The Struggle for Power: Locals’ Obstructions Affecting Nepal Electricity Authority’s Transmission Line Projects

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Undue demands by the locals with NEA have hindered the erection of power lines along major corridors

The state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has been facing obstructions from the locals while building transmission lines across the country. The locals have demanded hefty compensation from the NEA to erect the transmission lines which are essential to evacuate electricity generated from the power plants located far away from the urban centres. Because of the continued obstructions from the locals, the energy produced from the power plants has gone to waste while industries and businesses in the cities are reeling under acute power shortage. The private sector which has invested billions of rupees in the energy sector has also not been able to recoup its investment due to delay in constructing and upgrading the power lines along the major industrial corridors such as Birgunj and Biratnagar, where most of the industries are located. A report from Sarlahi says that the locals of Lalbandi area have been obstructing the upgradation of the 132 kV double circuit transmission line since October 6, demanding compensation for the land occupied by the NEA for building the physical infrastructure. The land and the right of way for the transmission line was acquired by the state power utility some 41 years ago, and now the locals have been demanding that they be allowed to mortgage the land beneath the right of way. As per the law and related rules, the land legally owned by the government cannot be mortgaged in a bank for taking personal loans.

NEA has been upgrading the existing transmission system by replacing the outdated, low-capacity wires along the 136-km stretch from Hetauda to Dhalkebar substation in Dhanusha. Once the stretch is upgraded, the flow of electricity and capacity of the East-West 132 kV double circuit transmission line will in-crease in the region. Upgradation of the power line will also help export surplus energy to India via the Dhalkebar sub-station. Approximately, 36 km of one circuit wire on the 40-km line between Dhalkebar and Nawalpur substation in Sarlahi have been successfully replaced. But replacement of the old wires on 4 kilometres in Lalbandi area has yet to kick start due to the local obstruction. This kind of obstruction from the locals has hindered the supply of electricity in between Hetauda and Dhalkebar substation.

Managing Director of NEA Kulman Ghising has expressed serious concern over the local obstruction while replacing the four-decade-old lines. Ghising has said the Birgunj area, which is the major hub of the country’s industries and commerce, will face acute power outage during the winter season. The ongoing discussions between the local authorities, agitating locals and the NEA officials have failed to yield any positive results. If the locals’ demands are to be met, a Cabinet decision must be taken to allow the locals to mortgage the land that lies beneath the power line. It should, however, be borne in mind that the land for the towers and the right of way was acquired by NEA four decades ago. The elected officials of all the political parties must convince the locals that their obstruction will not augur well for the nation-building process. Furthermore, the banks might not agree to accept such property as collateral.

Source: Himalayan Times