KATHMANDU, May 25: The completion of the Upper Tamakoshi Hydro Electric Project (UTHEP) is likely to be delayed as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown in the country.
The mega project is likely to miss its deadline because of the lack of construction materials, manpower and equipment. The project was expected to come into operation by mid-June but the surfacing of COVID-19 has impacted the project deadline. “The supply of construction materials like cement and chemicals is not smooth and equipment from India have not been brought to Nepal, complicating the work,” said Ganesh Prasad Neupane, spokesperson for the project, “Hydromechanical parts and equipment are still stuck in the factories at Kolkata and also the project is facing the lack of manpower.”
The 456 MW project was employing nearly 1,000 workers before the lockdown, whereas it has around 600 working at the site at present. According to project officials, the workers left for their respective homes after the lockdown and some recently left to harvest their crops.
As the continuation of the COVID-19 crisis is unpredictable, the completion date is expected to be pushed back. “The completion date can go as late as the month of October (during Dashain, Tihar),” Neupane added.
Though the construction work is going on at the project site as per the government’s directive to continue with important development projects across the country, the project has stagnant progress. The project has achieved 99.4% work progress. According to the project, of the 310 meters long penstock pipes, installation of only 59 meters penstock is remaining in the upper vertical shaft. “Workers have been quarantined in the camp inside the project territory and they are not allowed to leave, neither anyone from outside can enter the site,” Neupane told Republica Online, adding, “To contain the spread of COVID-19 we carry out daily tests and have kept them in quarantine abiding by the procedure the government has issued for the workers currently working at the site.”
Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) in 2007 had established Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Limited Company as the executing agency for the implementation of the project. NEA has 41 percent stake in the project followed by Nepal Telecom (six percent) Citizen Investment Trust (two percent) and Rastriya Beema Sansthan (two percent). Similarly, the general public and locals of Dolakha will have 15 percent and 10 percent shares, respectively. Contributors in Employees Provident Fund (EPF), NEA and Company’s staff and staffers of financial institutions providing loans will have the remaining 24 percent shares. The national pride project will be the largest hydroelectric plant in Nepal after its completion. The project is financed by domestic financial institutions and companies.