Lack of tree cutting permits holds up power line projectsSeveral transmission line projects being developed by the Nepal Electricity Authority are in limbo as the Forest Ministry is holding back permission to cut trees, raising the possibility that electricity worth billions may go to waste.
Several transmission line projects being developed by the Nepal Electricity Authority are in limbo as the Forest Ministry is holding back permission to cut trees, raising the possibility that electricity worth billions may go to waste.
According to the state-owned power utility, difficulties in getting approval from the ministry to cut down trees along the transmission line alignment is one of the major hurdles facing the project.
“It is very difficult to get forest clearance from the ministry,” said Kulman Ghising, managing director of the Nepal Electricity Authority. “Even after if we get the
okay from the ministry, the division forest offices in the districts take a very long time to issue the order to cut down the trees.”
This kind of treatment by a government agency has pushed back the construction of a few crucial power line projects to evacuate more than 2,000 MW of electricity which will be produced by various hydropower projects in the near future, Ghising said.
Recently, the Division Forest Office of Rasuwa district halted construction of the 220 kV Chilime-Trishuli Transmission Line Project saying that the project office had not got approval to erect it on forest land. But the Nepal Electricity Authority claims that there are no trees on the stretch where the power line is being built, and that the forest office is obstructing the project for no reason.
“If we fail to construct this transmission line on time, around 170 MW of electricity which will be produced by different hydropower plants will go to waste,” said Ghising.
Hetauda-Dhalkebar-Duh-abi, Solu Corridor, Koshi Corridor, Kali Gandaki Corridor and Marshyangdi Corridor are among the Nepal Electricity Authority-owned transmission line projects that are having a hard time getting tree cutting permits.
While the Hetauda-Dhalkebar-Duhabi line must be completed within a year to distribute the electricity generated by the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project, other power lines are required to feed around 2,000 MW of electricity to the national grid, according to the Nepal Electricity Authority.
Privately-owned Hewa Khola Hydropower Project, which is losing out on revenue worth Rs200 million annually due to its inability to evacuate its entire output to the national grid, is one fine example of how power projects suffer losses in the absence of power lines. The 15 MW plant located in Panchthar district in eastern Nepal produces electricity worth Rs450 million annually, but its entire output cannot be transferred to the national grid over the existing 33 kV power line. The Hewa Khola plant had planned on evacuating its electricity to the national grid over the Kabeli Corridor Transmission Line. The Nepal Electricity Authority started the construction of the power line a decade ago, but it is yet to complete the project.
One of the major reasons behind the delay in the completion of the Kabeli Corridor was dillydallying by the Forest Ministry in providing approval to cut down trees. “Generally, a power line project passes through more than one district which requires
us to get approval from multiple division forest offices, enlarging our problems,” said Ghising.
The Forest Ministry says it is not delaying issuing approval and is ready to resolve the problems being faced by the Nepal Electricity Authority. “We request the Nepal Electricity Authority to come to us with its complaints,” said Sindhu Dhungana, spokesperson for the ministry.
“If we find that our division offices are deliberately obstructing the construction of power lines without a valid reason, we will take strong action against the responsible officials.”