Delayed for five years due to uncertainty over the issue of ratification in the House of Representatives, MCC is now at the final stage of its implementation.
Mired in domestic and international fake news campaigns and the lackluster response of MCA-Nepal and MCC to counter the fake information, the project suffered badly, delaying its implementation and completion.
As the House of Representatives ratified the MCC agreement, the situation is now back on track with work going on to implement it. Similarly, the disinformation campaign is clearing up and media outlets also seem to have come to good terms with the MCC project.
Attending with loaded and misconceived notions, the press meets organized by MCA-Nepal used to conclude in bitter taste in the past. However, the situation of the press meeting on (August 18) was completed in a sober and most fruitful manner.
Called almost five months after its ratification, the first press meet organized in the process of implementation, showed the understanding of MCC had apparently increased.
Except for a few irritating questions like why MCA Nepal rented apartment buildings of five-star hotels and paid high salaries, high cost and taxing MCC, all the questions raised during the press meeting were genuine.
Although some politicians are still making hues and cry to push the project into controversy, the shift of the media trends will bring favorable situations to the project diminishing its negative implications on it.
The Millennium Challenge Account Nepal (MCA-N) informed that the transmission line and road upgradation projects funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation of the United States of America will begin in August 2023.
The project was supposed to enter into force on 30 June 2020 as planned a year earlier but the deadline couldn't be met as the parliament couldn't ratify the program as mentioned in the bilateral agreement signed between the governments of Nepal and the USA in 2017.
The project was mired in controversy before it got ratified by the federal parliament as some groups blamed it for its association with the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) – a US military program in the region.
However, with the ratification of the project in February of this year, the MCA Nepal Development Committee has expedited the process to implement the program.
"The tentative date of commencement will be a day in August 2023 and it will be completed in 2028," said Executive Director of the MCA Nepal Khadga Bahadur Bisht, at an interaction with journalists.
MCC is a US government agency with whom the Government of Nepal has signed an agreement to implement a US$ 630 million program to construct large transmission lines, including the Butwal-Gorakhpur cross-border transmission facility, and rehabilitation of strategic roads. Of the total cost of the project, $500 million will be funded by the MCC and $130 million contributed by Nepal.
Titled the New Butwal-Gorakhpur Transmission Line, the project is the second cross-border line after Dhalkebar-Mujaffarpur that will help in energy exchange and trade. The project was envisioned in 1996.
The delay is likely to cost additional administration and management costs of US$ 6.45 million.
According to Bisht, the MCC model has a robust preparedness plan and allocates sufficient time and resources for it so that the implementation could move forward smoothly. About 12.5 per cent of the total budget would be spent on pre-Entry Into Force (EIF) preparations while implementation phase investment would be 87.5 percent of the budget. Bisht said that the government has approved the Environment Impact Assessment report, and the process has begun to cut the trees on the way to construct the transmission line. Meanwhile, of the 315-km transmission line, a 30-km stretch is being re-surveyed to find if re-alignment is needed at certain locations.
"Tender document for the transmission line is ready; it will be opened on the basis of international competition and MCC procurement guidelines," he said. There will be 854 towers in 315km length of the transmission line. Earlier, the number of towers was set at 1,315 but to reduce the environmental and social impacts of the project, the height of the towers is increased and the number was reduced. Likewise, about 77km of road from Dhankohla to Shiva Khola in the Dang district will be rehabilitated. To support this development, MCA-N has established a laboratory at the Department of Roads to find better solutions.
The project is supposed to create 7,300 full-time employees during the project period. According to the MCA-N, other benefits to the country will also include using local construction materials and services, technology transfer and social inclusion.