Kathmandu, July 1
GMR Upper Karnali Hydropower Ltd, a subsidiary of GMR Energy India that is developing the 900-megawatt Upper Karnali Hydropower Project, has said that land compensation to individuals affected by the project will begin from this week.
The developer is going to acquire 1,000 ropanis of private land in Dailekh and Achham districts. Land compensation distribution process was expected to end by June this year as per the agreement with locals. However, the time schedule was deferred in consultation with government agencies due to local polls. Land compensation for the locals range between around Rs 800,000 and Rs 900,000 per ropani in Dailekh and Achham districts.
The project, spread over Dailekh, Surkhet and Achham districts in western Nepal, has sought additional 5,000 ropanis of government land on lease.
However, the project developer now has additional worries owing to the changes in forest rules. The recently issued ‘Guidelines on Utilisation of Forest Area by National Priority Projects’ by the forest ministry requires the developer to pay compensation for entire affected area.
“Land compensation amount will rise significantly if the developer has to compensate for the entire 6,000 ropanis of land,” complained Shailendra Guragain, president of the Independent Power Producers’ Association-Nepal. On the other hand, as per the new forest rules, the developer needs to plant 25 saplings in another area of similar topography for chopping every tree for the project and nurture the saplings for five years.
Guragain said that the recent forest rules are against the spirit of project development agreement (PDA). “The government should take into consideration the set conditions as per which the developer came here to implement the project when it signed the PDA in 2014,” Guragain said, adding,
“Inconsistency in government laws and policies are discouraging factors for foreign investment.”
Initially, the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation had asked the developer to pay compensation only for the land area where permanent structures of the project, like powerhouse and dam would be built. Also, there was a provision requiring planting a sapling for each tree that needed to be cut down after the project completed the initial environmental examination (IEE).
However, the government suddenly changed the rules, which would inflate the cost for the developer significantly. The developer has also drawn attention of Investment Board Nepal — which looks into implementation of hydropower projects with generation capacity of above 500 megawatts — about the new rules and requested for necessary facilitation.
A version of this article appears in print on July 02, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.