The Bhote Koshi Hydropower Project resumed generating electricity on Wednesday after laying idle for five months since its transmission towers were swept away by a massive landslide and flooding in the Sunkoshi River last August.
To compound its woes, locals and political parties prevented repair work from being done on the transmission towers demanding shares in the company, forcing the crippled 45 MW plant to languish while negotiations were held.
After the project agreed to provide a 6 percent stake to the locals, the way was cleared for repair work to be done on the transmission towers, and it finally became able to generate power.
However, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has stated that there won’t be any changes in the load-shedding schedule even though the energy generated by the power plant has been connected to the national grid.
“The hydel plant supplies around 17-18 MW of energy during the dry season,” said Bhuwan Kumar Chhetri, chief of the load dispatch centre at the NEA. “Hence, there won’t be substantial energy to allow us to cut load-shedding hours.” As of now, the NEA has been cutting off the power for around 11 hours daily.
Narendra Prajapati, chief executive officer of the Bhote Koshi Hydropower Project, said that the power plant came back online on Wednesday morning. According to Prajapati, the project is generating 19 MW of energy. “Seven transmission towers have been repaired. Production started at 3 am on Wednesday,” he said.
Apart from allotting shares to the locals, the company will give Rs 2.25 million each to two project-affected village development committees (VDC), Tatopani and Fulpingkatti.
Seven other project-affected VDCs, Marming, Gati, Maneshwara, Ramche, Dhuskun, Tekanpur and Pangretar, will jointly receive Rs 2.25 million. The payments will be made on an annual basis. According to the company, the shares will be distributed at the face value of Rs 100 per share.
It took around five months for the company and the political parties to settle the row and come to an agreement. While the ruling party Nepali Congress (NC) had demanded 10 percent of the shares in the company, the CPN-UML along with the main opposition party the UCPN (Maoist), the CPN-Maoist and Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal had asked for a 35 percent share.
The halt in the functioning of the project had led to energy worth Rs 8.6 million going to waste daily. According to Prajapati, apart from the staff salaries, the Bhote Koshi Power Company incurred a loss of Rs 1.10 billion since it was not functional for a total of 172 days.
After the standoff looked like continuing indefinitely, the Prime Minister intervened in the issue and asked the Ministry of Energy to resolve the issue.
The Bhote Koshi project is the first private sector-funded, run-of-the-river project in Nepal. It was incorporated in 1996. The power project’s plant is situated in Sindhupalchok, approximately 110 km northeast of Kathmandu .
The project has been engulfed in controversy ever since it signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the NEA in dollar terms in 1996.