KATHMANDU, OCT 08 –
The Ministry of Energy (MoE) is sticking by its decision to upgradate Upper Trishuli 3A hydropower project from the existing 60 MW to 90 MW despite strong opposition from all quarters. Secretary at the MoE, Hari Ram Koirala, on Wednesday formed yet another committee—second such body formed in four months—to study the viabilities of upgrading the project.
Koirala formed the committee under MoE Joint Secretary Moti Bahadur Kunwar after two NEA board members Krishna Bahadur Dulal and Mohan Pant had refused to lead the committee. Most of the NEA board members are against the MoE push for upgradation, which according to them will cost Rs 4 billion in additional cost as well as delay the project by two more years.
MoE officials accused Koirala of single handedly pushing the upgradation agenda despite strong opposition from senior officials at the ministry. The MoE officials claimed they were kept in dark about the formation of new committee on Upper Trishuli 3A.
“The upgradation plan is being driven by energy secretary as he has been aggressively involved in it,” said a high-level MoE official requesting anonymity. “It seems he has got strong political backup otherwise he would not have lobbied hard for it.” The MoE is currently under Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai.
The MoE, which has been trying for upgradation of the project since mid-June, decided to increase the capacity of the project and asked the Ministry of Finance (MoF) for additional funds. Having been turned down by the MoF, Koirala then tried to convince the NEA. However, the NEA committee formed to advice on capacity upgradation of the project concluded it to be inappropriate to increase the project’s capacity to 90MW under current circumstances. The project is being implemented under concessional loan from China EXIM Bank.
However, a defiant Koirala argued he was pushing for the upgradation for the ‘sake of the people.’
“As I have the authority to make decision on hydro-related affairs, I am trying to increase the capacity of this project so as to address power shortage,” Koirala told the Post, refuting suggestions that he had any vested interest.
The NEA officials also claim a group of politicians, corporate houses, bureaucrats and agents has been pushing the upgradation plan. The Chinese contractor China Gezhouba Group Co has also been asking the NEA for the project upgradation.
According to the NEA officials, the capacity upgradation does not contribute much to resolve power shortage, as the additional energy will be available only during wet season. “By the time the project starts generating electricity, the country will already have an additional 500MW of power generated from other projects. That makes the additional energy, that too only in rainy season, useless,” argue an NEA official. “The upgradation will benefit the contractor and its local agent only.”
Source : The Kathmandu Post