Chinese firm in Nepal accused of graft
For two days in a row, employees’ unions at the government-owned Nepal Electricity Authority cut off power supply to the Ministers’ quarters, protesting a controversial government decision to extend and upgrade the contract with a Chinese company, which is building a hydro plant on the Trishuli river. Besides the ‘blackouts’, the unions have also carried on with ‘pendowns’, halting office work and threatening further agitation if the government does not reverse the decision.
Revision in contract with China Gezhouba, which the critics allege is responsible for one of the biggest corruption scandals resulting in a loss of billions of rupees to Nepal, has resulted in the outcry.
“Instead of being penalised for not finishing the project in time, the company has been rewarded by breaching the law, as well as the national interest,” said Dambar Nepali, a hydro expert. Similar charges have been made by three former energy ministers (except the Maoist Energy Minister) as well as former finance secretary involved in the original negotiations with the company.
According to the agreement signed in May three years ago, the state-owned Chinese company was supposed to have finished the 60 MW Trishuli-3A hydropower project by early 2013, bringing a measure of relief to the power-hungry country that sees more than 14 hours of cuts during winter. A clause in the agreement stipulated that the company was to pay a fine, amounting to more than $10 million, should it for fail to complete the project on time. The company is understood to have claimed that the project was delayed due to obstruction from locals, but attempts to reach the company personnel through its field office in Kathmandu were unsuccessful.
The board of the Nepal Electricity Authority agreed to “upgrade” the project on June 1, thereby exempting the company from paying the fine, delaying electricity generation by at least two years and adding $43 million to the project cost. If things to according to the government’s plan, the Finance Ministry will get additional cost covered through a “soft loan” from the Exim bank of China, a state-run bank which has a strategic agreement with China Gezhouba Group.
Former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, whose government agreed “in principle” to the change in contract, took to Twitter to defend the move, claiming it was necessary to save the project. “It’s in national interest,” he tweeted, “if any irregularity has taken place that must be looked into by relevant authority.”
Experts say that increasing the capacity of the project would do little to reduce Nepal’s power woes since the additional electricity will be generated only during the rainy season, when the swelling rivers produce enough electricity to meet the country’s needs, and add no power during the dry winter months, when demand far surpasses supply.
Source : The Hindu
NEA staff to snap power supply to PM’s residence
KATHMANDU: After cutting off power supply for two hours to the ministers’ quarters in Pulchowk for three consecutive days, agitating Nepal Electricity Authority unions have announced that they will cut power to the official residence of the Chairman of the Interim Election Council of Ministers Khil Raj Regmi in Baluwatar for two hours on Friday.
NEA employees’ unions are protesting the government decision to upgrade the 60-MW Upper Trishuli 3A by 30 megawatts. A joint press statement issued by four agitating trade unions today states that their plan to cut off power supply to ministers’ quarters will continue on Wednesday and Thursday as well.
“If the decision to upgrade Upper Trishuli 3A is not withdrawn by Friday, we’ll cut power supply to Singha Durbar, Baluwatar and Pulchowk-based ministerial quarters indefinitely,” NEA Board Chairman and Minister for Energy Umakant Jha lives in the ministers’ quarters.
The protest includes complete pen down in all the offices of NEA nationwide, except at the NEA counter and No Light and Emergency sections. They have also announced to increase the blackout at the central office at Ratnapark from four to five hours during office hours.
Meanwhile, the second round of talks held between trade unions and the NEA board ended inconclusively today. “Our only demand is to revoke the decision,” said Ram Prasad Rimal, chairman of NEA Employees Union. Rimal said they would not sit for talks and would continue the protest unless the government decides to revoke the decision.
Board member Manoj Mishra stressed on further talks to resolve the issue and defended the decision to increase the capacity from 60 to 90 MW, saying it was taken by former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai-led government and several study reports supported it.
Asked why they were staging the protest, Laxmi Gautam, an employee at the central office of NEA, said they were not seeking salary hike or more facilities but were showing concern about the loss NEA would incur by increasing Upper Trishuli 3A capacity.
As many as 17 trade unions and organisations have backed the NEA unions’ demand to revoke the controversial decision. NSU today met Regmi and submitted an 11-point memorandum that includes the demand to revoke the decision to upgrade Upper Trishuli 3A hydropower project.
Source : The Himalayan Times
Bista against Upper Trishuli project upgradation
KATHMANDU: Former energy minister Gokarna Bista has claimed that the government is showing inclination to revoke its earlier decision to increase the capacity of Upper Trishuli 3A Hydropower Project.
According to him‚ Energy Minister Umakanta Jha during the talks with the agitating trade unions of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) had signaled the withdrawal of the decision to upgrade the project citing rising disputes.
The board meeting of the NEA on May 31 had decided to upgrade Upper Trishuli 3A hydro project from 60 MW to 90 MW.
According to the revised decision‚ the cost of the project has increased to $132 million from $89 million.
Bista talking to media at the Reporters Club on Tuesday warned to create public pressure against the decision‚ as according to him‚ it wouldn’t benefit the nation in the long run.
The UML leader argued that it is unfortunate that the government formed for the sole purpose to hold Constituent Assembly (CA) polls is attempting to destroy economic discipline through such decisions.
According to him‚ the decision can’t be implemented as a complaint has been filed at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA)‚ a writ at the Supreme Court‚ and political parties are also against it.
Also speaking at the function‚ former Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat expressed his belief that the government will withdraw the decision due to complaints at CIAA and writ at the SC against the decision.
According to him‚ the nation would be a failed state if the decision is implemented.
Likewise‚ UCPN-Maoist Spokesperson Agni Sapkota said that his party will come up with a formal voice on the issues only after a detailed study.
Source : The Himalayan Times
NEA unions to cut off power supply to Regmi residence
KATHMANDU, JUN 12 –
Agitating employees’ unions of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) on Tuesday said they will cut off electricity supply to official the residence of Interim Election Government Chairman Khil Raj Regmi at Baluwatar on Friday for two hours.
Announcing their third phase of protest programmes on Tuesday, the unions said they will continue their protest until the government rolls back the decision of upgrading the Upper Trishuli 3A hydropower project.
Nepal National Employees Association (NNEA), NEA Employees Council, NEA Employees Association and NEA Employees Unions have been protesting against the NEA board’s decision to upgrade the project’s capacity to 90 MW from the existing 60 MW.
The trade unions have been disconnecting power supply to ministers’ quarters at Pulchowk for last three days. “We have also decided to increase the blackout hours at minister’s residence by two more hours a day from Tuesday,” said NEA Employees’ Union Chairman Ram Prasad Rimal.
The protest has completely paralysed the NEA central office at Ratnapark since June 2, while NEA offices across the country have been partially affected.
Meanwhile, a dialogue between the trade union leaders and the NEA board on Tuesday ended inconclusively. However, Energy Minister Umakant Jha promised to consider the unions’ demand “seriously”, according to the union leaders and NEA board members taking part at the meeting. “After we did not back off, the minister finally said he would take our demand seriously,” said Rimal. “The minister, however, did not tell us what he meant by ‘seriously’.”
Source : The Kathmandu Post