Madhya Bhotekoshi Hydro bedevilled by cost overruns

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    Middle_Bhotekoshi_Adit-2 ( Diversion Tunnel)CHAUTARA , NOV 13 – The Madhya Bhotekoshi Hydropower Project has been bedevilled by cost overruns and delays as a result of political intervention, local obstruction and a clash among the employees.

    The technical staff of the 102 MW project being developed by Chilime Hydropower Company said that the project was unlikely to be completed by the deadline of 2017. The employees said that the working environment at the project had deteriorated since a clash over the removal of former chairman and managing director Kul Man Singh Ghising.

    The new chairman Hitendra Dev Shakya has not been able to reach decisions as per the plan as he lacks full authority, said a board member of the project. His busy schedule at the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has also hampered work at the project, employees said.

    The project was launched behind schedule, and political intervention, obstruction by locals and indecision of the project management have slowed down its progress. The power plant was initially planned to be launched in 2013 and completed by 2016 after a power purchase agreement was signed with the NEA three years ago. The project could award the contract for civil and hydro mechanical works to a Chinese company Guangxi Hydro Electric Construction Bureau only in April 2014. Subsequently, the completion deadline was postponed to 2017.

    Due to obstruction from locals, the access road to the audit tunnel has remained incomplete. “The tunnel digging work has not started in the absence of an access road,” a field technician said.

    Moreover, there is mistrust among the project staff. The differing opinions on the issue of providing compensation for cutting down trees in the community forest through which the access road will be built led to the resignation of Hari Krishna Upreti, chief of public relations and environment, this week.

    The project management’s indecision is clearly reflected in its failure to implement the plan to relocate the people at Chaku market where the dam will be constructed. As a result, it has not been able to start work on the project’s intake.

    Meanwhile, the project has also been seeing increased demands from the locals affected by the construction. The project has failed to implement its own decision to pay Rs 2 million to five village development committees annually.

    After the political parties demanded more money complaining that the amount offered was inadequate, the project has been in a dilemma. Project Chief Sunil Lama admitted that the implementation of the project was progressing at a crawl and cited different reasons for the delay.

    “Problems are piling up one after another, and if this situation continues, the project may not be completed until 2019. If massive efforts are not made, it is unlikely that the project will be completed on time,” he said. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 14 billion. The technical staff of the project said that costs may go up by Rs 2-3 billion if the current situation did not improve.

    The Employees Provident Fund has put up 50 percent of the investment and Chilime Hydropower Company 38 percent. The project has planned to allot the rest of the shares to the district development committee, village development committees and locals of the district.