Bheri Babai project in limbo due to approval delays

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    Dec 22, 2018-Kathmandu

    The Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project has sunk into limbo due to delays in starting the construction of the hydropower component despite the rapid progress made in the irrigation component. Although the multipurpose project has completed digging more than 80 percent of the 12-km tunnel, it is yet to finalise the design of the hydropower component.

    The national pride project which is using a tunnel boring machine for the first time in Nepal, has excavated 9.85 km of tunnel, the key component of the irrigation-cum-hydropower scheme.

    The tunnel will be used to divert water from the Bheri River to the Babai River to irrigate farmland and generate electricity.

    According to Sanjib Baral, the government appointed project chief of Bheri Babai, the excavation of the tunnel will be completed within a couple of months.

    The project office has not been able to start the construction of the second component because the Department of Irrigation, which is implementing the project, has not yet approved the design. “It has been two months since we submitted the design of the hydropower component, but we haven’t received the go-ahead from the department,” said Baral.

    “As the project office can initiate the public procurement process to appoint a contractor for the second component only after the designed is approved, any further delay will push back the project.”

    According to multiple sources at the Irrigation Department, it is reluctant to approve the design because more than a dozen department officials, including Director General Saroj Chandra Pandit, have been placed under suspension over a corruption case. The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority recently filed a corruption case against them at the Special Court for their involvement in substandard construction of the Sikta Irrigation Project.

    “As the anti-graft body indicted many officials without conducting a detailed investigation, the morale of the department employees has fallen; and they are too frightened to make any decision,” said the source.

    Bheri Babai is 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 throughout the year in Banke and Bardia districts and generate 48 MW of electricity.

    Bheri Babai 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.

    Source: The Kathmandu Post