The cabinet had approved a proposal of clearing forest along the right of way of Koshi corridor transmission line in April, but the process has stalled due to bureaucratic hurdles. The line agencies under the Ministry of Forest and Environment have not even identified the trees to be cut down.
Tree felling along the 105-km double circuit of 220 KVA transmission line is yet to begin, although a contractor has already been mobilized for laying the transmission line.
The transmission line spans from Inaruwa in the plains to Tumlingtar of Sankhuwasabha in the hills. The line passes through Dhankuta and Terhathum districts.
The line is key to evacuating power from different hydropower plants, including Arun III, to the Koshi river corridor and nearby areas. However, the delay in construction of the transmission line is sure to hit supply of electricity.
Speaking at a press meet on Monday, Managing Director of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) Kulman Ghising said that they are still waiting for forest clearance. “We need cooperation from the forest authority for implementation of projects,” said Ghising.
He added that building transmission lines has become a cumbersome process, and laying each pylon tower seemed like executing an entire project.
“Authorities in Dhankuta have not yet agreed to start marking the trees to be felled, while in Sankhuwasabha and Sunsari they have agreed only to start marking trees. However, the actual work is yet to start,” said Rajan Dhakal, the project manager.
“Authorities have put conditions regarding providing land to compensate forest land before even beginning to mark the trees,” Dhakal added.
According to Managing Director Ghising, the officials of the forest ministry understand that building power lines was urgent, but they tend to point to the guidelines for priority projects on the use of forest lands, which has been delaying the project.
The project is financed by Indian Line of Credit. The cost of the transmission line is US$ 37 million. Indian company Kalpataru Power Transmission Line was entrusted the project work through a contract two years ago.
Managing Director Ghising also clarified that there were no issues of corruptions in the second phase of the project that includes building four substations along the transmission line. Some media reports claimed that the NEA administration accepted higher quotes in the second tender after terminating the first round of tender process.
According to Ghising, the contract of the second phase was terminated after the Exim Bank of India, the financing agency for the project, rejected the selected company. The NEA then awarded the second phase contract to ‘Larsen & Turbo Limited India’, at a price tag of US$ 25.30 million (the amount is 8.96 percent lower than the estimated cost) through a new tender process.