Mukhtor Khamudkhanov was appointed ADB’s Country Director for Nepal in October 2018. Khamudkhanov leads ADB operations in Nepal and oversees the formulation and implementation of ADB’s Country Partnership Strategy, which aims to support the government’s development agenda and the country’s long-term development needs through infrastructure, human capital and private sector development, regional integration and social inclusion. Khamudkhanov, an Uzbek national, joined ADB in 2001 and has since held numerous leadership positions. Prior to this appointment, he served as Principal Energy Specialist in the Energy Division at ADB Headquarters in Manila, Philippines. From 2007 to 2011, Khamudkhanov was Senior Energy Specialist in the Energy Division. He has also served as Deputy Director and Chief Expert in the Division for Cooperation and with International Financial and Economic Institutions in the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan. He holds a PhD in Technology (Electrical Engineering) from Tashkent State Technical University, Uzbekistan and Masters degree in International Affairs (Economic Policy Management) from Columbia University, New York, United States of America. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Financial Management from University of London, London, United Kingdom. Mukhtor Khamudkhanov spoke to NEW SPOTOLIGHT on various issues.
What are the key areas of ADB’s operations in Nepal?
ADB’s country partnership strategy for Nepal focuses on support for infrastructure (energy, transport, water supply and other urban infrastructure), education and skills development, and agricultural transformation. The country operations business plan, 2019–2021, which is aligned with the Government of Nepal’s Fourteenth Plan, FY2017–FY2019, includes support for hydropower and decentralized renewable energy development, transmission lines for domestic and regional connectivity, and energy access and efficiency; better road and air connectivity; sustainable water supply and sanitation; upgraded skills of the labor force; development and management of water resources; and stronger agriculture value chains.
How do you see overall performance of ADB funded projects in Nepal?
The overall portfolio performance improved significantly in recent years. The contract award achieved for investment projects in Nepal in 2017 was $435.9 million, and disbursements were $275.4 million (with program loans), historically the highest level in Nepal for the second year in a row.
ADB and Nepal continue to focus on four ways of improving implementation: (i) better project readiness at start up; (ii) faster and more efficient procurement process; (iii) stronger contract management and project supervision; and (iv) enhanced capacity building of project staff.
I am hopeful of further progress under ADB’s strong partnership with the government.
Despite progress in some projects, there are reports of delaying in the projects like TIA and Gautam Buddha International Airport. How do you look at it?
The Gautam Buddha International Airport is a national pride project and key to developing Nepal’s vast potential for tourism. I visited the site in March this year and I was pleased to see the progress, and the commitment shown by the Government. ADB continues to monitor and hold discussions with the Government to improve project performance. There has been a marked improvement in the work progress in the last six months.
As for the TIA, there were some issues with the contractor in the past and the contract was terminated due to non-performance of the contractor. The rebidding was done after the termination for the revised package and two contractors were already mobilized. The work is ongoing for these two contracts in full swing.
ADB remains a major development partners investing Nepal’s energy sector. How ADB views the progress of Tanahu Hydro-power Project?
ADB sees energy development as a strong engine of growth, driving industry and commerce as well as improving people’s quality of life. Nepal is playing a key role in realizing the SASEC flagship program on Cross Border Power Trade, given its abundant but largely untapped hydro-power due to difficult terrain and inadequate transmission facilities. To effectively tap Nepal’s hydro-power resources, the ADB-supported energy projects have focused on enhancing power transmission and distribution capacity and identifying viable hydro-power for export.
Tanahu Hydropower Project is a very important project for Nepal. Besides building the plant and transmission system, the project will provide direct connections to at least 17,636 homes in the area of the hydro-power plant to the national power grid. Rural areas in Nepal have a low rate of connection to the electricity distribution grid.
The procurement for headworks for the Tanahu Hydro-power Project has been completed and the contract signing is underway, and all the pre-construction works are in advance stage of completion.
Although they are small in nature, off-grid power projects, which are supported by, are key to uplift rural life and provide energy in remote areas of Nepal, will ADB continue to support in future?
We do foresee a bigger role for renewable energy in Nepal, where an abundance of renewable energy resources, such as sun, wind, and hydro, offer reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon power solutions.
Small scale, off-grid power systems, are well suited to many communities in remote, mountainous areas of Nepal. Connecting them to grid networks is usually prohibitively the solar-wind hybrid project, rolled out under the country’s Scaling up Of Renewable Energy Program.
Moving forward, Nepal needs to integrate renewable energy such as solar and wind into the country’s power grids so that more people can benefit. ADB will continue to focus on making Nepal’s energy sector a key driver of inclusive economic growth. This is being achieved through investments in both on-grid and off-grid solutions.