KATHMANDU, DEC 17 – Demands for a stake in hydropower projects in operation by locals refuse to die. Locals of Ramechhap district have asked for shares in the Khimti I Hydropower Project in a move that observers said had been inspired by the campaign for a stake in the Bhote Koshi Hydropower Project being conducted by residents there. The trend of allocating shares to locals is a relatively new practice in hydropower projects in Nepal. There was no such concept for projects that are already in operation. Cadres of the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) are at the forefront in demanding shares in both the cases. According to informed sources, NC cadres have demanded a certain portion of the shares for locals from the 60 MW Khimti I project, warning that they would call a strike if the demand was not met. A senior Khimti official confirmed the demand for shares but refused to divulge how many.
Since the power from the 45 MW Bhote Koshi plant has not been fed to the national grid due to the standoff, load-shedding has been upped by an hour. Observers said that if a similar situation emerged at the Khimti project, the energy crisis would deteriorate further. A prominent NC leader who wished to remain unnamed told the Post that after the news that Bhote Koshi would offer shares to locals was published, the local political leadership in Ramechhap adopted similar tactics to extract shares from Khimti.
Similarly, a high ranking official at Himal Power confirmed the report. “However, the central level leadership of the NC has assured us that they are against the demand put forth by the local leaders,” the official said.
Himal Power’s General Manager Tom Kristian Larsen would not say if there had been a demand for shares, only remarking that the occurrence of such cases in Nepal might affect the development of the energy sector.
“The demand of the locals (if there is any) cannot be fulfilled as per the agreement between Himal Power and the government,” Larsen said. “All eyes are on the energy sector these days. Such issues are detrimental to the government’s objective of becoming more investor friendly and attracting FDI for the development of the country. It simply has no place in the New Nepal.”
Khimti I started commercial operations in July 2000. It is currently being operated by Himal Power. Meanwhile, the government’s repeated attempts to resolve the deadlock at Bhote Koshi have been unsuccessful. The third meeting called by Energy Minister Radha Gyawali has not been held since Monday.
“The meeting was cancelled on the past two days. We are waiting for the meeting to be held so that there can be a positive conclusion,” said Narendra Prajapati, project manager of the Bhote Koshi.
Source : eKantipur