Land Acquisition, Resettlement For Budi Gandaki To Cost Rs 61b

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    KATHMANDU, March 9

    BudhigandakiLand acquisition, and rehabilitation and resettlement of the locals displaced along the 46-kilometer reservoir of 1200 MW Budi Gandaki project will cost Rs 61 billion, as per the feasibility study done by consultant Tractebel Engineering of France. Tractebel has estimated total project cost to be Rs 250 billion.

    Executive Director of Budi Gandaki Hydropower Project Development Committee Gopal Basnet says cost of land acquisition, and rehabilitation and resettlement was earlier estimated to be Rs 54 billion but it has now increased to Rs 61 billion. “The amount has increased as we have included many things that were missed. The amount can rise further as counting of the locals is still being done,” he states.

    He reveals 45,188 locals of 14 VDCs in Gorkha and 13 VDCs in Dhading will be displaced by the project. “The locals are demanding that they be compensated at the rate of land along the Prithvi Highway as a bridge has been constructed over Trishuli river at Benighat to connect the area with the Prithvi Highway. The cost will rise further if the project is delayed further as price of land is rising,” he explains.

    There has been no transaction of land in the area for the past three years due to talks about construction of the project. The affected locals, according to Basnet, wish to invest half of the compensation amount on shares of the project. The government has allocated Rs 570 million in the current fiscal year to complete pre-construction work for the project. He says the detailed project report (DPR) will come by this July. But the DPR may not be completed in the scheduled time with the Environment Ministry delaying approval of the environment impact assessment (EIA). He reveals the consultant has already proposed a two-month extension due to possibility of delay. “We may have to extend it if the EIA were not approved through fast-track. This will increase the project’s cost by a bit,” he adds.

    Secretary at the Energy Ministry Rajendra Kishore Chhetri told the Agriculture and Water Resources Committee of the parliament on Monday that discussions have been moved forward with the Finance Ministry to manage the money needed for land acquisition. He also conceded that Rs 61 billion cannot be allocated immediately for land acquisition and resettlement. Stating that there has been no decision to use the soft loan of Rs 100 to be provided by India for the project, he revealed that investment model has also yet to be finalized. He also clarified that the project has been designed primarily for electricity generation, and irrigation, navigation and tourism will not be prioritized.

    The project—which is close to the major load centers like Kathmandu, Pokhara and Narayangarh—is estimated to generate 3.38 billion units of electricity a year. The dam of the project will be 263 meters high. The per MW cost of the project will be Rs 212.50 million and per unit cost Rs 7.35. The project was set to be completed in 2022 but it is likely to be delayed as preliminary works have yet to be completed. Many problems are likely to arise during land acquisition, and rehabilitation and resettlement for the big reservoir that needs to be constructed.

    Contradiction between minister and secretary

    The opinions of Energy Minister Radha Kumari Gyawali and secretary of her ministry Chhetri about the investment model are contradictory. Secretary Chhetri told the Agriculture and Water Resources Committee meeting Monday that a company model would be appropriate as investment of the affected locals and other citizens is necessary for development of the project. Stating that the current development committee is obstructing investment and the project cannot move forward under it, he argued that the project should be developed through a company.

    Speaking immediately after secretary Chhetri, minister Gyawali, however, claimed that the project will be developed under the development committee. She also revealed that there has been no preparation to change the model for the project now. “Not just Budi Gandaki and Nalsing Gad but even Lower Arun, Upper Arun and other projects will be moved through development committee. Big projects will now be moved forward through development committees,” she added.

    Source : Karobar Daily