NEA plans 20 substations in Kathmandu Valley but concerns over land acquisition remainInfrastructure being planned to handle the power demands of around 3,100MW in the Kathmandu Valley.
Prithvi Man Shrestha
The Nepal Electricity Authority recently said that it has been constructing eight high-capacity transmission line substations in Kathmandu Valley out of the planned 20 considering the future demand for power in the country’s load centre.
The substations with the capacity 400kV, 220kV and 132kV are under construction in the Valley and these infrastructure would be built gradually over time to ensure that the infrastructure is capable of handling the demand for power by 2050.
According to NEA, the state-owned power utility, peak demand for power in Kathmandu Valley is expected to hit 3,100MW in the coming winter but current transmission infrastructure can distribute only 500MW. A survey is underway to encircle the Valley with 220kV transmission lines, the NEA said.
The plan to develop the transmission infrastructure is unlikely to be straightforward, given that many transmission projects are facing local protests, NEA officials said.
For example, locals at the Lapsephedi area of Shankarapur Municipality-3 protested earlier this year against planned construction of a 400kV transmission substation, arguing that it is being built at a human settlement. They are demanding relocation of the substation to somewhere else.
Even though the NEA claimed an agreement was reached with the locals regarding the substation, it failed to ensure participation of local representatives in further talks and left the issue to be resolved politically.
According to the NEA, it is a very important project that delivers power from the hydropower projects built in the Tamakoshi and Sunkoshi rivers and their tributary streams to the Kathmandu Valley, which is the country’s largest centre of energy consumption. “There is obstruction from locals to construct 10km transmission line from Lapsephedi substation to Changu Narayan substation as well,” the NEA said in a statement on Monday.
Obstruction to building transmission lines has continued in different locations of Kathmandu Valley and other parts of the country. But there has been no obstruction to substation constructions in Kathmandu Valley so far except in Lapsephedi, according to NEA officials.
“We have adopted the strategy of building higher capacity substations under the existing transmission line so that locals would not hinder the works,” said Tharka Bahadur Thapa, chief of Kathmandu Valley Transmission System Expansion Project at NEA. “We have also acquired the lands in different locations of the Valley where we have so far not faced any protests from locals.”
He, however, didn’t rule out the possibility of troubles in the future as a number of substation projects have yet to begin the land acquisition process.
The NEA has been facing obstructions from local residents in a number of transmission line projects across the country.
For example, the under-construction 132kV Thankot-Chapagaun-Bhaktapur transmission line has been facing never-ending obstructions. It has been a work in progress since 2004 with the residents of Lalitpur unwilling to give up their lands and provide the right of way at the proposed rates.
“Locals from Harisiddhi, Lagankhel and Khokana have not allowed us to construct the transmission line,” Shrestha, chief of transmission directorate at the NEA, told the Post in January this year. “Had the project been implemented when the compensation was fixed in its early years, the project would have been completed.”
The under-construction 220kV Bharatpur-Bardaghat Transmission Line Project has remained incomplete for the same reason.
For the NEA, it is more difficult to construct transmission lines than the substations because the power line covers a large swath of land of multiple owners and they also don’t get the value of the land after it comes under the power line.
Even though the NEA has the policy of providing up to 20 percent of the value of plots under the power line without acquiring that land, the value of such areas goes down, inviting sharp opposition from land owners.
The land in and around Kathmandu has been more expensive than that at other locations which makes it more challenging for the NEA to convince landowners in the Valley, according to NEA officials.
According to Thapa, out of 20 substations planned, six will have the capacity of 220kV while others will have 132kV. “Even though the 400kV substation planned at Lapsiphedi will support the transmission of power in the Kathmandu Valley, it is under a different project,” he said.
He said that the power monopoly has almost completed acquiring land for six planned substations with 220kV capacity. “Majority of the lands have been acquired from the private owners,” he said, adding that a notice for land acquisition will also be issued gradually.
The NEA plans a 220kV transmission ring around the hills of the Kathmandu Valley while 132kV lines will be constructed largely along the river corridors. This will enable the NEA to use private land as little as possible. “It is not that private lands would not fall along these lines but our aim is to use such land as little as possible,” said Dirghayu Kumar Shrestha, chief of the transmission directorate at the NEA.
The NEA has been constructing underground power lines in inner city areas along the roads and footpaths which would help minimise the risk of obstruction from the locals, according to the NEA officials. As per the master plan, the NEA will make an arrangement to bring power from different parts of the country.
For this, a 400kV substation will be built at Changunarayan, Bhaktapur to bring electricity from the Lapsephedi-based substation, which will be connected with a transmission line to be built under the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact Program of the United States. Likewise, another 400kV substation will be built at Dukuchhap, Lalitpur to bring power from areas around Nijgadh where there will be an interconnection with the under-construction 400kV Inaruwa-Dhalkebar-Hetauda Transmission Line.
Another 220kV substation has also been planned at Pipaltar, Nuwakot which is not far away from Balaju, Kathmandu. All the power brought from outside Kathmandu will be connected to the transmission ring along the surrounding hills of Kathmandu Valley and power will be distributed through 132 transmission lines along the river corridors of Kathmandu, according to the NEA.