QUAKE-HIT PROJECT YET TO REGAIN MOMENTUM

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    Hard hit by the April 25 earthquake, the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project is still struggling to regain its momentum. Construction works have been stalled as the 456MW project grapples with multiple issues—from damaged access roads to petroleum shortages.

    Billed as the national pride project, Upper Tamakoshi is the country’s largest hydropower project under construction.  Around 76 percent of the construction works has so far been completed.

    The project’s chief Bigyan Prasad Shrestha said the earthquake and India’s blockade severely affected the project. “However, let’s not panic, things are moving forward positively,” he said.

    Damaged access roads, petroleum shortages and issues related to forest clearance have emerged as big stumbling blocks, according to project officials. They said construction materials have not reached crucial project sites such as power house, tunnel and dam due to delay in the maintenance of access roads.

    “As a result, works on the tunnel and dam have come to a complete halt,” Ganesh Neupane, spokesperson for the project. “Works on powerhouse have also been affected due narrow roads that restrict movement of big trucks.”

    Only smaller vehicles can operate on the road from Singati Bazaar to Lamabagar’s Kabrebhir (29km), while the 4km road from Kabrebhir to power house has not opened yet.

    Moreover, operating vehicles on the roads is a risky affair as boulders and debris continue to fall at the Bhorlebhir area, 6km from Singati.

    “It is depressing that the damaged roads have not been repaired even 11 months after the earthquake,” said Karma Sherpa, a social worker from Lapche.

    Although it has been a month since the lifting of the Indian blockade and petroleum imports have improved, the project continues to reel under fuel shortage.

    Although the government has pledged providing the required amount of fuel to national pride projects, neither local petrol stations are receiving fuel on a daily basis nor the project has been directly supplied with fuel from Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), according to project officials.

    The project requires a tanker of fuel (12kl) every day, but it has been receiving just a fraction of that quantity, that too at the recommendation of the local administration. “Works on the access road to the dam require 500 litres a day,” said Neupane.

    Locals complained about the delay in the maintenance of the roads damaged by the quake. They also accused the project for its failure to coordinate with the locals to solve its problems.

    The project has not made public the damage caused by the earthquake at the dam site. The dam has subsided 17 centimetres due to the quake. The project has said it has been conducting a “deep study” of the damage, but has claimed it is not “a big problem”.

    “We are hopeful the access roads will be repaired within the next two months,” said Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) Managing Director Mukesh Kafle. “Then, the contractor will be remobilised in a full-fledged manner.”

    Meanwhile, two problems—lack of electricity and obstruction by the forest authority to erect transmission lines, have been solved. The Cabinet has allowed chopping off 4,341 trees along the transmission line route and the project site has been reconnected with the national power grid.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post