The concept of West Seti Hydropower Project had elicited hopes in the Far Westerners around two decades ago. All the Nepali people, and not just the Far Westerners, were hopeful about this project as the whole country is reeling from energy crisis. The 750 MW reservoir project has a huge significance as the country’s only reservoir project is Kulekhani. The project is expected to generate 3,636 gigawatt-hour of electricity a year. The Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) of Australia, that had won the first contract for construction of the project, wasted a decade in the name of study. SMEC, that signed the agreement with the government 19 years ago, had even prepared the Detailed Project (DPR) but the government eventually revoked its license after it failed to make financial arrangements.
The development works of the four districts–Doti, Dadeldhura, Bajhang and Bajura—have been stalled for the past 19 years or so. The hydropower sector was expected to see a paradigm shift after construction of the project, but it has been limited to merely a pleasant political slogan, rather it has been stuck in the quagmire of politics. The Investment Board (IB) has recently signed an agreement with the CWE Investment Corporation of the China Three Gorges Corporation for construction of the project though the government was initially said to move it forward itself. Hopes had been raised about the project moving forward after the agreement with the Chinese company that has completed multi-purpose projects by constructing Three Gorges Dam. The guarantee of soft loans from Chinese banks had raised the hopes further. But CWE has not been able to still move the project forward due to different disputes and procedural delays even after that.
The more the big infrastructure projects like West Seti are delayed, the more their cost will rise. While SMEC had estimated the cost of the project to be US$ 1.60 billion excluding construction of transmission line around 19 years ago, it has now reached US$ 2 billion. It has become necessary to address the reasons behind the delay of the project even after agreement with IB, that has been established with the main objective to end the procedural delays in construction of big infrastructure projects and play the role of policy facilitator. The parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Means and different other committees had contributed in delay of the project raising many questions. The country will have to bear a big loss if CWE, that has completed even the biggest reservoir project in the world in time due to fast decision making process in China, returns back from the project due to the procedural hassles in Nepal. All the stakeholders in the country should, therefore, be alert about that.
CWE has asked IB for a work plan including the issues of resettlement of the displaced, land acquisition, rate for Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for a reservoir based project, return and construction of transmission line. That IB is preparing to make collective written commitment on behalf of the Nepal government after holding discussions with the ministries concerned—Ministry of Land Reforms and Management, Energy Ministry and Finance Ministry—has to be welcomed. There should not be any delay in that. Construction of the project can be guaranteed if we can get the soon to be formed legislative parliament to make solid commitment about the project. The government has yet to prepare policy for resettlement of the locals to be displaced by the project. The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has just started to work on the master plan for transmission line. The government also should not make delays in such procedural matters. It will be beneficial to immediately prepare a work plan for resettlement with participation of international consultants.
Source : Karobar /Editorial