Nepali Congress raps govt over Budhigandaki Hydropwer Project

Published On: November 26, 2019 09:14 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Nov 26: Nepali Congress, the main opposition in the federal parliament and six of the seven provincial assemblies, has accused the government of betraying the country by awarding the contract for the 1200 MW Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project to a Chinese firm.

In September 2018, the government had rewarded the mega project to   China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC), the same company from whom the Sher Bahadur Deuba government had snatched the project hardly six months earlier. The project is likely to be built under Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing (EPCF) modality bypassing the competitive bidding process. 

NC spokesman the Bishwa Prakash Sharma said that the decision was a 'big betrayal' to the nation. It is also a U-turn from Nepal's longstanding plans to build the project with domestic investment, he added.

“The government has been charging the consumers of diesel and petrol Rs 5 per liter since the last few years to generate funds for developing the Budhigandaki project,” said Sharma. 

The government has already collected over Rs 35 billion for the project from the sale of petrol and diesel alone, official figures show.

Sharma has questioned the rationale behind the foreign investment when the overall 'political, social and economic environment favors domestic investment'. Instead of awarding the project to China, the government could have appealed to the Nepalis inside the country and abroad to contribute funds to develop the project.

“Sadly, the dreams were trampled upon although it was considered necessary and possible to construct Budhigandki project with Nepali investment,” said Sharma.

This is the second time in a week that the NC was attacking the government over the Budhigandki project, which was awarded to the Chinese firm by ignoring a parliamentary committee's call to stall the process. 

The plight of Budhigandaki was prominently highlighted as the main opposition pointed out 21 failures of the left government last week, coinciding with Prime Minister Oli's 21 months in office. It had questioned the government's credibility, alleged non-transparency in the government's decision-making process, and criticized the government's disregard for parliamentary committee's decisions in the past.

Described as one of the most feasible mega hydropower projects in pipeline with several big investors wrestling to invest, Budhi Gandaki has long remained victim of extreme politicization.   

In June 2016, a coalition government led by prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal awarded Budhigandaki to China Gezhouba Group Corporation. In November the same year, barely five months after it was awarded, Prime Minister Sher Bhadur Deuba's government revoked it claiming that the awarding process was in violation of the Public Procurement Act.

CGGC, a subsidiary company of the China Engery Engineering Cooperation, which is owned by the Chinese government, has a dismal track record. The company has never delivered hydro projects on time. For instance, the company failed to deliver the 30 MW Chameliya Hydropower Project on time. Similarly, the Nepal Electricity Authority had terminated the contract, seized security deposit and even blacklisted the company for its poor performance in the 42.5 Lower Sanjen Hydropower Project.

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