign of the coming cold weather. But this year the situation is more serious than usual. Since November 1, power cuts in Abkhazia have been occurring almost every day and last for several hours. This is too much even by the standards of a country living in a constant energy crisis. The official reason is an unsuccessful repair on the Achguara high-voltage line. Russia has suddenly stopped supporting Abkhazia with electricity, citing their own shortage.
How to survive a blackout with kids and not go crazy
Abkhazians have learned that in the cold season the load on the power grid increases, accidents on the line become more frequent, and electricity is cut off every now and then. Forewarned is forearmed, and people are “arming themselves” with gas canisters, self-charging light bulbs, power banks, and camel wool blankets to make it easier to survive blackouts. But all this is insufficient if there are children in the house. And the smaller the children, the more problems power outages in Abkhazia cause their parents.
First, along with the light, the water is always turned off as well. When this happens, you have five to seven minutes to fill up spare containers, while the water continues to move by gravity through the pipes. But these meager supplies run out very quickly in the presence of children, especially infants, who need to be washed.
Second, when the evening comes (and it comes early in the fall), parents have to invent things in order to keep their children busy. Reading or playing with them in the dark is very difficult, and putting them to bed at six in the evening is impossible. Fantasy and acting skills come into play — parents arrange circus performances with song and dance to warm and entertain children. But not all children warm up from this, and not all parents have the patience for such performances. And so colds and nervous breakdowns are the most common diagnoses after a prolonged lack of electricity.
This text itself was written in a notebook of a smartphone connected to a power bank. During the blackout on November 1, smartphones with mobile internet became almost the only salvation from stress. Users poured their hearts out on social networks — they posted photos of candles and dark streets, wished the same bright future to power engineers and officials, recalled all the unfulfilled promises of the authorities regarding energy, and even composed poems dedicated to the blackout.
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Repair interrupted “at the most interesting place”
An emergency power outage in Abkhazia is most often associated with an overload on the Achguara high-voltage line. The state enterprise Chernomorenergo, responsible for the energy supply of Abkhazia, undertook a major overhaul of the line. 50 million rubles [about $81,700] were allocated for thi, and an agreement was concluded with Russia on the supply of equipment, hiring labor and the supply of electricity during the repairs.
But on November 1 the situation got out of control. For the population everything looked like an hours-long blackout. Late at night the lights would be turned on, but the next day turned off again for the whole day. “At Achgur, protection worked,” said the scanty messages of the press service of Chernomorenergo. Officials attempted to explain the situation only on the third day: the line had to be launched before the repair was completed, since the flow from Russia stopped before the agreed upon time.
“The term [of repair] was set at one and a half months, and we fit into it. The flow [from Russia] was secured, we worked on it, but unfortunately in the last two weeks we were not able to complete it on schedule. It was just the period of completion of commissioning. So only part of the line was completed,” Zurab Bagapsh, acting general director of Chernomorenergo, told reporters.
Russia stopped providing Abkhazia with electricity due to its own shortage, and Abkhazia was notified of this two days in advance, Ruslan Kvarchia, acting chief engineer of Chernomorenergo, explained.
As the load on the line increased, problems in the operation of the wire began to come to light, which could no longer be eliminated. Interruptions in electrical supply in the future can be expected.
Slack wire, slack service
In the meantime, photos and videos of the Achguar line wire sagging from voltage appeared on the internet. According to experts, this happens when the wire is thinner than necessary. A similar version was put forward on Facebook by Vitaliy Gabnia, a member of the supreme council of the veteran NGO Aruaa.Gabnia writes:
“We bought tens of kilometers of thin wire, which, after switching on, does not hold the necessary voltage and sags. In private conversations with employees of IngurGes [Enguri HPP], critical remarks were made both on the quality of materials and on the work performed.”
The Aruaa organization itself made an official statement expressing doubts about the competence of Deputy Prime Minister Minister of Economy Christina Ozgan, as well as many of her subordinates and curator. Aruaa members called on the parliament to create a commission, conduct an investigation and find out what happened with the Achguara line.
There are also several “folk” versions of what happened and what to do.
For example, some believe that the emergency situation is created artificially to make it easier to arrange the privatization of energy facilities in Abkhazia, that is, to turn them over to private hands. President of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhaniya has repeatedly mentioned problems in the energy industry and the need for investment in this area.
There is also an opinion that problems in the energy supply system can be solved if the electricity tariff is brought up to an economically justified one. People would start saving, using less electricity, and so the load would decrease. There would be more money for current repairs of the energy infrastructure and salaries for power engineers.
Not according to the schedule, but how it will turn out
By all appearances, power cuts in Abkhazia will remain a pressing problem for an indefinite period. People want officials to at least introduce a shutdown schedule that they can adjust to and plan for.
“I had just washed my hair and started drying it when the lights went out. I need to leave the house, and it’s late autumn outside, it’s chilly. You have to risk your health. There should be a better shutdown schedule. They think that this way their activities look reasonable. But if they introduced a clear schedule, it would be clear that they really care about us,” Lyuba Vartagava, a resident of Sukhum, says.
But Chernomorenergo has already announced that there will be no schedule and the shutdowns occur “as the load increases until repairs at Achguara are completed.” Abkhazians understood it this way: “We will turn off your lights at any time, and how long this will continue is unknown.”
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Power cuts in Abkhazia