Bhotekoshi hydropower project row: Ministry calls stakeholders for talks


    TRL_problemKATHMANDU / CHAUTARA, DEC 14 – After Bhotekoshi Power Company knocked on Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s door, asking him to end the gridlock in the 45MW Bhotekoshi Hydropower Project , the Energy Ministry has invited stakeholders concerned on Sunday to settle the issue through talks.

    Maintenance work on seven transmission line towers has stopped for the past few months due to interruptions by political parties, including the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML. They have obstructed the work, demanding the company provide shares to the locals first.

    The NC has demanded at least 10 percent share allocation to the locals, while an alliance between another four political parties has sought 35 percent.

    At a time when the country is facing a sever power crisis, the obstruction in repair of the transmission line towers has extended load-shedding by an hour. The halt in production also means a loss of energy worth Rs 8.6 million every day. The transmission towers were damaged by landslides along the Araniko Highway in August. Of the seven affected towers, maintenance work on four is yet to complete.

    As the situation started worsening, the company on Thursday wrote to the prime minister seeking his early intervention to resolve the issue. Subsequently, the ministry invited the project’s management, political leaders and local residents from Sindhupalchowk.

    However, the personal secretariat of Energy Minister Radha Gyawali informed the meeting is unlikely to take place on Sunday and has been postponed for Monday. “As the CPN-UML politburo scheduled to meet Saturday, the meeting with the project stakeholders has been rescheduled,” Rajendra Dhakal, a member of the secretariat said. Gyawali represents CPN-UML in the Nepali Congress (NC)-led coalition. Gyawali had earlier met CPN-UML and other local leaders over the same issue.

    “We have been urging the local leaders to hold talks without interrupting the maintenance work,” said Narendra Prajapati, general manager of the company. “However, they have turned a deaf ear to our request.”

    Prajapati said his company was forced to seek the prime minister’s help after they failed to convince the agitating groups.

    The work was first halted on September 19. Subsequently, the company sought the Energy Ministry ’s help. Then, the Energy Ministry asked the Home Ministry to ensure favourable working environment. Following the assurance, the company visited the site on September 25. “But the local police administration asked us to return, citing a ‘possible clash’ with the locals,” Prajapati said. The letter written to the prime minister reads: “Even though there have been frequent meetings with the political parties, the situation has not improved. So we urge the prime minister to take initiative himself to resolve the issue.”

    Bhotekoshi Hydropower has been generating energy for the past one and half decades. The state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has signed power purchase agreement (PPA) with the project in dollar terms.

    Initially, the locals had demanded a revision to the dollar PPA, but now they are demanding share allocation. Also, the company, which had initially agreed to offer 5 percent shares to the locals, now says there is no provision on allocating shares to the locals by a private company.

    RDC/N, a company jointly owned by two US companies—MWH International and Harza International Development Company—which holds a 5 percent stake in the project, has expressed reservations over allocating 5 percent share to the locals, citing the absence of legal provisions. “The government has to define clearly the policies and legal procedures on how a private company can issue shares to the public,” Prajapati said.

    Source : eKantipur