NEA Struggles to Coordinate with Government Agencies for Underground Electricity Line Project

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Kathmandu, 1st Dec 2023. Nepal Electricity Authority Managing Director Kulman Ghising has said that the work of undergrounding the electricity distribution system (wire) of Kathmandu Valley has been done carelessly because the road department did not give permission to dig the road. The Executive Director of the Authority, Ghising, mentioned that it is unfortunate that a large and important project has been abandoned due to lack of coordination between government agencies.

The work of the project to make the electricity distribution system underground has been stalled since last mid June/ mid July after the road department did not give permission to dig the road under its jurisdiction. Managing Director Ghising said that the construction professionals involved in the work of undergrounding the wires have left the construction site at a program held in Lalitpur on Thursday to inaugurate the smart street lights installed in partnership with the Lalitpur Metropolitan Municipality and the authority.

In such a situation, representatives of municipalities involved in project implementation coordinated with the road department. Ghising mentioned that there’s still some time left and urged everyone to fulfill their responsibilities before commencing work. He pointed out that although municipalities had granted permission to work within their jurisdictions, the road department had not given permission to proceed with the roadwork.

When you bury the cables underground, it becomes ten times more expensive than overhead. There are many complications involved in burying cables underground along with road digging. Despite coordinating and sometimes facing delays, we can’t get permission from the road department easily. They haven’t granted us permission despite repeated requests, and even when the work is done, permission is not easily obtained.

Such a massive project becomes futile due to the lack of coordination among us. It’s very unfortunate. It troubles me as well. The forest doesn’t allow construction of transmission lines, it’s their domain. Similarly, the road belongs to the state. So where can we work? In this situation, we are all responsible. We must work together to solve the problems responsibly.

The Authority had initiated work on making the electric distribution system in Kathmandu sub-metropolitan city, particularly in the areas under Ratnapark and Maharajgunj distribution centers, underground, reinforced, and automated in the first phase.

In the second phase, the remaining areas of Kathmandu district, in the third phase, the urban areas of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, and in the fourth phase, the areas under Pokhara and Bhaktapur metropolitan cities, had begun work on making the distribution system underground, reinforced, and automated.

Within this, the construction of underground lines with 33 and 11 kV, along with the laying of optical fiber, is underway. This initiative will not only enhance the aesthetics of the city by eliminating the tangle of wires but will also contribute to the reliability of electricity, telephone, and internet services provided by the utility.

Director Ghising mentioned that if development is to occur, the general public should patiently endure some inconvenience in a straightforward manner for some time.

“If there’s little inconvenience, the ward office will curse us, the municipality will curse us, they won’t allow work on the roads in some places, and if we work without permission, our employees will be threatened,” he said. “Even if I make a lot of effort, if I don’t get permission to work on the roads, contractors threaten that they won’t let us work without their agreement. I don’t have the situation where I can work regardless.”

The underground distribution system currently in progress is expected to provide safety over the overhead distribution system and maintain the aesthetic beauty of the city by eliminating the web of wires. Utilizing techniques that minimize damage to roads during underground work has been implemented. To ensure minimal disruption to traffic and pedestrians, work is carried out during the night. Proper arrangements have been made to prevent dust from the dug-up roads affecting the public. In the event of damage during the underground cabling, a system for repairing the road within 10 days has been established.

The road demanded 50 percent of the bond

The road department has proposed that 50 percent of the estimated cost of the road section to be dug while laying the wire underground should be kept as a bond. Earlier, the work was done with 20% bond, so the department has proposed to increase it to 50%. If the authority leaves the road after completing its work, a bond has been arranged for the repair of the road. If the road is repaired, the department will refund the bond amount.

Tara Prasad Pradhan, deputy executive director of the authority’s project management directorate, said that a proposal to keep a 50 percent bond for the contracts to be made this year has been received from the road department. “The budget has not been allocated by the government of Nepal, we don’t have it either. While 20 percent has been kept in previous years, it has been proposed that 50 percent of the bond should be kept this year. We are saying that the agreement should be according to the old system,” Deputy Executive Director Pradhan said. “A new proposal has been made to give permission from the road only after taking approval from the water and sanitation agencies, these conditions are making it more and more difficult.