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Cross-border power line added to PM’s wish list

- BIBEK SUBEDI, Kathmandu

Aug 11, 2017-Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba will request India to expedite construction of the 400 kV Butwal-Gorakhpur cross-border transmission line during his upcoming visit to New Delhi. The power line project has lain in limbo since the southern neighbour began having second thoughts about its commercial viability. 

According to the agenda prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the prime minister’s visit, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, he will urge India to build the transmission line under the government-to-government (G2G) model. 

“The prime minister will raise this issue at the highest level during his visit,” said a Foreign Ministry official. Although Nepal and India had agreed to build the Butwal-Gorakhpur line as a backup for the Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar line to ensure uninterrupted power supply, the southern neighbour has begun to question its commercial viability. 

An energy secretary-level Joint Steering Committee meeting between the two countries held in February had agreed to endorse the detailed project report of the proposed transmission prepared by the joint technical team.

However, Nepal and India have differences over the modality under which the transmission line should be built. Nepali officials had proposed that the power line be built under the G2G model where Nepal and India will build the portion of the power line lying within their respective territories. 

Around 20 km of the 135-km power line falls in Nepali territory, and the rest lies on the Indian side.

Indian officials haven’t revealed the modality under which they prefer to develop the line, but they have repeatedly pointed out the issue of commercial viability during informal meetings with officials of the Energy Ministry. 

Nepal is considering building its section of the transmission line with a grant from Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US aid agency. MCC, according to Energy Ministry sources, has shown interest in financing the transmission line, and has asked the ministry to get an assurance from India that they will build the portion that lies in its territory. 

The ministry has accorded top priority to the planned transmission line as it can efficiently distribute imported power to high energy consuming cities like Bhairahawa, Butwal, Pokhara and Narayangadh which lie within a short distance of each other.

Moreover, the power line will be useful to evacuate surplus energy produced in the Budhi Gandaki and Marshyangdi corridors once various under-construction hydro projects there come online.

Published: 11-08-2017 08:48

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