The UTHPP will be a game changer in the country's energy sector when all the turbines start churning out electricity round-the-year

While launching the "Mero Kitta", a digital platform prepared by the Department of Survey to allow people to check land plots online and get them printed from home, in the capital on April 15, Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli was miffed at the 'unnatural delay' in the completion of the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project (UTHPP), a national pride project being developed solely by Nepali investors.

He also warned that he would not 'tolerate' any further delay in the project, which is nearing its completion.

At that time, he said the country is incurring a loss of Rs 130 million a day as a result of its inordinate delay. The PM said he would pay special attention to the timely completion of the project, which will help reduce the import of electricity from India once it comes into operation. But the completion of the project has been delayed due to the project's utter failure in installing the vertical slabs, the most difficult part of the entire project, which has been delayed by many years thanks to the devastating earthquake in 2015 followed by the Indian border blockade for more than six months. He also warned that the government would penalise those who were responsible for the inordinate delay of the project.

Against this backdrop, officials at the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation (MoEWRI) have expressed full commitment to start generating at least 76MW of electricity from one of its six turbines by mid-May, meaning within three weeks from now. They said the project would come into full-fledged operation by August as the arduous vertical slabs have already been installed successfully, making it possible for the project to testrun at the earliest. During a meeting at the parliamentary Finance Committee the other day, Secretary at the MoEWRI Dinesh Kumar Ghimire gave assurances that the UTHPP would start churning out electricity from one of its six turbines by mid- May. He said that production would gradually increase over the months of June, July and August. Nepal Electricity Authority Executive Director Hitendra Dev Shakya even went on to say that they were planning to generate energy on as early as May 3 from one of the units.

Established in 2007 as an autonomous company within the NEA, construction of the project was kick-started in 2011 with a deadline of completing it in 2018 at the initial cost of Rs 35.29 billion (US$ 441 million). However, the cost overruns of the national pride project have pushed its price to around Rs 76 billion, which is more than double the initial cost estimates, mainly because of the delay in the construction, the 2015 earthquake, border blockade, increased interests and depreciation of the Nepali currency against the US dollar over the years. Despite all these hiccups, the UTHPP will be a game changer in the country's energy sector when all the turbines start producing energy round-the-year. Nepal will also be in a position to export surplus energy to India as per the Power Trade Agreement during the wet season when all the power plants operate at full capacity.

At the same time, the government, the NEA and policymakers should work in-tandem to find ways to complete all national pride projects in time.

Clear Khula Manch

Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has given its word to remove the temporary bus park from Khula Manch within a week, and it must stick to it.

This public space has been occupied by buses operating on various routes since the past five years after the KMC shifted the Old Bus Park of Kathmandu to Khula Manch just across the street as it was building a multi-storey view tower-cum-business complex.

And the private contractor responsible for building the temporary bus terminal have had a field day since, renting the space at minimal price. Although it was supposed to build only a few structures, namely two bus stands, a restaurant and some toilets, it has added many more, making handsome profits by renting them out at exorbitant prices.

The KMC is thinking of allowing the short-route vehicles to operate from the Ratna Park area nearby.

But this is likely to add to the traffic chaos that is already prevalent there. The only solution to the problem is to complete the bus terminal at the Old Bus Park as early as possible by modifying the design of the view tower. With the Dharahara due for completion anytime soon, there is no need of another view tower, or a shopping complex.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 20, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.