Political parties prevent Bhotekoshi hydro project from being repaired

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    bhotekoshiCHAUTARA , NOV 25 – The major political parties have been preventing repair work on the Bhotekoshi Hydropower Project demanding that the locals be provided shares in the company first.

    The 45 MW power project has been disabled since August after a massive landslide in Sindhupalchok district.

    The landslide had blocked the flow of the Sunkoshi River and created an artificial lake which inundated five hydropower projects and the highway linking Kathmandu with the Chinese border in the north.

    The political parties have been intervening in the restoration stating that the Bhotekoshi project, which has been in operation for the past one and a half decades, has already earned a handsome profit by selling energy in US currency, and so it should offer shares to the locals.

    State-owned Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Bhotekoshi project with payment to be made in US dollars.

    The political parties have prevented seven transmission towers destroyed by the landslide and flooding from being fixed.

    One of the leaders said that if the towers were allowed to be repaired, nobody would listen to their demand; so they had not permitted work to be done to put themselves in a better position to push their demand.

    A series of meetings between Bhotekoshi Power Company and political parties have been conducted, but they have failed to reach an agreement. The power company has been maintaining that it cannot issue shares to the locals as it has been losing Rs 8.6 million per day since it has not been able to generate electricity after the landslide crippled the project.

    The ruling party Nepali Congress (NC) has demanded that at least 10 percent of the shares be given to the locals. Its coalition partner CPN-UML, the main opposition party UCPN (Maoist), CPN-Maoist and Rastriya Prajatantra Party have been asking for a minimum of 22 percent.

    The political parties say that the project-affected people and the district’s inhabitants should be provided shares in the company.

    Dipendra Shrestha, a project-affected local from Tatopani, has been leading the protest which has been strongly backed by the members of the Constituent Assembly, district leaders of the political parties and party cadres. Mohan Basnet, a lawmaker and district chairman of the NC, has started a separate protest.

    The issue of the PPA for the Bhotekoshi and the Khimti Hydropower Project being concluded in dollar terms is still being debated by parliamentarians. However, the lawmakers seem to have completely forgotten the subject as they have been focusing on the issue of share allocation.

    It has been learnt that the company was ready to allot 5 percent of the shares. However, since the parties have rejected the offer, it has been forced to stay idle these days.

    A company source said that RDC/N, a company jointly owned by two US companies, MWH International and Harza International Development Company, which holds a 5 percent stake in the project, has rejected the idea of allocating shares and asked for the legal basis of the claim. “They are against allotting even 5 percent of the shares,” the source said.

    UCPN (Maoist) leader Saral Sahayatri Poudel said that the government needed to show greater interest in the issue to end the gridlock.

    Source : eKantipur