The Budhigandaki Hydroelectric Project Development Committee (BGHPDC) has complained at the delay in getting its environmental impact assessment (EIA) okayed after the Ministry of Energy took nearly 10 months to give the go-ahead even though it’s supposed to help expedite hydropower development.

    The EIA has now been sent to the Ministry of Population and Environment for its approval. The Cabinet recently decided to slash the processing time for the EIA from 126 days to 40. Lengthy paperwork has often been blamed for the slow implementation of development projects in recent years.

    Speaking at the parliamentary Agriculture and Hydro-Resource Committee on Friday, BGHPDC Chairman Laxmi Prasad Devkota blamed the Energy Ministry for being indifferent to moving the project forward.

    “The construction of the project has been held up as the ministry delayed carrying out the official procedures besides failing to appoint an adequate number of experts for the project,” he said.

    Devkota said they had asked the ministry for a team of experts to coordinate and decide the project’s modality and alignment. “We have been reporting to the ministry every four months, but it has not been taking our plea seriously.”

    The Energy Ministry explained that it had failed to mobilise manpower due to a shortage of experts among its staff. Spokesperson for the ministry Sanjay Sharma said a proper government policy was needed to produce experts in the sector. The 1,200MW Budhigandaki project is expected to cost Rs250 billion. According to the BGHPDC, only Rs94.54 million or 2.8 percent of the Rs3.37 billion budget allocated for this fiscal year has been spent as of mid-May. The project has been in limbo after the government failed to come up with a clear policy regarding the distribution of compensation payment for the land acquired from locals.

    According to the committee, 28 km of the project’s roads face inundation during the rainy season that could hamper the construction work. Meanwhile, there has been no progress in the distribution of compensation due to delays in the valuation of the land acquired.

    The Energy Ministry said it had asked the Finance Ministry to allocate adequate funds to move the project forward.

    Sharma said they had demanded Rs43 billion from the government for the next fiscal year. “We will use the money to distribute compensation to landowners.”

    Lawmakers said that the government should move ahead with compensating people for their land.

    Member of Parliament Keshab Thapa said the local people had been prevented from using their land for the last four years as the project had been moving very slowly.

    Lawmaker Rajendra Pandey said the local people were ready to surrender their land to the project if they were paid reasonable compensation on time.

    “Besides, the government should finalise the financial modality of the investment,” he said.

    Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry has declared that the government will not allow the project to languish due to budgetary issues. “The government has been providing funding as demanded by the project,” said Damodar Regmi, joint secretary at the ministry.

    Regmi stressed the need to develop a proper mechanism to spend the allocated budget. According to him, the government has been discussing adopting a suitable financial modality to manage investment for the project.

    Allocate funds for land compensation: Panel

    KATHMANDU: The Parliamentary Agriculture and Hydro-resource Committee on Friday directed the government to allocate sufficient budget to distribute at least 50 percent of the compensation to owners of land to be acquired by the Budhigandaki Hydroelectric Project. The committee said the delay in the project is mainly due to land compensation issues. The committee also asked the Ministry of Population and Environment to give approval to the project’s EIA. It directed the project development committee to immediately conclude rehabilitation of the people from project construction site in coordination with National Reconstruction Auth-ority and Energy Ministry.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post