Kathmandu- The Nepal Electricity Authority has received clearance to chop down 38,545 trees on the route of the planned Hetauda-Dhalkebar-Duhabi transmission line in Rautahat and Bara districts.
Following the Cabinet’s go-ahead, the project office has moved to mobilise workers to expedite the construction of the much-delayed multimillion-dollar power line.
“We will clear a path through community and national forests for the power line as soon as the Forest Ministry and regional offices grant a written permit,” said Shyam Kumar Yadav, project chief.
Despite receiving approval in Rautahat and Bara, the project, which has reported 70 percent physical progress till date, is yet to obtain easement rights in Makwanpur and Sarlahi districts.
“Locals have created obstructions to the erection of transmission pylons on private land in Sarlahi while there are similar disputes in Makawanpur,” said Yadav. “The alignment of the transmission line in Makwanpur passes through plots occupied by squatters.”
The power line passes through 11 districts in the southern plains. The electric utility needs to chop down 131,229 trees to construct 792 towers, 319 of them on community forest land and 473 on private plots.
As per the project office, it needs to cut down at least 66,371 trees in Rautahat, Bara and Makawanpur districts.
“A report on possible ways to resolve the conflict in Makwanpur is under consideration at the Energy Ministry; and once the Cabinet grants our request, the project will be free of easement issues,” said Yadav.
The 288-km-long transmission line extending from Hetauda to Inaruwa is a component of the multimillion-dollar strategic Nepal-India Electricity Transmission and Trade Project expected to strengthen Nepal’s grid and facilitate the trade of 1,000 megawatts of electricity between the neighbours.
The project has floundered to the chagrin of donors, including the World Bank and various bilateral funding agencies. According to an official close to the situation, World Bank officials have said that they will not disburse funds after April 2020 as the project has crossed the limit for delays.
As of July, the World Bank had disbursed $83.42 million out of the pledged amount of $99 million in four instalments starting 2011, records show.
Initially, the project was to be completed by 2018. Authorities revised the deadline till 2020 because of natural disasters, implementation delays and dismissal of several contractors undertaking substation projects.
Easement issues have held up the project as the high capacity line requires a wider corridor width of 46 metres.
The government has also accorded priority to the transmission line and three 220 kV substations in this fiscal year’s budget as the infrastructure will open up new avenues of power trade between Nepal and India.
According to the Nepal Electricity Authority, Inaruwa substation will be a strategic power trade point with two high voltage lines running from Inaruwa to Purnea in Bihar.
The power utility has plans to evacuate electricity generated by plants in Ilam, Phidim and the Kabeli cluster to Bihar to augment power supply during the monsoon when Nepal’s run-of-the-river schemes operate at full capacity.
The government’s Transmission System Development Plan has also identified Inaruwa as a significant load centre in the region with an annual demand forecast of around 3,000 megawatts.
Currently, a consortium of Siemens and Telmos Electronics is building the substations in Hetauda and Inaruwa. The consortium was awarded the contract in 2018 after the power utility fired Chinese contractor Central China Power Grid in 2017.
According to the World Bank, the project will establish cross-border transmission capacity between India and Nepal of about 1,000 megawatts to facilitate electricity trade between the two countries and increase the supply of electricity in Nepal by sustainable imports of at least 100 megawatts.
The Kathmandu Post