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Apr 24, 2018-The Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project has finished digging 30 percent of a 12-km tunnel in five months using a tunnel boring machine (TBM), the first use of the technology in Nepal.

Officials told the Post that 3.7 km of the tunnel had been completed as of Sunday, and that its operation was going on without glitches.

“On April 18, the machine dug a record 52.9 metres,” said Shiva Kumar Basnet, the government appointed chief of the multi-purpose project. “The machine usually bores into the mountain at the rate of 15-25 metres daily.”

The TBM arrived at the project site in November; and if it maintains its current rate of progress, the tunnel will be completed well before the March 2020 deadline.

Basnet declined to predict when the tunnel might be completed, but he said it would likely take one and a half years. “It is too early to announce when the tunnel will be completed as we have completed just 30 percent of the digging,” said Basnet.

The TBM is being used to dig the tunnel through which water from the Bheri River will be diverted to the Babai River to irrigate farmland and generate electricity. The project office has started preparing bidding documents for the construction of the powerhouse and headworks of the hydropower project which is another component of the multi-purpose project.

Likewise, the project is reviewing the design of the headworks and powerhouse. “We will invite global tenders for their construction after 50 percent of the tunnel has been completed,” said Basnet.

China Overseas Engineering Group, the government appointed contractor for the construction of the project, is deploying a workforce of around 80 Chinese and 600 Nepalis who are working daily to operate the machine.

Bheri Babai is a national pride project located in Bheri-Ganga Municipality in Surkhet district in western Nepal. It will have a 15-metre-high dam and divert 40 cubic metres of water per second from the Bheri River to the Babai River.

The water will be used to irrigate 51,000 hectares of land round the year in Banke and Bardia districts. The project will also generate 48 MW of electricity. The irrigation-cum-hydroelectric project is one of the strategic projects of the country, as it is expected to ease the food crisis in the Mid-Western Region by increasing agricultural yield.

The government had invited bids for the construction of the project in July 2012, but lack of resources and delays in the appointment of a contractor prevented the four-year project from getting off the ground. The construction of the project was finally inaugurated in April 2015 by the then prime minister, the late Sushil Koirala.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be around Rs16 billion. It is expected to make an indirect financial contribution of Rs3.1 billion to the state, and a direct revenue contribution of Rs2.1 billion through sales of electricity.

Source: The Kathmandu Post

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