Kathmandu-The government has said that it will bring a special relief package for the energy sector after assessing the overall impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the sector.
Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation (MoEWRI) has given special priority to the energy sector, which it says is the main base for country’s economic prosperity. It has also stated that the global economic situation has been negatively affected due to the coronavirus and Nepal is not immune from it.
As per independent power producers, about Rs 200 billion has been invested in projects that are under construction and pledges of approximately Rs 600 billion have been made for investment in Nepal’s hydropower industry.
While addressing a webinar titled ‘Impact of the Corona Epidemic on the Energy Sector and the Next Steps’ organised by the Society of Economic Journalists-Nepal today, Minister for Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Barshaman Pun mentioned that the problems created by the impact of the virus will be resolved in coordination with the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Finance.
“Meanwhile, we are working on reforming various policies which will be gradually implemented.”
Minister Pun added that efforts are being made to reduce the damages in the energy sector. The government has categorised electricity service under essential services and works are being done in some projects even during the lockdown.
He also informed that the MoEWRI, in coordination with Ministry of Home Affairs, has expedited construction works in the power sector and works on some projects have not stopped even for a day. The energy minister further said that work on government-initiated projects, including Upper Tamakoshi, is continuing on a small scale and construction works of other private sector projects are also being carried out.
Minister Pun said that all the officials of the ministry have been mobilised to resolve problems caused by the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown.
“Some local bodies did not comply with the instructions of the Home Ministry when the crisis arose, but I personally have instructed the concerned chief district officers to facilitate projects under their jurisdiction,” he said.
Speaking at the webinar, Shailendra Guragain, president of Independent Power Producers’ Association, Nepal (IPPAN), informed that nearly 100,000 workers have been affected due to the halt in construction works of various hydropower projects due to the lockdown.
Stating that there is a common problem in the projects being constructed by the government and the private sector, Guragain drew the attention of the minister to facilitate the projects that are facing problems due to the lockdown by addressing the issue of interest exemption and other policy measures.
He added that the ministry should take the initiative to make special arrangements for projects whose construction completion deadline is about to expire and resolve other issues.
Addressing the concerns of IPPAN, Minister Pun vowed to provide reliefs and make special arrangements for hydropower developers. He added that about one million workers have lost their jobs due to the lockdown imposed to halt the spread of the coronavirus and around one million workers are ready to return from abroad.
“The government will do its best to provide employment to a total of two million unemployed people in various sectors,” he informed.
The Himalayan Times