EDITORIAL: Due priority

The MoFSC must set a deadline either to approve or reject the proposal of any hydropower project for the use of forest areas

One of the biggest hurdles the private hydropower developers face is to get clearance of forest from the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC). Once a hydropower developer gets a license from the Department of Electricity Development to generate energy and completes other legal procedures from the Ministry of Energy and Nepal Electricity Authority the developer has to get clearance from the MoFSC to use the forest for the construction of the project and its transmission lines if both have to pass through the forest areas. The MoFSC delays  the clearance of forest area citing one or the other reasons. As per the existing provision it is mandatory to get clearance from the MoFSC to cut trees and build power plants and transmission lines if they come across the forest areas. The existing rules are that the power developers are required to submit their files first at the Ministry of Energy which forwards them to the National Planning Commission (NPC), and then it is forwarded to the Ministry of Forest which takes months for clearance. By that time the developers will have to waste several months to get approval from the MoFSC.

The latest decision of the NPC has tried to assist the hydel projects which have been listed as national priority projects considering the perennial shortage of energy in the country. The NPC has instructed the MoFSC to facilitate the hydel projects when it comes to clearing the forests within a deadline set by the ministry. With this circular issued by the NPC, no private hydel projects will be required to get approval of the policy-making apex body for the clearance of the forests. The concerned ministry itself can issue a clearance certificate for the use of forest area. Any national priority project gets clearance for the use of forest area. All hydel projects – small or big – have also been considered as  national priority projects. The NPC’s decision to solely authorize the MoFSC for the forest clearance will shorten about one month’s time for the developers. This decision was taken to expedite the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and to shorten the time and resources that developers have to spend for getting clearance of forest areas.

But it is still unclear whether the MoFSC will abide by the NPC decision as the Council of Ministers has yet to take a decision on the NPC line. The Cabinet will have to amend the forest guidelines that it had endorsed earlier if the NPC decision is to be implemented. Until now, not all hydropower projects were treated as national priority projects and some of them had to wait for long to get approval from the MoFSC for use of the forest areas. Some hydel projects could not kick start the construction process on time as the forest ministry kept the files on hold for months without giving any convincing reasons. The MoFSC must set a deadline either to approve or reject the proposal of any hydel project for the use of forest areas. The ministry must give ample reasons before rejecting the proposal of any hydel project on environmental grounds.

Space crunch

The Kaiser Library in Thamel was badly damaged by the major earthquakes in 2015. It has been decided to retrofit the library. There is not enough space for the books and manuscripts in the library. The first floor of the library is not fit for use. Therefore, the library is using only the ground floor. It is believed that the library possesses around 50,000 books and more than 600 manuscripts. After the earthquakes the books were kept in sacks. Now, however, they are kept in racks. The trouble is the books are not in proper alphabetical order as a result of which the librarians find it difficult to provide the books that the visitors demand.

Equally distressing is the fact that those who visit the library have to sit under tarpaulins in order to read the books and newspapers. Even years after the devastating earthquake the concerned have not succeeded in retrofitting the building. Moreover, the library possesses many valuable books many of which could not be recovered causing irreparable damage. The library is binding the newspapers in order to store them for use in the future. The library has been able to bind around 1,200 old books so far. It is difficult to understand why the Kaiser Library building has not been retrofitted despite ample time that has been allocated for it.