Writ in SC challenges Nepal Water and Energy Development Company’s survey licence restoration

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    A trio of lawyers have filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court against the government’s decision to restore the survey license of Nepal Water and Energy Development Company (NWEDC).
    Advocates Mithilesh Yadav, Amarjibi Ghimire and Shambhu Prasad Dahal filed the petition on Tuesday challenging the return of NWEDC’s survey licence for the 216 MW Upper Trishuli Hydroproject 1.
    A meeting of the Cabinet’s Economic Infrastructure Committee (CEIC) held on Sunday had decided to restore the license for the next 18 months concluding that NWEDC has made progress on the project’s development.
    A month ago, the Energy Ministry had scrapped NWEDC’s license for not completing the assigned tasks on time, citing in particular its failure to sign connection and Power Purchase Agreements with the Nepal Electricity Authority and conclude an Environmental Impact Assessment.
    The petitioners have named the prime minister and his office, co-coordinator of the CEIC, the Energy Ministry, the energy secretary, the director general of the Department of Electricity Development and NWEDC as defendants.
    “As per clause 5 (1) of the Electricity Act 1992, once a license is cancelled, it cannot be re-issued to the same company,” stated the petition.
    The petitioners have also claimed that the permit was restored to NWEDC due to pressure put on the energy secretary by the prime minister.
    “The Energy Ministry presented a proposal to the cabinet as per the prime minister’s direction which was later sent to the Cabinet’s Economic Infrastructure Committee,” stated the writ. “This is against the immediate action plans on good governance and economic development, the direction of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority and clauses 4 and 5 of the Electricity Act.”
    The petition stated that the government’s decision would encourage the tendency of holding on to the license for a long time, and that the government may have to restore the licenses of two dozen other companies too which had been scrapped in the past.
    After the government cancelled NWEDC’s permit, it began lobbying for its restoration. Donor agencies like International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector lending arm of the World Bank, had met with the prime minister and varied political leaders requesting that it be given back. The company, which has South Korean investment, acquired the survey license on Jan 8, 2007.
    The estimated cost of the Upper Trishuli project, scheduled to be completed by 2018, is Rs 45.50 billion. Korea South East Electric Company will have a 50
    percent stake, Daelim Industrial Company 15 percent and Kyeryong Construction 10 percent in the project.
    Similarly, Nepali investors will own 10 percent and IFC 15 percent of the project. The project will be constructed under the Build-Own-Operate-Transfer model.