KUL MAN GHISING A Long March

With so many challenges, including lack of transmission lines, lack of new hydropower projects, poor distribution systems and seasonal surplus energy, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is at a critical period. Having earned public trust and confidence in the first 4-year tenure in fixing the decade-long load shedding, Kul Man Ghising has started his second tenure, setting a long march to overcome the challenges. Visiting transmission and distribution centers, pursuading India’s power authority to purchase surplus energy and proposing the construction of new storage hydropower projects, MD Ghising has laid down his priorities

Oct. 8, 2021, 10:42 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 15, No. 06, Oct. 08, 2021 (Ashoj 22, 2078) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

In a matter of just four weeks, MD Ghising visited Hetauda, Bharatpur, Bhairahawa, Butwal, Simara and Sankhuwasabha taking stock of electricity situation of Nepal. His visit to Butwal, Bharatpur and Hetauda aimed to break down the deadlock in the obstruction of Nepal’s strategically important transmission line projects. Similarly, he also spared time with industrialists to increase the consumption of electricity.

MD Ghising’s recent visit with a high level delegation in Sankhuwasabha was another important task in NEA’s menu to start the largest hydropower project with four digits capacity, that is, 1061 MW Upper Arun. Enthused by the completion of 456 MW Upper Tamakosi project, confidence of NEA’s technical and managerial people has gone up.

MD Ghising, who took much critical and risky decisions in his first tenure to facilitate the successful completion of 456 MW Upper Tamakosi, is now pushing four digit projects. The recent visit by high level delegation there gives a good gesture to start the project.

Visit to Upper Arun

Visiting Sankhuwasabha with a high level delegation led by Minister Pampha Bhusal, NEA official efforts have received positive support and enthusiasms from the local people, who are demanding the initiation of the construction of 1061 MW Upper Arun Hydropower Project.

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Local people have requested the high level delegation led by Minister of Energy Water Resources and Irrigation Pampha Bhusal that the government should take the necessary decision for construction of the project.

They held the view that the project can bring economic prosperity to the region. They also expressed the commitment to provide all necessary support at the local level to complete the project smoothly.

Chairman of Upper Arun Affected Concerned Group Ladar Bhote said that the local community is eagerly waiting to see the money being minted from the wasted water of Upper Arun.

“We are happy to know that the construction of the road for the project will start soon. The road will link the remote region with the rest of Nepal and could end our hardship,” said Bhote. He urged the delegation to materialize the project instead of paying only inspection visits.

Minister Bhusal said that the ongoing DPR will be completed as soon as possible and NEA will decide the modality of the project. She said that the government is working to start the construction of the project aiming to share the economic benefits. “We need to end the tradition of talking about the project without implementation. This practice must end.”

She also said that project requires full support from local people to complete it in scheduled time.

NEA looks at the project as a game changer giving high priority for its implementation. Proposed to construct under the People’s Hydropower Program, 1061 MW, the four digit Upper Arun, is the biggest project to be constructed by NEA.

As per the proposed modality, the government will issue 49 percent share to common people. Remaining investment will be procured through concessional loans from multi-lateral agencies like the World Bank and European Investment Bank, domestic financial agencies like Employment Provident Fund, Citizenship Investment Trust and other institutions. There will be investment from the Federal, Provincial and local governments as well.

Operated six hours a day during the six months of dry season in full capacity, the estimated cost of the project is 1.36 billion US dollar (Rs. 161 bullion). NEA is expecting to mobilize 70 percent loans with 30 percent equity.

Following the completion of the project, Upper Arun will generate 4.53 billion units of electricity.

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NEA has already forwarded 30 MW Ikhuwa Hydropower Project as a part of Upper Arun under People’s Hydro-power program. NEA will start land acquisition and construction of 24 kilometer road from this year.

Out of 180 hectares of land required for the project, 120 hectares of land need to be acquisitioned and the project will displace 25 households. DPR of the project will be completed by 2022. NEA is expected to start selection of contactors and their mobilization by 2023.

The World Bank has provided 10.31 million dollar concessional loans for the DPR which is currently going on. This project will likely complete by 2030.

The delegation led by minister Bhusal also visited main structures of the project including the construction site of power house.

The delegation members included Hartwig Schafer, Vice President of the World Bank for South Asia, the Executive Director of the Bank Mohd Hassan Ahmad, Energy Secretary Devendra Karki, Finance secretary Madhu Kumar Marasini, Director Department of Electricity Development Sandip Kumar Dip and MD Kulman Ghising.

Transmission Line

As per his public announcement after assuming his second tenure to provide quality electricity to consumers, MD Ghising has already taken initiatives to work on priority to improve transmission and distribution systems.

With the surplus energy in summer, increasing the consumption of electricity is the pre-requisite to increase the profit and decrease the loss. Visiting Butwal, Bharatpur and Hetauda, MD Ghising has taken an initiative to improve and strengthen the transmission line and distribution system.

