Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have agreed to establish a “central-level safeguard unit” to deal with stakeholders over land acquisition, forest clearance, and right of the way, among others, in electricity transmission line projects under the ADB-funded South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Power System Expansion Project.

    Such units are presently formed at project-level, but they have not been effective, leading to disruption of projects by government agencies and local stakeholders.

    Under the SASEC Power System Expansion Project, there are four transmission line projects and a project to upgrade grid substations.

    The projects are Samundratar-Trishuli 3B 132kV Transmission Line, Marsyangdi Transmission Corridor Project, Marsyangdi-Kathmandu 220kV Transmission Line Project, Kaligandaki Corridor 220kV Transmission Line Project and Grid Substation Capacity Expansion Project.

    Officials at both NEA and ADB confirmed the two sides have agreed to establish such units under Project Management Directorate (PMD) at NEA which was established at the NEA Organogram to facilitate ADB-funded projects.

    Kanhaiya Kumar Manandhar, chief of NEA’s Transmission Line Division, said the move will help take coordinated approach to settle any problems that projects face at local-level. “It will also help cut costs,” he said.

    ADB Country Director for Nepal Kenichi Yokoyama said the lender proposed setting up of the central-level unit to develop the capacity of human resources to enable them to deal with the issues related to right of way, land acquisition and forest clearance.

    Given many transmission line projects have remained incomplete due to disruption by locals and forest authorities, ADB believes a team of professionals and experts could help tackle these constraints. “If you leave it to engineers to solve such constraints, they may not be able to convince the stakeholders due to confusion over the government’s policies on this issue,” said Yokoyama. “There should be professional people to handle the issues and the stakeholders should be provided consistent information about these issues so that they will stay informed.”

    The SASEC Power System Expansion project is expected to be completed by Dec 31, 2021. The total cost of the project is $440 million. ADB has signed an agreement with the government to provide financial assistance of $191.2 million, most of the amount in loan, for the project.

    The project will also receive Norwegian grant assistance of $60 million and loan worth $120 million from European Investment Bank, according to the Finance Ministry. The government and the beneficiary community have to contribute $68.8 million for the project.

    Energy Secretary Suman Sharma said improved social safeguard measures have become necessary to save energy projects from being disrupted on various pretext. “The latest agreement with ADB could help us move forward systematically on issues like land acquisition,” he said.

    With energy projects facing hindrances, disbursement of the budget stands at just 10 percent, which is very lower compared to other projects, according to NEA.  It has planned to award contracts related to transmission line projects worth $150 million in 2016.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post