Upper Tamakoshi likely to come online next year

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    More than 95 percent of the construction work on the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project is complete, but it may take another year for the plant to come online as hydro-mechanical works have been delayed, project officials said.

    The major reason behind the hold-up in the hydro-mechanical works is the inability and unwillingness of the Indian contractor to execute the task which falls under the second package of the project. The 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi project located in Dolakha district in eastern Nepal is owned by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA).

    At least one of the six turbines of the plant should be churning out power by December 2018 as per the revised deadline set by the government while the entire project should come online by April 2019. But officials working on the project say it will not happen.

    Texmaco Limited, the Indian company hired to implement the hydro-mechanical works, is yet to start fitting the penstock pipe in the tunnel which is the major component of its task, a project official told the Post. The penstock pipes deliver water from the tunnel into the turbines in the powerhouse to rotate them to generate electricity.

    The contractor needs to fit the 495-metre penstock pipe in the tunnel to channel water to six turbines located in the underground powerhouse, but it is yet to start work. “It seems the Indian contractor is not willing to work as it has not started that component of the job despite our repeated instructions,” said the project official.

    Apart from project officials, the NEA management too has been putting pressure on the Indian company to speed up construction. Likewise, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had directed project officials to meet the completion deadline of the hydropower plant during his visit to the site in Dolakha in April.

    Stating that his administration had adopted a policy to avoid delays, Oli underscored the need to take the project ahead without delaying it for one single day. He even warned that immediate action would be taken against those responsible for causing delays in the construction of the project. But that didn’t not bring any change in the pace of work of the Indian contractor.

    The dillydallying by the Indian contractor has affected the work schedule of other contractors too. For example, the civil contractor needs to fix the penstock pipe in position by pouring concrete after the hydro-mechanical contractor installs it.

    Work began on the Upper Tamakoshi project before the 2015 earthquakes, and 79 percent of the civil works had been completed before the disaster struck. The quake and subsequent Indian trade blockade held up tunnel construction works. The national pride project was originally scheduled to be completed in mid-July 2016, but it was delayed due to various technical and social issues. It faced cost overruns due to the delays.

    According to NEA sources, the total cost of the project is likely to exceed Rs50 billion, significantly higher than the initial estimate of Rs35.3 billion. Nevertheless, the project is considered to be a role model project which is being developed with domestic resources and a high level of participation by project-affected locals and the general public.

    Source : The Kathmandu post