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With the increase in the electricity generation from NEA’s own plants and the plants of Independent Power Producers (IPPs), there is a serious crisis to utilize the huge quantity of electricity.

However, a number of industries are importing the expensive petroleum products to produce electricity. This is where NEA MD Ghising finds a way out. In his recent busy tour of Lumbini, Bagmati and Province 2, MD Ghising has extensively discussed with industrialists about the agenda of win-win for both NEA and industrialists.

While NEA MD agrees to supply undisturbed and quality electricity linking its transmission line grid, industrialists agree to use electricity abandoning the generators.

For improving the reliability of electricity supply and providing access of NEA’s transmission line to the industries, MD Ghising has assured the industrialists that NEA would take all necessary steps to complete on-going construction of substations, distribution networks and transmission lines.

Following the meeting with various stakeholders, MD Ghising has directed officials to accelerate the construction of infrastructure projects like substation, transmission line and distribution line.

At a time when industrialists have been demanding electricity in huge volume, NEA, which is wasting its surplus electricity, is unable to fulfill their demand due to lack of distribution systems.

This move to complete the ongoing transmission line projects and improve distribution system pushed by MD Ghising is the first step to overcome the crisis.

In his field visit, NEA’s MD unveiled his short term planning aiming to improve the capacity of the distribution system to supply electricity immediately as much as demanded by industries. NEA is thus focusing its effort to complete the ongoing projects as soon as possible.

With its long term planning, NEA will identify the possible areas increasing the consumption and expand and strengthen the distribution system constructing the substations.

After receiving several complaints from industrialists, MD Ghsing paid a two day visit to industrial corridor of Hetauda, Simara, Birgunj, Bharatpur, Parasi and Bhairawa. During his visit, he took information from the ground about the projects.

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Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has taken initiative to ensure early completion of the ongoing transmission and distribution lines and substation projects in order to ensure availability of the required amount of electricity to the big industries as a part of its plan to increase power consumption.

“On the one hand, millions of rupees are being wasted on a daily basis as we are not able to consume the electricity produced in the country, while on the other hand, we are not able to supply the required amount of electricity to the industries due to lack of infrastructure. We want to end this problem,” said Ghising.

“After the completion of the projects that are under construction, the industries can be supplied with electricity as per their demand. The general consumers will get quality and reliable electricity. Similarly, leakage will be reduced and transmission capacity will be strengthened,” he added.

A 132-33 KV substation is under construction to supply electricity to industries operating in ​​Nawalparasi. The construction of the substation is expected to be completed within the next four months. However, due to COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese technicians have not been able to arrive in Nepal to test the substations. Once the substation comes into operation, an additional 90MW power will be supplied to these industries.

To supply reliable and quality electricity to the industries in Simara-Birgunj, adding new owners and removing of the old conductor in 66 kV Double circuits Hetauda-Parwanipur Transmission line is undergoing. Following the completion of this work, NEA will be able to provide more electricity to the region.

400 kV Hetauda-Dhalkebar Obstruction

Started a decade ago, the work in the construction of 400 kV Hetauda-Dhalkebar Transmission line and construction of 400 kV substations in Piluwa saw a delay that is creating a lot of problems for NEA.

In his first four year tenure, MD Ghsing had settled many issues regarding the line and poles. However, apathy of one year in his absence pushed the project to a standstill again.

Constructed under concessional loan of the World Bank, MD Ghising has visited the sites in Hetauda and discussed the matter with affected population in the presence of local level leaders.

MD Ghising urged local people to support NEA to lift the obstruction and allow NEA to complete this strategic national project necessary to supply electricity from east to west.

He assured local people that he will strive to fulfill their demands and directed the project officials to facilitate with local stakeholders and him to complete the project.

Constructed for the strengthening internal electricity transmission system and for the Nepal-India bilateral electricity trade 400 kV Hetauda-Dhalkebar Transmission line, which is highly important, has been facing several obstructions for its completion.

Due to the obstructions, the project remains incomplete. Started from Thanavryang of Hetauda sub-metropolitan-11, the 400 kV transmission line connects to Bhokraha Narshing Rural Municipality of Sunsari of eastern Nepal passing 10 districts and three provinces.

With demand of local people to change sites, use of forest land, tree cutting procedures, weak working performance of contractors, the project has been delayed for such a long period.

Although several efforts have been made to end the stalemate with local population and start the construction work, the project is yet to move ahead.

Due to failure to complete the construction of this strategically important project, NEA is unable to send electricity of 456 MW Upper Tamakosi to western Nepal from Dhalkebar. Currently, Nepal’s western sector has connected through 132 kV Transmission line from Dhalkebar to west.

Within a length of 288 kilometers, 792 towers need to be erected in various geographical zones of hill, Shivalik and Terai. Out of this, ground work of 659 towers has completed and 633 towers are already erected eradicated.

