A massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake that originated in Kathmandu, Nepal, on April 25, may have caused significant damage to hydroelectric facilities and additional power producing infrastructure, according to published reports.
More than of 3,726 people are confirmed dead and more than 6,500 were injured in the quake, the Nepalese government said on Monday.
“Highways and roads have suffered structural damage, and we do not know what kind of structural damage Nepal’s numerous hydropower dams and generators have endured,” said Mukesh Khanal, in speaking with Quartz India. Khanal is an economist who works in the international development sector in Nepal.
“Officials will eventually go and check them, but I fear huge damage,” he said. “They will have to be torn down and rebuilt, which means reduced electricity production for some years. So, I see great challenges for the government and the economy in the coming days.”
Two of Nepal’s largest hydroelectric facilities, 144-MW Kaligandaki hydroelectric power station and 22.1-MW Chilime hydropower plant, may have been affected according to news reports from the area.
Officials will not know the extent of damage, if any, until they are able to conduct inspections.
Kaligandaki is about 187 mi west of Kathmandu near Mirmi in the district of Syangja District and Chilime is in the district of Rasuwa, which is 83 mi north of Kathmandu.
Kaligandaki’s dam and headworks are situated on the Gandaki River at the confluence of the Andhikhola and its powerhouse, which contains three 48 MW Francis turbine-generators is in Beltari. A headrace tunnel, 3.7 miles-in-length, connects the catchment area to the power station.
The run-of-river project is currently the largest power plant of any kind in Nepal.
Chilime hydropower plant is also a run-of-river facility and its headworks are located near Chilime. Chilime has an underground power plant located about 2.8 mi southwest on the Bhotekoshi river.
Nepal has 600 MW of installed capacity in its Integrated Nepal Power System (INPS), according to Independent Power Producers’ Association, Nepal (IPPAN).
Hydropower plants in Nepal, according to IPPAN
Established in 2001 as a non-profit, non-government autonomous organization, IPPAN said the country’s power system is dominated by hydropower, which contributes about 90% of power to the system.
According to IPPAN, until 1990, hydropower development was under the domain of government utility, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) only. However, with the enactment of new Hydropower Development Policy 1992, the sector was opened to the private sector also. A number of projects already built by the private developers contribute 148 MW of power to INPS.
In 2014, Nepal’s deadliest landslide in a decade caused destruction that knocked out 10% of its power generation capacity. Nepal has sought investment to build hydropower dams that harness some 6,000 rivers fed by Himalayan glaciers, a move that would boost economic growth and end blackouts, which can last more than 12 hours at a time, according to IPPAN.