Can Tehri Dam inspire leaders to develop Budhigadnaki Project ?

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    KATHAMNDU, Feb 23: The Tehri Dam Project of India and the proposed Budhigandaki Hydropower Project of Nepal have many similarities.

    Height of Tehri Dam is 260.5 meters while the planned dam on Budigandaki River will be 263 meters tall. Tehri Dam Project displaced more than 100,000 people, while the Budhigandaki project is expected to displace around 45,000 people. Generation capacity of both the projects is also similar.

    While Budhigandaki will have installed capacity of 1200 MW, Tehri Dam has been generating 1000 MW. Another storage dam to generate 1000 MW by pumping water from tail of the first dam is under construction. It is expected to start generation by 2018.

    Tehri dam is a rock filled dam. However, Budhigandaki will have concrete dam to save cost, according to officials. The Tehri Dam is developed by THDC Limited – a joint venture between the Government of India and the Uttar Pradesh State of India.

    Of late, Nepali political leaders have started visiting Tehri dam, which has been built on the confluence of Bhagirathi and Bhilangana rivers, during their India visit.  Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli also made a trip to the dam on Sunday. Former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had reached the project site in August last year.

    Expects in Kathmandu say such visits can be an opportunity for political leaders to know about development modality of mega hydropower projects.
    India had developed the project despite huge pressure from locals, environmentalists and human rights groups. Construction of the dam, which is the largest in South Asia, was started in 1978 the same year Nepal identified Budhigandaki project. But it took another two decades to take the project forward. Though detailed project report (DPR) of the project is in its last leg of preparation, the government is still undecided on financial modality and funding to develop the project.

    Former Energy Secretary Surya Nath Upadhyaya said that Indian government developed the project despite huge pressure from environmentalist led by Medha Patkar.

    Such, however, is not the case in Nepal. All stakeholders agree that only Budhigandaki can end prolonged power crisis in the country.
    “Tehri dam is a success story for India. Nepal can learn from it and develop West Seti and Budhigandaki projects,” Khadga Bahadur Bisht, president of Independent Power Producers’ Association, Nepal, said.

    Obstruction by locals and protest against land acquisition has become a headache for the government to implement development projects.  “Our government is weaker. It tends to bow down to protesters easily,” Upadhyaya said, fearing that NGOs and INGOs might push their agendas to obstruct projects.

    Gopal Basnet, executive director of Budhigandaki Hydropower Project, said locals were positive toward project development.
    Nepal and India has been working to develop a 5600 MW hydropower project on Mahakali River. Similarly, two Indian developers, including one owned by the Indian government, are building three hydropower projects with combined capacity of 2400 MW in Nepal.

    The government wants to import electricity from India by building cross-border transmission lines to eliminate load-shedding. But experts suggest to the government to develop reservoir projects like Budhigandaki as well as other projects to bail the country out of power crisis and reduce dependency on India.

    Source :Republica