KATHMANDU, Dec 6:Following criticism from former ministers and opposition leaders, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has assured them that he will not take any decision relating to the 60 MW Trishuli 3 ´A´ hydropower project without the formers´ consensus.
“The PM told us at a meeting on Tuesday that he would not take any decision relating to Trishuli 3 ´A´,” former energy minister and CPN-UML leader Gokarna Bista told Republica. “We briefed him on the loss the country would face if a decision was taken to increase the capacity of the project from 60 to 90 MW.”
Former ministers including Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat, Surendra Pandey, Gokarna Bista, Pradeep Nepal and Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani held a meeting on Tuesday and intensified their meetings with top party leaders to create pressure on the government not to take any decision towards increasing the project capacity.
The government has taken a loan of USD 89 million from the Chinese Exim Bank for work on the project, which is being developed by Chinese contractor China Gezhouba Group Co.
The government is mulling increasing the project capacity, adding another USD 43 million to the cost.
“There is no point increasing the capacity since that is not going to help us to generate power in the dry season,” Krishna Prasad Dulal, a hydro expert who was sacked from membership of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) board on Monday after he resisted moves to increase capacity at Trishuli 3 ´A´.
“I don´t see any benefit to the country in increasing the capacity; rather, it will be a loss,” Dulal said.
According to him, an NEA study shows that the project can be developed at just USD 111 million even if the target is 90 MW.
Additionally, at the time of signing the contract, the Chinese contractor had agreed to develop 90 MW at just USD 111 million, according to Dr Mahat. “We can sense irregularities and chances of misuse of national resources in this whole process,” he said.
“We have been visiting Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Sushil Koirala and Jhala Nath Khanal to urge them to pressure the government not to increase capacity at Trishuli 3 ´A´,” Bista said.
“Meanwhile, the PM, who was also present at the three-party meeting to settle the current political deadlock, assured us that he wouldn´t take any decision without consulting the former finance and energy ministers.”
The former ministers had held a meeting following a report a couple of weeks back that the government was taking steps to increase the project capacity. “Taking a decision involving millions of dollars at a time when there is no parliament or parliamentary committees to check executive branch decisions is not acceptable to us,” Dr Mahat said. “The government´s moves towards increasing the project capacity are unreasonable.”
“There is no point increasing the capacity since it will just delay the project implementation and the country will suffer a tarrif loss of Rs 4 billion due to the delay,” Dr Mahat said.
Sources close to the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Minister (OPMCM) disclosed that the government was working constantly on increasing the capacity of the project. “The decision to appoint Chief Secretary Lila Mani Poudyal as chairman of the board at NEA is a part of government strategy to increasing capacity,” a high-level official at OPMCM said on condition of anonymity.
Coincidently, the government decided to appoint Poudyal as chair of the NEA board on Tuesday evening after Bhattarai gave word to the former ministers not to move ahead without consulting them.
“I think the government is moving ahead with a decision to increase the capacity,” the source said. “The PM decided to appoint Poudyal as board chair after Energy Secretary Hari Ram Koirala proved unable to manage the intricacies of a decision to increase the capacity of the project.
Source : The Republica