KATHMANDU, JUN 11 –
Amid a furore over the Nepal Electricity Authority’s (NEA) decision to upgrade the capacity of the Upper Trishuli 3A Hydropower Project, former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has defended his Cabinet’s move.
The then PM Bhattarai also looked after the Energy Ministry when his Cabinet decided in principle to upgrade the project from 60 MW to 90 MW.
On social networking site Twitter, Bhattarai claimed on Monday that his government decided to upgrade the capacity to save the project of national interest from collapsing. “My government just gave the consent to the NEA, in principle, to upgrade Trishuli 3A to save it from collapse. Financial and technical aspects were dealt (with) by NEA,” he tweeted. Bhattarai said the authority concerned should look into irregularities, if any.
On January 3, the Cabinet had in principle given its consent to the MoE for the capacity upgradation. Based on that decision, the NEA board on May 31 had decided to upgrade the project as per the demand of the Chinese Contractor, China Gezhouba Group Co. The company has been pushing for the upgradation ever since it clinched the contract. However, previous Energy Ministers—Prakash Saran Mahat, Gokarna Bista and Posta Bahadur Bogati—had rejected its demand. The process gained momentum during the Baburam Bhattarai-led government.
Senior NEA officials termed Bhattarai’s defence as ‘ridiculous.’ “The decision to upgrade the capacity will take up the project cost by Rs 4 billion and delay the construction by three more years. It will ruin the project instead of saving it,” said one official.
This is the first time the government has increased the capacity of a hydropower project midway and despite criticism from all quarters. The project construction began two years ago.
China Gezhouba Group Co has completed only 30 percent of the work, while only 10 more months are left for the deadline set by the original plan to expire.
According to NEA officials, the government has awarded the contractor instead of penalising it for the delayed work. They added that new tenders should have been invited to award the project to a competent contractor. “The project was not in the process of collapsing. The claim that the capacity upgradation was done to save the project from collapsing is ridiculous,” said the official.
Matter reaches apex court
The NEA’s decision to upgrade the Upper Trishuli 3A project has been challenged in the Supreme Court. Advocate Dil Hari Sharma on Monday filed a writ and sought an order to retain the capacity at 60 MW as agreed between the government and the contractor when the project was awarded. He has also sought an interim order against the defendants, asking them not to execute the recent decision to upgrade the project’s capacity. The defendants in the writ include the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, Ministry of Energy, NEA and its Managing Director Rameshwor Yadav and China Gezhouba Group Co.
Meanwhile, talks between the agitating employee unions and the NEA Board ended inconclusively on Monday.
NEA Employees Union Chairman Ram Prasad Rimal said employees’ unions are demanding that the decision to upgrade the Upper Trishuli 3A project be withdrawn as it was guided by the “intention to obtain undue financial benefits.”
Source : The Kathmandu Post