Investment Board‚ Energy Ministry at odds over hydropower projects

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    KATHMANDU: The conflict between Nepal Investment Board and Ministry of Energy arising from both agencies acting as authority for development of big hydro projects is obstructing hydro power development.

    The West-Seti hydro project (750 MW) is an example. The Energy Ministry has been dissatisfied after the government established Nepal Investment Board in 2011 through an act that authorised the board to look into hydro projects of above 500 MW.

    Dispute between the two agencies climaxed after the erstwhile Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Means directed the government to move the highly controversial West- Seti Hydro project (750 MW) through the board. At the time, the ministry was dealing with West Seti project and had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China Three Gorges International. The decision diverted the project development work to NIB resulting in turmoil that continues till now.

    “Our role is coordination, so there is no need to be angry or disagree. But we have a culture of denying coexistence and that is the problem,” said Radhesh Pant, Chief Executive Officer, NIB. Energy Ministry officials are not happy with the establishment of NIB as the ministry used to be the sole agency to look into power issues.

    Not only NIB, but Hydro power Investment and Development Company was also established in 2011 to look into the projects above 25 MW. Ministry officials say while the establishment of many institutions has not eased work, it has increased confusion and rivalry resulting in obstruction of hydro power development. “We don’t know why there is need of various institutions when there is a ministry to look into hydro power issues. It is not having a positive impact on hydro power development,” said a ministry official. But NIB chief Pant says the role of the board is to facilitate rather than implement so there shouldn’t be any dissatisfaction. Ministry officials do not agree.

    Interestingly, there was no NIB representative at the meeting in the ministry to finalise the Project Development Agreement for large projects, a few weeks ago. The ministry prepared the document but NIB issued a press release stating that it was a great achievement. “We work and others take credit,” ministry officials said.

    The NIB act is creating confusion among developers as the main technical manpower is with the ministry, while the board, which looks into deals for over 500 MW projects, has only a few staff. Taking such a huge responsibility with so less resource won’t help develop hydro power. Rather, it creates hurdles,” said a high level official at the ministry.

    The Himalayan Times