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Nepal takes a decade to build hydro project

  • 30 MW Chameliya Project
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Dec 24, 2017-

Chameliya Hydropower Project, one of the most delayed infrastructure projects and one of the most expensive hydro projects in terms of per megawatt installed capacity, is finally on the verge of generating electricity, as it began ‘wet test’ of hydro- and electro-mechanical equipments on Saturday.

The construction of the 30MW peaking hydropower project began a decade ago, but due to various disputes with the Chinese contractor, completion deadlines were pushed back time and again. The project based in Darchula in the far western part of country finally completed its civil and hydro- and electro-mechanical works recently and began wet test of the plant on Saturday afternoon. The test, according to the project office, will last for a couple of weeks before electricity is generated in full capacity.

During the wet test, water from the tunnel will be channelled into various hydro- and electro-mechanical equipments, including the plant’s turbines. Technicians will then check if all the machines are functioning properly. 

Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company, the electro- and hydro-mechanical contractor hired by Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the project’s owner, on Saturday afternoon tested the turbine by operating it at 5 percent of its capacity. “The contractor will gradually increase the speed of the turbine and conduct wet test in full capacity by Sunday evening,” said Ajay Kumar Dahal, NEA-appointed project chief of Chameliya. 

The wet test was supposed to start a month ago. This would have enabled the project to generate electricity in full capacity by now. The test, however, could not begin early due to problem in one of the two radial gates located near the intake of the power plant. 

The gate was later repaired by China Gezhouba Group Corporation, the civil contractor of the project hired by NEA, and handed over to the Korean hydro- and electro-mechanical contractor on Thursday. 

After the successful wet test, one of the most troubled hydro projects, which saw 

significant time and cost overruns, will finally be completed. 

The construction of Chameliya started in January 2008 and was originally scheduled to be completed by June 2011. But the completion date was pushed back repeatedly due to disputes between NEA and the Chinese contractor. Work at the site came to a halt in May 2014 after the government refused to make an additional payment of Rs1.09 billion for what the Chinese contractor referred to as “cost variance resulting from the squeezing of the tunnel”. 

The contractor agreed to resume work after being summoned to the Energy Ministry and told to do so immediately by then energy minister Janardan Sharma. 

The Chinese contractor restarted construction in October 2016 after more than two years and completed civil works within the September deadline. 

All these delays and problems have escalated the cost of building Chameliya to around Rs500 million per megawatt, including construction of transmission line, as against Rs150-200 million per MW for projects built by the private sector. 

Published: 24-12-2017 08:24

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