Nothing seems impossible if top leaders of concerned ministries and officials honor their commitment and show unflinching determination. Energy minister Janardan Sharma Prabhakar, secretary Anup Kumar Upadhyaya and Nepal Electricity Authority’s Managing Director Kul Man Ghishing have shown this.
Thanks to the firm initiative of minister Prabhakar, administrative support of secretary Upadhyaya and managerial skills of Ghising, the 30-MW Chameliya Hydropower Project, which had stalled for almost 10 years, has finally come close to completion.
With the reopening of the tunnel, which had caved in under mudslides, by the contractor of the Chameliya Hydropower Project—China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC), the possibility of completion of Chameliya is now real.
The work on reopening the 843-metre section of the tunnel that had caved in started on September 28 last year and was completed on 4 March, according to energy secretary Anup Kumar Upadhyaya. Along with this, civil works of the Chameliya project have been completed and after the completion of some hydro mechanical works, the project will start commissioning power.
It is expected to take additional 70 days to complete hydro-mechanical and electro-mechanical works for the commercial operation of the project. Located in Darchula of far-western region, the 30-megawatt Chameliya Hydropower Project took seven years longer than the initial deadline for completion.
According to NEA, this has been causing revenue losses to the tune of Rs two billion every year for Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). Construction works of Chameliya Hydroelectricity Project was halted since July 2014 due to the dispute in the variation order sought by CGGC to open the 843-metre tunnel that had caved in due to the mudslides. The work on the project finally resumed in September last year after the Ministry of Energy allowed the NEA to release the payment.
Minister for Energy Janardan Sharma had instructed CGGC to complete the civil works within this fiscal year, that is, by mid-July 2017. But the contractor has sought two additional months to conclude the works.
NEA has scheduled the project completion deadline at the end of 2017 and has said that no further extension will be granted for completion of the project.
The variation order sought by the contractor is almost double the amount estimated for the construction of four-km tunnel worth Rs 920 million. The contractor had sought additional Rs 1.9 billion (cost variation) after a length of 843 meters of the tunnel had constricted.
NEA has been bearing a huge loss not only in terms of revenue but also due to increase in foreign exchange rate owing to the project construction delay. Nepali currency has depreciated heavily vis-à-vis the US dollars from Rs 72 in 2007 to Rs 107 at present.
According to a recent study, per megawatt cost of the Chameliya Hydroelectricity Project will be above Rs 500 million (including the cost of road connectivity to the project area, local electrification and transmission line).
Although it involves a huge cost, the completion of Chameliya gives hope to the people living in the far-western region with supplies of energy increasing in the country facing perennial short supply of power.