Talks on West Seti hydro to be held soon

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    A delegation from China Three Gorges Corporation to arrive within next two months.

    KATHMANDU:

    west seti2A delegation from China Three Gorges Corporation will be arriving in Nepal in less than two months to discuss the development of the 750MW West Seti hydropower project. This is the first time officials of China’s state-owned power company are visiting Nepal since the arrival of a technical team last October.

    “We have received a letter from the Chinese company expressing willingness to hold face-to-face talks on the development of the West Seti hydro project. The meeting will be held in Nepal in the end of October or early November,” CEO of Nepal Investment Board Radhesh Pant said.

    At the meeting, Nepali and Chinese sides will try to break the ice of the last one and a half years and find a ‘way forward’, as nothing much has transpired since the signing of the memorandum of understanding in February 2012.

    It is believed the Chinese side will raise issues related to land acquisition, resettlement of people from the project site and development of transmission lines for power evacuation. The Nepali side, on the other hand, will try to push the Chinese team to expedite the process of rolling out the project and express commitment to extend support in land acquisition and relocation of people from the project site.

    The West Seti project is located in the far-western region of the country and will spread in four districts of Doti, Dadeldhura, Baitadi and Bajhang.

    The project has the capacity to generate electricity for 24 straight hours throughout the year, except in dry season when power generating capacity is expected to dip to eight to nine hours a day.

    Although the power project is expected to give a lift to the economy of relatively underdeveloped far-western region, issues related to relocation of people from the project site and acquisition of land for the development of the project are likely to come in the way of smooth implementation of the project.

    A study conducted by a parliamentary committee before the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly had found that the project will affect over 16,000 people of 2,125 households in 20 village development committees of four districts. Of these, close to 12,000 people of 1,393 households will have to be relocated, the study showed.

    However, these estimates were based on 2008 population census and many more people may be affected by the time works begin at the project site, forcing project developers to foot a bill of billions of rupees.

    Earlier, the parliamentary committee had suggested that the people, who stand to lose their land and houses, be relocated to Kanchanpur, Kailali and Bardiya. But whether this recommendation will be heeded is not known.

    Along with this, the problem of land acquisition is also expected to be a tough nut to crack, as only around 20 per cent of the land required for the project is owned by the government. Since a large portion of land is owned by locals, land prices are expected to shoot up, compelling project developers to fork out a huge sum.

    “I hope the government plays a facilitator’s role in this regard as such support is needed to successfully roll out the project,” Pant said.

    Source : The Himalayan Times