Editorial

Plugged in

  • Nepal should look beyond hydroelectricity even as the need for more electricity emerges

Sep 4, 2017-The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is soon going to launch the 132 KV Blanch-Attariya Transmission Line Project. This is an event of some import, since the transmission line will connect the far-western region to the national power grid for the first time. 

And in fact, this line is only one example of the increase in energy production and supply in the country. Last year, load-shedding came down substantially after improvements in the NEA management, coupled with completion of transmission lines between Nepal and India. During Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s recent visit to Delhi, two more transmission lines that would allow importation of electricity from India to Nepal were inaugurated.

There are also a large number of small hydro projects that are currently coming into operation all across the country. All of these projects put together have succeeded in bringing electricity to large parts of the country.

As the electricity situation in Nepal improves, it is time to think of new approaches to electricity generation that ensure sustainability. Many Nepalis still dream of establishing large numbers of massive electricity producing river dams across the country; even exporting electricity to neighbouring countries.

Over the years, experts have gradually come to the opinion that this might not be the best option for Nepal. For one, large dams have major environmental impacts. In Nepal’s fragile mountain regions, earthquakes or other natural disasters could cause catastrophes in the regions surrounding, or below, large hydro dams.

Furthermore, large dams also have major effects on surrounding communities. Many groups that have occupied certain regions for many generations have been displaced by large dams. While some efforts have been made to provide compensation and to rehabilitate the displaced, they have not been sufficient.

There are numerous cases where various communities have been promised compensation, but have never received it. 

Even when they have been successfully relocated, many people find such displacement traumatic. They are used to the landscape and terrain of their original homes, and find it difficult to adapt to a new environment.

Although hydro developers are supposed to consult with local populations on hydro projects, many of these consultations are largely pro forma in nature. Future efforts to establish hydro projects should take environmental and social factors much more seriously than they have so far.

It is also time for the government to start thinking seriously about alternative sources of power generation that are much more environment friendly. The Alternative Energy Promotion Centre has been working on expanding the use of solar power, for example, but this is still in an early phase.

Much more could be done to establish large solar farms in various parts of the country. This could be one area where Nepal could solicit the support of our neighbouring countries, which have been making major strides in the production of green energy.

Published: 04-09-2017 08:28

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