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Army likely to bag Bhimdang Khola hydro project

- BIBEK SUBEDI, Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Mar 15, 2017- The Department of Electricity Development (DoED) has recommended to the Energy Ministry to award the Bhimdang Khola Hydropower Project to the Nepal Army.

The 32 MW scheme will be built on the Bhimdang River in Manang in western Nepal and is estimated to cost Rs37 billion.

“The department has sent a letter to the ministry requesting it to award the project located in Manang district to the army,” DoED Director General Nabin Raj Singh told the Post. “The ministry will make the final decision on awarding the construction contract.”

The Energy Ministry confirmed receiving such a recommendation from the department and said that they were studying it.

“Currently, we are evaluating the pros and cons of awarding the project to the army,” said a reliable source at the ministry. “If we choose to go ahead with the department’s recommendation, we will seek the Finance Ministry’s approval first.”

The Energy Ministry still has to take the proposal to the Cabinet which will make the final decision.

“The Cabinet will also have to decide the modality under which the project will be given to the army,” said the source. “The Cabinet will have to clear if the army can be a promoter of the project and own it. Likewise, it should state clearly how long the army will own the project.”

When private companies construct hydropower projects, they have to transfer ownership to the government after 30 years.

“The Cabinet should also clarify the role of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) when purchasing power from the army as it is the sole buyer of electricity from power producers in the country,” the source added.

The DoED received a proposal from the Nepal Army to build the 25 MW Dudh Khola and 32 MW Bhimdang Khola hydropower projects via the Defence Ministry. Both schemes are located in Manang district. The department has chosen to award the Bhimdang Khola project to the army as a test project.

If the project is awarded to the army, this will be the first instance of defence personnel being engaged in tapping the country’s hydropower potential.

Once the army gets the government’s approval, it plans to implement the project by hiring a consultant and contractor. The army will dip into the Nepal Army Welfare Fund to finance the project which is estimated to cost Rs37 billion.

“We might not have the expertise to construct a hydropower project,” said Major General Tara Bahadur Karki, spokesperson for the Nepal Army. “Therefore, we will take the help of a consultant to develop it.”

The government has frequently assigned the Nepal Army to build parts of infrastructure projects, especially roads; but it has never awarded an entire project to the military.

Recently, an army team was deployed to repair the Upper Trishuli 3A Hydropower Project that has lain non-operational since being damaged by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. The squad will repair the access road and build protection on either side of the dam of the 60 MW project.

Published: 15-03-2017 09:11

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