Nepal | May 25, 2020

Bheri Babai Project: One step forward, two steps back

Himalayan News Service
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Kathmandu, April 5

Works at Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project (BBDMP) will come to a halt for at least three months after excavation of a crucial tunnel, as the project office has not initiated procurement process to commence other pending works.

BBDMP is a national pride project, which will provide irrigation facility to 51,000 hectares of land in Banke and Bardia districts by channelling water from Bheri River to Babai River. The 33.09-billion-rupee project will also produce 48 megawatts of electricity.

Many have heaped praise on the project for completing construction of a crucial tunnel ahead of schedule, which is rare in Nepal’s physical infrastructure development sector.

Construction of the 12,210-metre tunnel began in October 2016. A Tunnel Boring Machine was used for the first time in Nepal to excavate the tunnel. The project had been given a March 2020 deadline to complete the tunnel construction work. As of now, work on 12,208-metre segment has been completed, meaning only two metres of tunnel need to be excavated. The remaining work is expected to be completed within mid-April.

“We are planning to invite Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to inaugurate the tunnel,” said BBDMP Director Sanjeeb Baral.

Early completion of this work, however, may not mean the entire project would be completed ahead of schedule, because procurement process has not been initiated to conduct other works.

Tunnel construction constitutes only 28.7 per cent of the entire project work. The major work is related to civil construction, which includes completion of headwork and construction of surge shaft and power house. Also, land needs to be acquired to build irrigation channel and power house for which environmental impact assessment must be conducted. The project also needs to complete hydro-mechanical and electromechanical works and build a transmission line.

“It will take at least three months to prepare documents required to float tender notice,” said Baral.

So why did the project office fail to initiate these works early on although it was aware that tunnel construction work would be completed ahead of schedule due to use of tunnel boring machine?

“Considering the topography, we thought even the tunnel boring machine would take longer time to excavate the tunnel. We got it wrong because this was the first time Nepal had ever used the machine,” said Baral, adding, “We are now planning to float tender notice early next fiscal year and complete the project by fiscal year 2022-23.”


A version of this article appears in print on April 06, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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