NPC decides to list all hydels under national priority projects

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    Kathmandu, August 19

    The National Planning Commission — the apex planning body of the government — decided to provide special treatment to all hydropower projects in the country, listing them under ‘national priority projects’.

    Considering that lack of energy is a major bottleneck for development, the apex planning body of the government has instructed the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation to facilitate hydropower projects by cooperating when it is necessary to clear forests.

    The recent guideline issued by the forest ministry titled ‘Utilisation of Forest Area by National Priority Projects’ has included the provision that the NPC has to certify any project as national priority project for the project to utilise the forest area.

    As the NPC has written to the forest ministry that all hydropower projects have been listed as national priority projects, hydropower developers will no longer need to get any project certified as a project of national priority project from the NPC.

    “This NPC move has shortened the procedure hydropower developers had to take before seeking to clear forest areas,” said NPC member Arbind Kumar Mishra, adding. “All generation, transmission and distribution projects, whether to be developed by the government or the private sector, will be considered national priority projects.”

    A recent meeting of the NPC decided to shorten the procedural step to expedite projects. Henceforth, the Ministry of Energy and Investment Board Nepal can directly recommend to the forest ministry for land clearance following application from developers. Earlier, the MoE or the IBN had to forward the proposal of developers to the NPC and the projects needed to be certified as national priority projects to get forest clearance permit from the forest ministry.

    However, independent power producers expressed doubt the NPC decision would be implemented, as the forest guidelines that were endorsed by the Cabinet could only be amended through a Cabinet-level decision.

    “The NPC took the decision to annul the current provision of the forest guidelines independently,” said Shailendra Guragain, president of Independent Power Producers’ Association Nepal. “So, we’ll have to wait and see how the forest ministry will deal with the applications directly forwarded by MoE and IBN.”

    Nevertheless, Guragain said that if the approval process had actually been shortened, it would save around a month’s time for developers.

    Until now, projects had to be approved as national priority project through an NPC meeting after the application was forwarded from the MoE or IBN. “It would take at least three weeks just for the NPC to forward the proposal to the forest ministry,” said Guragain.

    However, Mishra seemed confident that the decision would be implemented. “The forest ministry has to abide by NPC’s instruction as we have made a collective decision for all hydroelectric projects,” he said.

    PUSHPA RAJ ACHARYA

    Source: The Himalayan Times