Hydropower development gains pace in east Nepal

    A file photo shows a general view of the under-construction Hewa A Hydropower Project in Ilam
    A file photo shows a general view of the under-construction Hewa A Hydropower Project in Ilam

    BIRATNAGAR, JUL 04 – Eastern Nepal is witnessing a speedy electrification. Besides hydropower projects, a number of transmission line projects to connect regional hydropower production with the central transmission lines have been started in districts including Ilam, Panchthar, Taplejung and Sankhuwasabha.

    While many projects have been concluded, many others are under construction.

    However, there is uncertainty over the “Kabeli Corridor” that is supposed to connect electricity produced in the eastern hills to the national grid. Only the first phase of the construction work—34km from Damak of Jhapa to Rajduwali of Ilam—has so far been completed.

    Of the 95 towers under construction, foundation laying work on almost all has been completed. Of the four towers left for completion, one is facing compensation-related obstructions. Towers no 29 and 30 delayed after the locals protested stating the low height of the power lines posed risks. The tower no 77 was damaged during wire extension.

    Project chief Dipendra Dwibedi attributed the slow work pace to the contractor’s negligence. “The project might overshoot the mid-July completion deadline,” he said, adding lack of manpower and rough terrain are other factors delaying the work.

    The delay in the construction of the 132kv transmission line has directly affected Sanima Mai Hydropower Project (22MW). Upper Mai (10MW) and Hewa Khola (15MW) projects, that are near completion are also likely to be affected.

    The slow work pace has also been attributed to the lack of preparations before contract tendering. NEA had assigned the contract to Jaguar Overseas and Ester JV, India, before clearing the “right of way” (land acquisition and cutting trees). The project has been land acquisition-related issues mainly in Mangalbare of Ilam and Jorsal of Panchthar.

    The construction of the World Bank-funded Rs2.58-billion project started eight years ago. The completion deadline has been extended by 18 months.

    Taplejung is the only district in Mechi that has not been connected to the national grid. Constructed three decades ago, Sobhuwakhola Powerhouse is the only operating hydropower plant in the district. The 25KW project has ageing equipment and is facing water shortage.

    Under-construction 5MW Phawakhola project, which  was supposed to be completed by mid April, has been rescheduled for mid-October. Birendra Shrestha, station in-charge of the project, said the construction work had been delayed due to landslides and manpower shortage.

    He said an 11kvA transmission line has been planned to transmit electricity produced by the two power plants. The NEA has already awarded the contract to extend the transmission line to Fungling.

    Meanwhile, the locals of Sankhuwasabha have expressed concern about the delay in the Arun III Hydropower Project. Tara Kumar Gurung, a local, said the project has seen zero progress over the last eight months since the Project Development Agreement was signed.

    Investment Board Nepal CEO Radhesh Pant said they were in the process of taking consent from the locals, following which the construction work would start. The project has started hiring human resource, while work on Khadbari-Fyaksinda road has been initiated.

    Likewise, the NEA has been expanding electrification in eight VDCs of Tehrathum. Shivaji Prasad Shah, chief of NEA’s Tehrathum branch, said the authority plans to connect Khamlalung, Samdu, Sankranti, Thoklung, Chhate, Iwa, Hwaku and Chuhandada villages in the next three years.

    According to the NEA, the central transmission line has been providing electricity to a total of 11,362 households in 18 villages and Myanglung municipality.

    Similarly, construction of hydropower projects Panchthar district is gaining pace. Work on two projects—Hewa A (14.9MW) and Lower Hewa (21.6MW)—has been initiated, while three other projects—Kaveli B (35MW), Kaveli A (37.6MW) and Iwakhola (10MW)—are in final stages of construction.

    Basant Nebwang, former lawmaker and one of the investors in the sector, said improper government policy and other factors were troubling investors.

    He said electricity produced in the region will be wasted if the Kaveli Corridor is not completed on time.

    Source : eKantipur