‘Upper Karnali project will impact downstream projects’

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    GMR looking for feasible and economically viable options

    KATHMANDU, Sept 10: Irrigation projects downstream of Upper Karnali Hydropower Project will be affected if the project is developed according to the proposed design, a preliminary finding by a study of the downstream effect of the project revealed.

    According to the preliminary findings, the developer cannot construct a project to store water for about twenty-and-a-half hours daily during dry months and generate electricity at the full installed capacity of 900 MW during peak hours, which would be about three and a half hours long, and sell the energy at least twice the rate of normal hours.

    GMR, the Indian Developer, can sell peak hour electricity at a rate of at least twice to that of off-peak hours. The developer started the process of development of the mega-project after signing a Project Development Agreement (PDA) with the government last September and the developer has agreed to build a reregulating pond to store the water in the tailrace of the project to harmonize the water flow downstream.

    Department of Irrigation (DoI) Director General Madhav Belwase said that the developer was now trying to find the ‘best feasible’ alternatives to avoid impacting others as the project cannot be developed with three-and-a-half-hour peak-hour capacity.

    The PDA says that the developer is responsible for any downstream impact on irrigation projects and the developer has to study within six months of signing PDA to ascertain the impact as well as have to address the problem. But the developer is yet to complete the study though almost a year has gone by. The irrigation projects, including Ranijamara Kulariya of Kailali, are downstream and the irrigation facility will face shortage of water if the hydro the project stores water for a peak-hour facility.

    The developer has to get the study approved by DoI and make a reregulating dam below the irrigation project if necessary to harmonize water-flow downstream for irrigation projects.

    Experts say the cost of the project may increase as it has to prepare the reregulating dam, which is itself a huge structure like its main dam, to store the water or it can operate few of its turbines to feed irrigation projects round-the-clock. During the negotiations, DoI raised the issue of impact on the irrigation projects and accordingly DoI was given the authority to approve the impact.

    The peak-hours price is two to three times higher than normal-time prices therefore the project may have to lose the expected income of the peak-hour energy, said Khadga Bahadur Bisht, president of Independent Power Producers Association. “The cost of the reregulating dam may be too high for the developer compared to the potential earning from peak-hour energy,” Bisht added.

    Other experts are of the opinion that the government can develop a separate hydropower project downstream and generate electricity using a reregulating dam. The project is located in Dailekh, Surkhet and Achham and the project is export-oriented.

    Source : Republica