DoI’s reluctance affects Bheri-Babai diversion project

Published On: August 12, 2019 09:07 AM NPT By: Nirmal Ghimire

BARDIYA, Aug 12: Work of Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project has been affected as its proposal to test the project’s tunnel and provide irrigation facility to farmers by putting in place pumping and lifting technology gathers dust at the Department of Irrigation.

Tunnel digging work of the national pride project, which began on June 5, 2015, completed one year ahead of the schedule on April 11, 2020. The breakthrough of the tunnel was held amid much fanfare on April 16. But as the other component of the project – building a hydropower plant of 47.8 MW capacity – is not moving as per the schedule, project officials had proposed the department to provide irrigation facility to local farmers by deploying water pumping and lifting technology.

The project had sought the department’s go-ahead to install a technology to pump 8 to 10 cusec of waters from Bheri River to Babai River at an investment of Rs 200 million. According to the project, farmers will get Rs 100 million worth of benefits annually through higher crop yields once waters from Bheri River is pumped into Babai River. Studies conducted by the project have shown that the project can irrigate 36,000 hectares of land initially.

The tunnel was dug with an investment of Rs 10.57 billion using a tunnel-boring machine (TBM).

An official of the project told Republica, the lifting and pumping technology will also be crucial for testing the tunnel. “The construction company can be held liable if there is any defect in the tunnel while diverting water to Babai River using pumping and lifting technology. If there is any defect in the tunnel, the construction company will have to repair it,” the official added.

The department’s dilly-dallying means the project will not be able to test the tunnel before the hydropower project is ready for operation, which, officials say, will take a minimum of four years. 

Officials of the project say there is a risk of the tunnel being useless if there is any defect as the construction company could refuse to take responsibility for maintenance after four years.

China Overseas Engineering Company (COVEC), which built the tunnel, has estimated the cost of diverting 8 cusec of water from Bheri River to Babai River by using lifting and pumping technology at Rs 200 million. The company has told the project office that the work could be completed by January next year. 

The multipurpose project is crucial to irrigate thousands of hectares of land in Banke and Bardiya districts of Province 5 round the year. According to the project design, 40 cusec of waters of Bheri River will be diverted into Babai River through a 12.2-kilometer tunnel. The intake will be at Chiple of Surkhet, while the powerhouse will be located in Hattikhola of Bardia.

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