The work to complete the remaining will complete once forest clearance and local obstruction will end. Only after the erection of all towers, contactors will start to place the conductor.

Obstructed by local residents of 15, 16 and 17 wards of Hetauda, the project is unable to erect 14 towers. NEA has been discussing the matter with affected population with support from provincial and local levels. However, settlement is yet to be found.

Local people are demanding to realign the transmission line to avoid acquisition of private land. Due to this, they are now allowing erection of the tower even in community forest areas. However, the project has been insisting that change in the alignment at present is impossible because of its design.

In his recent visit with head of Transmission line Directorate Dirghayu Kumar Shrestha, project head Shyam Yadav, MD Ghising requested the local community to allow the project to complete the work. MD Ghising urged the affected population to settle the issue of land acquisition amicably with due compensation and contribute for the national cause.

“If you continue obstruction, Nepal will be unable to supply 456 MW electricity generated by 456 Upper Tamakosi to west Nepal causing huge loss to the country. Let’s decide on compensation and settle the issue among us,” urged MD Ghising. He said that the World Bank has already appointed arbitrator to end the stalemate to settle our differences.

Chairman of ward 16 Ram Krishna Koirala said that the project was designed from the human settlement despite the possibility to avoid it.

“We are not against development but the transmission line should be moved to forest areas, not going through the human settlement. We are ready to find out amicable solutions,” said Koirala. 440 kV Hetauda-Dhalkebar-Inaruwa Transmission Line is passing parallel to east-west high way.

The project needs to clear forest of 518 hectares and agriculture land of 30 hectares. The project affected 475 hectares of private land and 171 houses and other infrastructures.

Nepal, India Sign Investment Agreement

MD Ghising’s work has not lasted only visiting Nepal. He also has made a breakthrough agreement with India.

Nepal and India have agreed to collaborate for the development of the second transnational transmission line with the capacity of supplying around 20,000 megawatts of electricity.

According to the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), an investment agreement was signed between the two sides for the construction of the Butwal -Gorakhpur second transnational transmission line. The proposal to this regard was floated for long, but no substantial progress was achieved.

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It may be noted that the Energy Secretary-level meeting of Nepal and India some three years back had agreed to construct the transmission line with a total capacity of 400 KV. As per the agreement, the transmission line will be constructed on the joint venture of NEA and Power Grid Corporation of India.

NEA executive director Kulman Ghising confirmed the signing of a bilateral investment agreement in regard to the Butwal-Gorakhpur 400 KV transmission line. He was speaking to the RSS from New Delhi, India.

The transmission line is related to the US aid project Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) as well. The line to be originated from Nanglebhare of Kathmandu will reach Butwal to get connected with a substation to be built there. It will reach Gorakhpur via the same substation.

NEA executive director Ghising and Power Grid's executive director Y K Dixit signed on the agreement from their respective sides amidst a program in New Delhi, India.

The August 3 meeting of the Council of Ministers had granted permission to the NEA to invest for 50 per cent share for establishing a company for the construction of the section of the transmission line to be developed towards India.

Executive director Ghising said the signing of the agreement has opened the way for the establishment of a joint company with 50-50 per cent share of NEA and Power Grid of India for the construction of the transmission line towards India.

The Butwal-Gorakhpur inter-country transmission line is 120 kilometers long. Of this distance, 20 kilometers lies towards Nepal while 100 kilometers is towards India. Nepal itself will construct the section of the transmission line on its side while the section towards India would be built by the company to be set up through 50-50 share ownership of NEA and Power Grid.

The transmission line can transmit about 2,000 megawatts of electricity, NEA's Power Trade Department Director Prabal Adhikari said.
According to him, the Butwal-Gorakhpur transmission line can transmit nearly double power than the existing first inter-country 400 KV Dhalkebar-Mujaffarpur transmission line.

The Butwal-Gorakhpur transmission line will prove to be the lifeline for power trade between the two countries, he added.

Court’s verdict

After a hearing, the Supreme Court single bench headed by chief justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana has rejected issuing an interim order against the appointment of Kulman Ghising to the post of Executive Director of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA).

Former executive director Hitendra Dev Shakya had filed a writ petition in the SC on August 16 against the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, Ministry of Energy, Board of Directors of NEA, and Ghising, demanding to void Ghising's appointment. In his petition, Shakya has claimed that he was removed from the position unlawfully and has demanded re-appointment.

Conducting a hearing on the petition filed by former executive director Shakya, Chief Justice Rana announced the verdict that there is no need to issue the interim order against the appointment of Ghising.

At a time when MD Ghising has been taking different initiatives to strengthen power distribution systems and transmission line to provide quality and regular electricity, the decision of court will likely boost the energy of MD Ghising.

Keshab Poudel

Keshab Poudel

Poudel is the editor of New Spotlight Magazine.

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