KATHMANDU, MAY 11 –
The Ministry of Energy (MoE) has directed the Nepal Electricity Authority ( NEA ) to come up with a detailed proposal to enhance the capacity of the Upper Trishuli-3A Hydropower Project from 60 to 90 MW within a week.
Energy secretary Hari Ram Koirala, who has been lobbying hard to upgrade the project’s capacity, issued the order a couple of weeks ago. However, the Supreme Court and the Cabinet have authorised the NEA to make the decision in this regard. MoE and NEA officials said that Koirala’s instruction was intended to press the NEA to upgrade the project’s capacity.
In July last year, the MoE was dragged into controversy after it one-sidedly moved ahead for capacity upgradation despite objections from the Ministry of Finance (MoF). The Cabinet had given its approval in principle to enhance the project’s capacity.
Following the agreement, advocate Loknath Chapagain filed a writ at the Supreme Court on Jan 8 challenging the Cabinet’s move. In its final verdict, the court, however, said the Cabinet had given its approval only in principle stating that the NEA should reach a decision after conducting a study of the project’s financial and technical aspects.
The NEA board is now authorized to make the final decision in this regard, and it has already asked the NEA management to study and advise if the capacity should be increased or not. “The committee has not initiated the study intentionally as it is of the view that the project’s capacity increment would do more harm than good for the country,” said a member of the management committee. The MoE official said that the energy secretary, taking advantage of the NEA ’s indecision, directed the NEA to submit a proposal in this regard a couple of days ago.
Energy secretary Koirala confirmed that he had instructed the NEA not to delay the process and come up with a decision soon whether the project’s capacity should be enhanced or not. “Due to lack of a decision, the project’s construction has been held up for more than a year,” he said. “The project should not be made a victim of indecisiveness.”
However, he refuted charges that he had directed upgrading the capacity. “I do not know if the capacity should be increased or not as it is the NEA ’s task to decide that.” He added he was only of the opinion that a clear decision should be made in this regard as soon as possible.
NEA officials have also complained that energy secretary Koirala has no authority to issue directives to the NEA . The contractor had signed an agreement with the NEA in May 2010 in which it had pledged to complete the project (then 60 MW) by May 2014. The decision to increase the capacity means that the project will be pushed back by three years besides requiring an additional investment of Rs 4 billion.
The Chinese contractor, China Gezhouba Group Co, had long been demanding that the project be upgraded. After its plan to upgrade the project was rejected twice by the MoF and the NEA board, the ministry had sent the proposal to the Cabinet in mid-December.
Source : The Kathmandu Post