KATHMANDU, June 6: Top leaders of the major political parties, except UCPN (Maoist), are meeting Chairman of the Interim Election Council Khil Raj Regmi, on Thursday to draw his attention to the recent decision of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) to upgrade the capacity of Upper Trishuli 3 ´A´ hydropower project from 60 to 90 megawatts.
Leaders, including central committee member of Nepali Congress (NC) Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, former energy minister and central committee member of NC Prakash Sharan Mahat, politburo members of CPN-UML Gokarna Bista and Surendra Pandey and senior leader of Rastriya Prajatantra Party Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani have decided to meet Regmi to exert pressure on the government to withdraw the NEA board´s decision to upgrade the capacity of Trishuli 3 ´A´.
“This is a wrong decision and apparently involves huge kickbacks,” Mahat said. “We won´t let the government move ahead with the decision that would cause a loss of more than around Rs 8 billion.”
The controversial decision that was initially made by the Baburam Bhattarai-led government had received a final nod from the NEA board last week. “This indicates collusion of corrupt government officials, NEA officials and the Chinese contractor,” Mahat claimed. “The ministers involved in endorsing the decision are also involved in influencing the NEA decision.” Energy minister Uma Kant Jha, who is also the chairman of the NEA board refused to comment on the issue with Republica.
Mahat, who has remained firm against upgrading the project from 60 to 90 megawatts, categorically outlined the major reasons on why the project should not be upgraded. “First, this decision will further deepen the problem of load-shedding in the country. Second, the project would generate additional 30 megawatts electricity only during the wet season,” Mahat explained.
The run of the river project is being developed by China Gezhouba Group Co with soft loan worth US$ 89 million from the Exim Bank of China. “The contractor had agreed to upgrade the 60 megawatts project to 90 megawatts for an additional 25 percent cost. But it has now quoted an additional 50 percent cost,” said Mahat.
The Bhattarai-led government was in favor of upgrading the project after the Chinese contractor informed NEA that it would upgrade the project at the total cost of US$ 132 million.
The project was awarded to the Chinese contractor under the EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) model. EPC contractors should carry out detailed engineering design of the project, procure all equipment and materials necessary and then construct to deliver a functioning facility.
“The project variation that the NEA board has approved is against the EPC model,” Mahat said. “This is a blatant violation of the existing laws related to hydropower development.”
Earlier, the Ministry of Energy (MoE) had formed two committees to study whether it would be appropriate to upgrade the project capacity. Both the committees had suggested to the government not to upgrade the project capacity saying it would inflict huge losses to the country.
The Supreme Court, responding to a writ petition against the Bhattarai-led government´s decision to upgrade the project, had said that the NEA board would take a final decision regarding the issue. But the NEA board again sought suggestion from its management on whether or not to approve project upgradation. The NEA management had recommended upgrading the project capacity.
Source : Republica