Disregard for Safety Measures Claims Lives of Myagdi’s Hydropower Workers

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Myagdi district has seen a rise in the number of new hydropower projects of late. However, the increase in the number of projects has also increased the number of fatalities.

Since the fiscal year 2018/19, data from Nepal Police shows that 21 labourers have died while working in different under-construction hydropower projects in the district. Of them, two deaths have been reported in the first four months of the current fiscal year 2023/24.

Of the two confirmed deaths, one was of Prakash Gole, a labourer working in the construction of Mangale-Rahughat Hydropower Project being developed by Tundi Hydropower in Ward No. 7 of Raghuganga Rural Municipality.

Gole, who was sent as a labourer by Ramechhap Construction, died during treatment after he was rescued from an under-construction tunnel of the hydropower plant. He was crushed by boulders and stones on October 21.

Alongside Gole, Bibek Kumar Sah, another labourer, was also severely injured in the accident.

Likewise, Dona Bahadur Budha Magar, a 37-year-old resident of Dang, died after he slipped off while working in the construction of a tunnel for Nilgirikhola Hydropower Project in Ward No. 4 of Annapurna Rural Municipality on November 1.

While the Myagdi District Police Office’s data shows that 21 labourers died in hydropower project construction sites in the past five years, it has been suspected that the cases of injuries and deaths are even kept hidden by the contractors.

The data also shows that the number of deaths is increasing annually. As per the data, two labourers died in 2018/19, three in 2019/20, three in 2020/21, five in 2021/22 and six in 2022/23.

“Of the total deaths, 12 labourers have died in the construction of the 110 MW Nilgirikhola Hydropower Project alone,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Madan Kunwar.

DSP Kunwar added, “There are two sides – security and safety. We provide security as police officers, but the safety of labourers should be ensured by the contractors.”

However, stakeholders argued that the safety part was neglected by contractors as there was no inspection by the authorities.

“Workers die at work due to lack of safety measures. There are safety gears for the safety of workers and contractors should not allow workers to work without wearing them,” said Bala Devi Rai, central secretary at the Central Union of Painters, Plumbers, Electro and Construction Workers-Nepal (CUPPEC-Nepal).

“The death of 12 labourers in a single construction site shows that the safety measures are neglected by the contractor as well as workers,” stressed Rai.

“Of the remaining nine deaths, five were reported from the Upper Rahughat and Mangale-Rahughat Hydropower Project, two from Dharkhola Hydropower Project and one each from Rahughat Hydrpopwer Project and Thulakhola Hydropower Project,” said DSP Kunwar.

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