Nepal’s umbrella organization for the entire energy sector, Energy Development Council presented various forest related problems faced during hydropower project development to Forest Minister, Agni Prasad Sapkota.
The Council explained the two main problems hydro developers are facing from the Forest Ministry, which is the Payment for Environmental Services (PES) and land gift to the government.
Sujit Acharya, the chairperson of the Council illustrated that the present energy crisis has put huge pressure on the forest of Nepal and still 82% of the energy use in the country is fuel wood. Hence, to prevent such degradation of forest area, the hydropower sector should be rapidly developed which requires a strong support from Forest Ministry.
The minister opined he was unaware about the issues of PES and land gift that the hydropower sector is facing and said he will take it in serious consideration. “I am positive towards the progress in country’s domestic energy development “the Minister said. He further said that he will consult with relevant ministries and stakeholders and resolve the issues as earlier as possible.
A week ago, the council had also forwarded various fiscal problems and suggested policy improvements to the Finance Minister, Bishnu Prasad Poudel.
Most of the hydropower projects are located in the government forest area so without the permission of the Forest Ministry, no such projects can be constructed. The Forest Ministry imposed an ad hoc rule that the hydropower developers should buy an equal portion of land to the government as a “gift”. The land should match the same geographical features that their hydro project has taken in lease and then it has to be registered in the name of district forest office.
The chairperson raised the question as to why such land gift has to be given to the government despite having the hydropower project area leased and being paid a yearly lease fee and handing over the whole project back to the government in 30 years.
The Council also informed that it takes more than 2 years to get the permission from Forest Ministry to get approval and in comparison with other countries, the most tiresome and time consuming is in Nepal. Such lengthy process directly conflicts the commitment declared by the Prime Minister, K.P. Sharma Oli in removing loadshedding within one year.
At a time where the government is planning to declare an energy emergency with the suspension of various laws to speed up the development of energy sector, the Council has continually raised the challenges faced by the entire energy sector.