Faced with threats from Maoist cadres, three Indian companies, which have investments in four hydropower projects in Nepal, have taken a natural recourse to seeking security guarantee from the government. Representatives of the three companies — GMR, PES Engineers and Bhilwara Energy — met Energy Minister Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat on Friday and sought security assurance to which Minister Mahat has expressed firm commitment. Since the stakes are very high, it is important for the government to translate its promise into action.
GMR is presently working on the 300 MW Upper Karnali and the 600 MW Upper Marsyangdi II projects. Bhilwara Energy has investment in the 120 MW Likhutar project located in Ramechhap and Okhaldhunga districts while PES Engineers has bagged the survey license for the 110 MW Phulkot Karnali project in Kalikot district. The Maoists had recently halted work at GMR-invested Upper Karnali and Upper Marsyangdi projects as a part of their anti-India campaign. While work at Upper Karnali has resumed, the Maoists haven’t yet allowed resumption of work at Upper Marsyangdi.
Such disruptions may prove to be a disaster for a country that desperately needs injection of substantial foreign investment to boost its economy, which is presently tethering on the brink. More importantly, the government must adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward any disruption on hydropower plants considering that the country is currently reeling under 10 hours of load-shedding everyday, thus putting a huge dent on the country’s growth prospects besides, of course, throwing the life of ordinary citizens out of gear.
The country presently has an installed capacity to generate about 700 MW of electricity while the peak-hours demand during winters stands at about 870 MW. With demand growing at an annual rate of about 10 percent and the fact that the generation capacity nosedives to about 250 MW during winters due to our reliance mostly on the run-of-the-river hydropower plants, we are in dire need of newer projects to add to the capacity of the national grid. In fact, our power-generation capacity during winters is so bad that had it not been for 120 MW that we have been importing from India, we would have been facing anything between 18-20 hours of power outages. In such a scenario, even common sense dictates us to protect and promote hydropower plants irrespective of whether they are being developed by Indian companies or firms from any other country around the world.