Tunnel works ahead of schedule by one yearBheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project, the irrigation cum hydroelectricity scheme, has completed digging more than 75 percent of the 12-km long tunnel using a tunnel boring machine. The project is using the machine to excavate a tunnel for the first time in Nepal.
Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project, the irrigation cum hydroelectricity scheme, has completed digging more than 75 percent of the 12-km long tunnel using a tunnel boring machine. The project is using the machine to excavate a tunnel for the first time in Nepal.
According to project officials, the machine which started digging the tunnel a year ago has completed excavating just over 9.1km of the tunnel till date.
If the machine continues to excavate the tunnel at its current pace, it will complete digging the entire tunnel by mid-April 2019, one year before the originally set deadline.
The project office is operating the machine without technical glitches and it expects the breakthrough of the tunnel in the next five months, according to Sanjib Baral, the government appointed project chief of the Bheri Babai.
The 12-km tunnel is one of the key components of the project as it will be used to divert water from the Bheri River to the Babai River to irrigate farmland and generate electricity.
With the project on the track to complete the tunnel in the next five months, the project office is preparing to call a global tender to select a contractor for the execution of the hydropower component of the multipurpose project. The project office has already completed the design of the second component of the project and plans to call a tender within a week.
“The Department of Irrigation is about to approve the design of the second component,” said Baral. “We will call the tender as soon as we get the approval.”
As Bheri Babai is a government-owned project being implemented by the Department of Irrigation, it does not have to get a generation licence from the Department of Electricity Development, and it can start construction of the second component immediately after appointing the contractor.
Bheri Babai is located in Bheri-Ganga Municipality in Surkhet district in western Nepal. It will have a 15-metre high dam and divert 40 cubic metres of water per second from the Bheri River to the Babai River. The water will be used to irrigate 51,000 hectares of land throughout the year in Banke and Bardia districts and generate 48 MW of electricity.
Bheri Babai is one of the strategic projects of the country as it is expected to ease the food crisis in the mid-western region by increasing agricultural yield.
The government had invited bids for the construction of the project in July 2012, but lack of resources and delays in the appointment of a contractor prevented the four-year project from getting off the ground.
The construction of the project was finally inaugurated in April 2015 by the then Prime Minister, the late Sushil Koirala.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be around Rs16 billion. It is expected to make an indirect financial contribution of Rs3.1 billion to the state, and a direct revenue contribution of Rs2.1 billion through electricity sales.