Hydropower Projects Timely Completion A Must
Nepal has been suffering from an energy crunch for years. This has made a mockery of the huge hydro potential the country has at its disposal. In fact, having resources is one thing while utilising them for development is quite the other thing. Successive governments have a penchant for merely assuring the people that sufficient energy, especially hydropower, will be developed in a certain period of time, say five or ten or twenty years. But such declarations tend to get erased even before some concrete plans are drawn up.
In the past, there was talk of generating up to 25,000 MW of electricity in 20 years, aiming at fulfilling not only domestic requirements but also exporting it to foreign countries, especially India. Former Premier KP Sharma Oli rumbled forth in January of this year that load shedding would be eliminated within one year. Now, his government is gone and it is futile to dig up what he had said in January to lay his hands on cheap popularity.
To be upfront, the Oli-led government did not lift a finger to make plans for eradicating load shedding. While being lost in dream projects such as generating electricity from wind, supplying every household with piped gas and starting the metro transportation system, the government got toppled at the hands of the CPN-Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress.
The present government under the leadership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been in power for a month. During the period, the government has floated several plans ranging from increasing grant amounts for the earthquake victims to developing the energy sector. The government has stressed the need for giving momentum to hydropower projects under construction so that load shedding can be extirpated at the earliest.
The government-run projects under construction have a capacity of generating over 1,000 MW of electricity. Likewise, private companies are also constructing hydropower projects with a capacity of over 1,000 MW. The government aims at completing all these projects within this fiscal year. But a dangerous trend has gripped the country: quick change of government. The Oli-led government remained only for nine months. The present government under the leadership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal also has a lifespan of nine months, after which the Deuba-led government will take over. Such a trend of changing the guard quickly may affect the performance of the aforesaid hydropower projects being run at the initiative of the government and the private sector.
It is a good decision of the government to complete all the hydropower projects under construction by the fixed deadline. But what should be kept in mind that it is also equally important to know why such hydropower projects failed to complete in time in the past. The country has a good experience with this. When a hydropower project is launched, hurdles of one kind or the other crop up. Such hurdles range from land acquisition, compensation to the affected households and topographical barriers to obstruction by the locals and the political leaders themselves. Such a trend (obstruction by the locals and the political leaders) is mostly responsible for bringing to naught hydropower projects in the country.
There is no alternative to developing hydropower projects to eliminate load shedding in the country. Solar power can be just supplementary in the present context. The government is mulling over installing solar power systems in all the seven provinces within six months. Such systems will generate 150 MW of electricity. On the other hand, developing nuclear power for generating electricity is quite out of the question right now. The country has squandered many years by leaving its huge hydro potential untapped. Hydropower development has been given just lip service till now. Time has come to reverse this trend.
The plan of the present government is not misplaced. Instead of launching new hydropower projects, it is really prudent to complete the project in progress. Giving continuity to such projects is the need of the hour. For the materialisation of the government plan, cooperation from the locals, the political parties and other stakeholders is a must. The locals should not press for unreasonable demands in such a way as to hamper the projects. On the other hand, the political parties should not kick up an unnecessary hullabaloo about the projects. Nor should they instigate the locals to hamper the projects.
Resources do not seem to be a problem when it comes to launching hydropower projects. The Nepalese banks and financial institutions are capable of financing some hydropower projects. Foreign countries, donors and agencies are also willing to finance such projects. It is relevant to note that it has been four or five years since the government signed a project for constructing the 750 MW West Seti Hydropower Project with China. The project has not been able to proceed for one reason or the other. It seems the government is not interested in the project. Such is the fate of hydropower development in the country.
Political honesty matters much when it comes to hydropower development in the country. First, the government must have the will. The political parties should also show honesty and prudence and cooperate with the good deeds of the government. Most of the political leaders are Janus-faced. They say one thing while in the government and quite the other while out of the government. They must part with such hypocrisy.
The plan of the government to develop hydropower is quite praiseworthy. But the days of the government are numbered. Its term is restricted to just nine months. Thereupon, another government will come into existence. The new government may not give continuity to the plan of the present government. It is an old malpractice for a new government to discard the plans and programmes of its predecessor and to dislodge honchos from government entities appointed by the previous government. Prudence dictates that such a malpractice must be steered clear of forever.
An end to load shedding, which has become part and parcel of the people, will bring great relief to them as well as business houses. For this, concerted efforts from all quarters are a must. Whether the ongoing hydropower projects will get completed within this fiscal year is, however, in the womb of time. If the government shows the determination and will to complete the projects at any cost, there is no reason why the projects will not complete in time.