Although a Chinese company hired to build a critical power substation at Dhalkebar, it is still uncertain whether the construction works complete in schedule.
If there is any delay in construction, NEA’s plan to increase electricity imports from India during the dry season and three will be power cut again in the coming winter.
Interestingly, all the Chinese companies working abroad have internal reputation and credibility. However, they are unable to repeat their global reputation in Nepal.
Central Power Grid International Economic and Trade Corporation, the Chinese contractor that is working on 220 kV Substation Project at Dhalkebar, had stopped all works at the construction site a week ago without formally informing Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA).
With the massive pressure from government and NEA, the contractor finally mobilized workers at the construction site. NEA even warned of contract termination.
“We are still not sure, if the contractor will continue to work seriously and complete the job on time,” said Radhe Saran Mahato, chief of the substation project. “Almost 90 percent of the work at the project site has been completed, and it will take at least three months to complete the project,” said Mahato.
If the project is not completed by October, it will hit the power utility’s plan to increase electricity imports from India via Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur cross-border transmission line during the dry season.
If the 220 kV substations is built at Dhalkebar by that time, the country can import another 100 MW of power from India using the Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur cross-border transmission line. Currently, the cross-border transmission line has the capacity to import 160 MW of electricity.
As per the deal signed between NEA and the Chinese company in June 2014, the substation should have been up and running by September 2015. But the deadline was continuously pushed back.
The deadline was extended for the third time till May 31, 2017, but the project still remains incomplete. NEA had been mulling over extending the deadline till October 2017 when the contractor abruptly stopped work, according to the state-owned power utility.
Completing the Dhalkebar substation to import more power and bringing the Kulekhani III plant into generation are two major tasks planned by Nepal Electricity Authority for continuous energy supply in the coming dry season.
The remaining work might only take two months and NEA officials were expecting to meet the new deadline of August. But the contractor's threat to walk out of the project has created confusion among the NEA leadership.
NEA Managing Director Kulman Ghising said they had no other way but to terminate the contract. “We did not want to terminate for we had to get the work done but there was no other way,” said Ghising.
This is not the first case. All the contractors including Indian and Nepali as well have been delaying the construction work due to several reasons. Even the process of planning is faulty. Experts even blames for Nepali side starting the construction without clearing land, forest and other such obstructions. Similarly, the role of managing director of NEA is nominal as contractor’s agents are politically influential and powerful.