The attack carried out by an unidentified group on the staff of an Indian hydropower project in Dailekh, torching three buildings at the site, is a deplorable act and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. GMR was carrying out construction work on the 900 MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project, a most needed project for ending the chaos in power supply. The attackers, whoever they might be, are anti-development elements and must be brought to book. The government has issued a press release rightly condemning their act. But is this all that it is supposed to do when a major project is subjected to physical destruction out of vested interests?
Studies have repeatedly shown that political instability and power crisis stick out as the two biggest constraints to growth and development. And despite prolonged political turmoil, we believe no government can be indifference toward power crisis. Such crisis has not just eaten into the country’s growth prospects but also threatens to push it into economic instability. Industries have installed diesel generators but the unit cost of such power is more than double that of state supplied power. This has raised the cost of production by over 30 percent, eroding the country’s competitiveness.
No wonder the share of the manufacturing sector in GDP has dropped to about 6 percent from 10 percent over the past half decade. The negative results of this downturn are already visible: industries have shut down, jobs have been lost, inflation has jumped and trade and balance of payments deficits have soared. If we do not act sensibly now, we will be putting stability and social order at risk.
Hence, we say the attack on GMR is not just an attack on GMR but an attacked on our development potential. We urge the government to take firm steps to punish the wrongdoers. It must step up security to ensure safety for all power developers and for their investments. Undoubtedly, being a next-door neighbor, India is the most feasible market for electricity trade once we harness our hydropower potential. So Indian developers, who possess a better understanding of the Indian market, are eager to invest in mega hydro projects in Nepal.
We have said many times that all companies interested in developing hydropower here should be treated on an equal footing regardless of their country of origin. We now urge the government to get serious about rectifying the existing laxities. It has recently declared a power emergency, but mere announcement and exercises on paper will not help. Apart from tracking down the attackers of GMR, we strongly demand that the government take immediate action in the field, declare power project sites a no-strike zone and provide the required security backup to ensure uninterrupted construction work. The government must also pay heed to developers’ demands for revising the power purchase agreement.