Irrigation projects in priority, no new hydels included

Kathmandu, April 25

The Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation (MoEWRI) has expedited the preparations of its annual policy, programme and budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2020-21. The ministry has already received the budget ceiling from the National Planning Commission.

Sushil Chandra Tiwari, joint secretary at MoEWRI and chief of programmes, budget and monitoring division, informed that the ministry has received a budget ceiling of Rs 112 billion from the planning commission. Of this total ceiling, Rs 81 billion has been set for the energy sector and Rs 31 billion for water resources, irrigation, river control, water borne disaster control, hydrology and meteorology department.

Tiwari further said that out of the Rs 81 billion allocated for the energy sector, Rs 55 billion is being planned to be spent on projects under Nepal Electricity Authority. “We have started discussions with the Ministry of Finance on project selection and budget allocation and there are not many new programmes as we are at present dealing with the coronavirus pandemic,” he stated. “

We have completed the preliminary discussions to bring a budget that will focus more on the old programmes,” Tiwari said. “However, due to the current situation that we are facing it has not been decided yet whether the budget ceiling will go down or not,” he mentioned, adding that it will be finalised after further discussions with the Finance Ministry.

The MoEWRI is preparing to complete the ongoing projects first. As per the ministry, it will allocate more budget to such projects if necessary to complete them as soon as possible and no new plan will be launched for the moment. The budget for the upcoming fiscal year will be brought by giving more priority to irrigation and water resources sector rather than the energy sector.

“In the current context, we will give more priority to the agriculture sector which basically means allotting more budget for irrigation projects than in the previous years,” said Tiwari, adding, “For irrigation too we will be prioritising the existing schemes and then only plan on introducing new ones.”

He informed that discussions are underway to continue with the construction of ongoing irrigation projects and doing maintenance works on existing projects so that the irrigation system is in good condition.

Similarly, the ministry is planning a budget by giving more importance to the projects under construction than bringing new projects in the energy sector too.

In the projects that have started generating electricity, the work of expanding the transmission line will be given more emphasis and the plan to expand rural electrification will also be in priority in the upcoming budget.

Physical progress is likely to be very low this year among the projects that had already reached the construction stage in the previous fiscal year and current fiscal year. However, development works could not be carried out in the third quarter due to the coronavirus pandemic this fiscal. Therefore, the ministry and its subordinate bodies will have to do the work this year as well as next year.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 26, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.