Privatisation of Chamelia Hydel Project opposed by locals

Ravi Dhami

Mahendranagar, May 19:

Many renowned people in Darchula and Baitadi oppose the government plan to handover the Chamelia Hydel Project, the biggest hydel project under-construction in the far western development project, to the private sector in the near future. They have said that handing over the project to private sector would directly affect villagers in the two districts. Though the work in the project started five years ago, with infrastructure development under the joint effort of Korean donor agency, KIC and Nepal Electricity Board (NEA), it was stopped due to continuous Maoists interference and threats. The project lies in Balanch of Sikhar VDC of Darchula.

The 18-km road to the project site from Gokuleshwor was constructed with technical help from KIC and NEA. Two bridges have also been constructed with direct help from KEC and NEA and construction of two more bridges are going on. Technicians involved in the project had earlier claimed that electricity produced from this project would be cheaper, compared to electricity produced from all other projects. The project has a total electricity generation capacity of 30 MW.

The project aims to distribute electricity locally. Whatever is left over following local distribution would be sent to the national electricity grid. Technician had been constructing semi-underground energy houses. But they shifted to Darchula owing to Maoists threats and a worsening security system. The construction of the project had been stranded since then.

Construction of basic physical infrastructure in the site has been completed and the government has invested a lot in it. Privatisation of this project, after such a vast investment, has received opposition from all sectors. Since it is most likely that the project would finish years later than targeted, people feel that privatisation of the project would not help.

Different political parties, commercial organisations, the civil society, human rights activists and lawyers in Baitadi district have opposed the government decision by issuing a press release. The release stated that dreams of hundreds of residents in the area to receive electricity would be shattered if the government hands over the project to a private company for commission.