The performance of national pride hydropower projects are far behind schedule due to lack of legal incentives, special rules and regulations to smoothly run these projects. According to the report of the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), the budget allocated for national pride projects are not spent and the development of projects are not as expected.
The government has announced three hydropower projects — Upper Tamakoshi, Buddhigandaki and West Seti as national pride projects with huge importance and impact on the nation. Except for Upper Tamakoshi 456 MW run-of-the-river project, both storage projects Buddhigandaki 1,200 MW and West Seti 715 MW are performing badly. Lack of proper attention, special provisions and policies, minimising of hurdles, prioritisation and strong political will to develop these projects are the main reasons for slow development. Moreover, lack of farsightedness, planning, ambiguous policies and weak implementation in yester years resulted in the present poor state of these national pride projects.
The government identified 21 projects as ‘national pride’ projects considering the important role they could play on the socio-economic development of the country. To ensure early completion of these projects, the government has also pledged to remove all hurdles in the way of their implementation. However, the government and concerned authorities have proved once again that they are big on talk and low on delivery.
Still on paper
The government announced Budhigandaki as a national pride project in the fiscal year 2013-14. The project was to be completed by 2019-20, however, there has been no work done physically. According to the OAG report, physical development is nil and of the total estimated cost of Rs 255 billion, only Rs 1.22 billion was spent till the end of fiscal year 2015-16.
“Development of any hydropower project needs intense paper work before going to construction phase. And it will be wrong to say that there is no development on the project,” said Gopal Basnet, Executive Director at Buddhigandaki Hydropower Development Committee (BHDC). Informing about the progress, he said, “We have already completed the detailed engineering report and environment impact assessment (EIA) report is ready for submission to the Ministry of Environment.” He further said, “Once we get EIA approval from the ministries, we will process for bidding tender and determine the modality of funding.” According to him, they plan to complete the modality of funding by the end of December.
Land acquisition, compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement are major challenges that come along with storage projects. On these issues, Basnet said, “We have already acquired 60,000 ropanis of land in a short period. Now we are working on the classification of land to compensate.” He further said that they have estimated Rs five billion to be needed for acquiring private land that will be submerged by the reservoir.
According to him, the government should develop a finance management committee, development model for the project, finance modality and a committee to transfer it into a company to provide authority for smooth work on the project development. He also said that due to the earthquake, they are slightly set back but work was still on schedule. He is of the opinion that if everything goes smoothly after awarding project to contractors, it will take seven to eight years to complete the mega project. As per the census report of 2013-14, the project will affect 8,117 households out of which 3,560 households will be displaced fully affecting a population of 46,000.
Source: The Himalayan Times