Upper Karnali project expected to resume after long hiatus

Published On: December 22, 2019 09:31 AM NPT By: NAGENDRA UPADHYAY AND GOVINDA KC

Bangladeshi authority permits import of energy from project to be built by GMR

SURKHET, Dec 22: Locals are elated with hopes that the impasse regarding construction of the proposed Upper Karnali Hydropower Project will end, as the Bangladeshi government has approved purchasing electricity produced by the Indian developer Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao (GMR).

The project had remained in limbo for long as its construction was put on hold by the developer. In the recent move, Bangladesh has formalized its pledge to buy electricity from the 900-MW project in Nepal. 

The Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase of Bangladesh on Wednesday paved way for the Bangladeshi authority to import 500 MW electricity at the rate of 7.71 cents per unit for a period of 25 years, reported Dhaka Tribune, a Dhaka-based national English-language daily.

Earlier, discussion on power trade between the Indian developer and Bangladeshi energy officials was stuck mainly due to disagreement on the tariff. As per the proposal cleared by Bangladeshi officials, the country will pay out a massive Tk 381.60 billion (equivalent to Rs 511.69 billion) over 25 years to procure 500 megawatts of electricity. 

Nepal will receive 108 MW out of the remaining 400 MW for free while GMR plans to sell the rest to the Indian state of Haryana.

The locals in western Nepal are hoping that the project construction will take pace with the new development. “We have high hopes that the project construction will be expedited soon,” said Chandra Bahadur Shahi, a resident of the project-affected area.

Last year, GMR had made a move to exit from the project at a time when compensation distribution had started for the affected locals. The company had even removed its field office and the liaison office based in Surkhet, which had made the whole project uncertain. 

"With GMR's move, we had almost lost hope that the project would go any further," said Shahi who owns property on the proposed dam site of the project. "However, the recent move of Bangladesh has given us a ray of hope again.”

Shahi added that the locals were willing to provide any help to expedite the project. “If the project goes ahead, the local people here will benefit the most. They will be compensated and lots of jobs will be created. The state can earn more revenue,” he added. 

Jivan Thapa, resident of project-affected area in Sattala of Dailekh, said the contractor company should finalize the compensation work soon. “We are hopeful that the project will not be abandoned now,” said Thapa.

Thapa criticized concerned parties for politicizing the project. The Upper Karnali project expands to Dailekh, Achham and Surkhet districts. "Had the project been constructed on time, it would have made the local people better off,” he added.

Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with India's NVVN to import electricity from the Upper Karnali via India during Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India in April 2017. KK Sharma, project chief of GMR-Upper Karnali Hydropower Project, said GMR would sign a power purchase agreement with the Power Development Board of Bangladesh within five months.

Sharma said the authorities had targeted to complete the distribution of land compensation and cutting of trees within 2020 and begin construction work by 2021. “We have aimed to produce energy in the next five years,” he said. According to him, the project will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 170 billion.

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