Army gets green light to build hydropower projectThe Nepal Army will be diversifying into the hydropower sector following the go-ahead from the Energy Ministry to own and build its first plant.
The Nepal Army will be diversifying into the hydropower sector following the go-ahead from the Energy Ministry to own and build its first plant.
The ministry has approved the Nepal Army’s proposal to build the 32 MW Bhimdang Khola Hydropower Project in Manang district. This is the first instance of the defence force being engaged in exploiting the country’s hydropower potential.
The ministry had written to the Defence Ministry more than a month ago saying that it had no problems letting the army build a hydropower project.
The Department of Electricity Development (DoED) had received the Nepal Army’s proposal to build the 25 MW Dudh Khola and 32 MW Bhimdang Khola projects through the Defence Ministry.
Both schemes are located in Manang district in north central Nepal. The DoED had chosen the Bhimdang Khola project for the army and forwarded the proposal with its recommendation to the Energy Ministry.
However, the ministry is yet to hear from the army or the Defence Ministry. “It has been more than a month since we decided to allow the army to build the project, but we haven’t got any reply from them,” said Dinesh Kumar Ghimire, spokesperson for the Energy Ministry.
“We are expecting to receive details from them regarding the modality under which they will build the project.”
The army, according to Ghimire, can either build the project by forming a separate company or its engineering directorate can do it. In both cases, the Defence Ministry has to get the Cabinet’s approval. “If the army decides to form a company, it can apply for a licence with the DoED,” said Ghimire. “If it wishes to develop the project directly under its engineering directorate, the directorate can apply for the permit.”
The Cabinet, however, will also have to decide the modality under which the project will be given to the army. The government will have to clarify if the army can promote the project and own it.
Likewise, it should state clearly how long the project will remain in the army’s possession. When private companies construct hydropower projects, they have to transfer ownership to the government after 30 years.
The Cabinet should also clarify the role of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) when purchasing power from the army as it is the sole buyer in the country.
The government has frequently assigned the Nepal Army to build parts of infrastructure projects, especially roads; but it has never awarded an entire project to the military. It was the Nepal Army that opened the track of the much touted Kathmandu-Tarai fast track.
Also, recently, an army team was deployed to repair the Upper Trishuli 3A Hydropower Project that has lain non-operational since being damaged by the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake. The squad will repair the access road and build protection on either side of the dam of the 60 MW project.