Karnali’s Hydropower Potential Stagnant: Most Projects Pending, Energy Woes Continue

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KALIKOT, Nov 27: Licenses have been issued to conduct the feasibility studies of hydropower projects to generate about 6,000 megawatts of hydropower in Karnali Province. However, the production so far is only about 17 MW. Although licenses have been allotted for the construction of projects, the work of most of the projects is slow.

Local residents complain that the projects in Karnali Province, which is considered a ‘mine’ of hydropower, are just being held. Some projects have not received investment and some have not been able to proceed due to the government’s lackadaisical approach. Locals demand that large projects should be moved forward to change the face of Karnali, which is lagging behind economically.

So far, only 16.54 MW of electricity has been produced from five small hydropower projects in Karnali. According to the Ministry of Water Resources and Energy Development of the province, about 14 hydropower projects are under construction from which electricity of 911.9 MW will be produced.

Karnali has a total power generation capacity of 6829.64 MW as per a feasibility study. Work is progressing with the feasibility study license to generate 5901.2 MW electricity from about 28 projects.

Uncertain Upper Karnali

The Upper Karnali Hydropower Project has been discussed since 2056 BS. If this 900 megawatt project is completed, local residents believe that it will become a milestone in the development of Karnali.

This belief has not yet materialized. The Indian company GMR, which has taken over the construction of this project, has not yet been able to manage the finances. Lately, GMR has got two years to gather financial management. Now the locals are demanding that this project be built without delay.

On June 15, 2022, the government had decided to extend the deadline of the project by two years for GMR to get financial management in the Upper Karnali hydropower Project. Locals filed a petition at the Supreme Court against the government’s decision. The Supreme Court has also endorsed the two-year period. The full text of the judgment is yet to come.

Phukot-Karnali delayed as well

Another major hydroelectric project in Karnali is the Phukot Karnali Semi-reservoir Project. The detailed project report (DPR) of this 480 MW project to be built in Kalikot has been completed in 2022.

Its DPR was prepared after four years. The Ministry of Forests is delaying the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) of this project.

The Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Energy Development has not approved the report from the Electricity Development Department to the Ministry of Forests and Environment.

As the EIA was not approved, the project could not get the ‘Generation License’ even after completing all the studies. In the year 2018, permission was given by the Electricity Development Department for the survey of the project.

The Indian government is also going to become a partner in the construction of the project with a total cost of Rs 92 billion. India’s NHPC India Limited will also invest in this project which is being built by the power generation company.

Hirawan Waiba, the head of the project, said that the power generation company and NHPC India Limited Company will form a separate company and proceed with the construction of the project. According to the draft MoU, NHPC will invest 51% and VUCL will invest 49% in this project.

The pre-feasibility study for the construction of the largest hydropower project proposed in Karnali province has reached its final stage. The pre-feasibility study of the Mugu Karnali Storage HEP with a capacity of 1,902 MW has reached its final stage.

Surya Prasad Pandey, the project head, said that the zoning and work list report of the project has been prepared and submitted to the Department of Electricity Development. If the report is passed by the department, the EIA study will begin.

The Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Energy Development gave a survey license to Electricity Production Company Limited in February 2019. After getting the license, the company started the pre-feasibility study from February 2019.

According to Pandey, head of Electricity Production Company Limited, the project office will be established in Birsain, Budhinanda Municipality-5, Bajura. The work of acquiring about 200 ropani land for setting up the office has started. The temporary laboratory and office of the company is being operated from Piluchaur in Bajura. Currently, water flow and sediment measurements are being carried out.

Betan Karnali did not get investment

Funding for the Betan Karnali hydropower project to be built on the border of Surkhet in Karnali province and Achham district in the far west has not been secured. That is why this project remains stalled. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the project has been prepared. It is estimated to cost Rs 88 billion to build this project with a capacity of 439 megawatts.

98,000 households do not have electricity

Karnali is a hub for the power sector but Karnali is experiencing load shedding every day. Residents do not know when the light comes on and goes off. Many projects here have been stalled for years. That is why the electricity service is not being extended to the rural level. Even the national transmission line has not reached all the districts of Karnali. The rural settlements are in darkness.

According to the Ministry of Water Resources and Energy Development of Karnali Province, there are a total of 371,638 households in Karnali Province. In which 272,794 households have been electrified so far. The remaining 98,844 households are yet to be electrified.

Among the electrified households, 211,053 households are connected to Nepal Electricity Authority’s electricity service, while 61,741 households are connected to alternative energy from the Alternative Energy Promotion Center and other agencies.

In Karnali, the investment of dozens of large power projects which are in the process of feasibility study has not been ensured. Because of this, the energy hub Karnali itself is facing an energy shortage. This has affected the overall economic prosperity of Karnali.

At present, small hydroelectricity is being produced in Dailekh, Kalikot Jumla in Karnali. In most of Karnali, various places where electricity can be produced are still on hold. The villages of Karnali are still in darkness due to the inability to produce hydroelectric power in the places where electricity was first produced and then washed away by floods. Even in the slums connected to the national transmission line, citizens are forced to face the problem of frequent blackouts.

 

Source: Republica ( Lalit Bista)