The Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project has nearly finished digging a 12-km tunnel using a tunnel boring machine, a first in the country. The irrigation-cum-hydropower project had dug 11.1 km, or around 92 percent of the tunnel, as of Wednesday, putting it on track to complete the excavation more than a year ahead of schedule.
If the machine maintains the current pace of progress, the excavation of the tunnel will be completed by the end of March 2019, according to Sanjeeb Baral, the government appointed project chief of Bheri Babai. “We have constructed an exit platform at the other end of the tunnel from where the tunnel boring machine will emerge,” said Baral. The multipurpose project has also completed all the precast concrete segments that will be used for the tunnel lining.
The 12-km tunnel is one of the key components of the project as it will be used to divert water from the Bheri River to the Babai River to irrigate farmland and generate electricity. The irrigation component of the project is expected to be completed well before the deadline, but the construction of the second component—the hydropower plant—is yet to begin.
The project office recently started the public procurement process to appoint a contractor to implement the second component by publishing a notice inviting interested firms to apply for prequalification to construct the headworks, surge shaft, penstock and powerhouse. According to Baral, the multipurpose project is planning to complete the procurement process and appoint the contractor for the second component by the end of this fiscal year.
Bheri Babai is located in Bheri-Ganga Municipality in Surkhet district in western Nepal. It will have a 15-metre high dam and divert 40 cubic metres of water per second from the Bheri River to the Babai River. The water will be used to irrigate 51,000 hectares of land throughout year in Banke and Bardia districts and generate 48 MW of electricity.
Bheri Babai is one of the strategic projects of the country as it is expected to ease the food crisis in the mid-western region by increasing agricultural yield. The government had invited bids for the construction of the project in July 2012, but lack of resources and delays in the appointment of a contractor prevented the four-year project from getting off the ground. The construction of the project was finally inaugurated in April 2015 by the then prime minister, the late Sushil Koirala.
Due to delays in the project’s implementation, the estimated cost of the project has swelled to Rs33 billion—more than double the original estimate of Rs16 billion. It is expected to make an indirect financial contribution of Rs3.1 billion annually to the state through irrigation, and a direct revenue contribution of Rs2.1 billion through electricity sales.
The Kathmandu Post