Monday, June 6, 2011

Nepal's government may send army to move dam project forward

UKHP hurdles: Govt to send Army if need be
The Kathmandu Post daily, Posted on: 2011-06-06 09:01

The government has said that construction of the 900 MW Upper Karnali
Hydropower Project (UKHP) would go ahead even if it required deploying
the Army. Energy Minister Gokarna Bista said at a meeting of the
parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Sunday that
construction of the UKHP would be restarted even if Nepal Army personnel
had to be called out.

"The UKHP has been witnessing a security crisis," said Minister Bista at
the PAC meeting. "The government will proceed with the construction work
even by deploying army personnel."

According to Bista, his ministry has already written to the defence
ministry to mobilise army for security. "The government is committed to
provide security to domestic and joint-venture projects," said Bista.
"Energy ministry has made a written request to the defence ministry for
the mobilisation of army personnel for security of UKHP."

The government move is aimed at pacifying hydropower developers, mainly
international developers, who have become increasingly concerned by the
series of attacks and disturbances at the project site. On May 22, a
group of locals, alleged to be cadres of the UCPN (Maoist), vandalized
and torched all three office buildings of the UKHP, charging that the
project was being constructed against the welfare of the local people.
The office buildings were completely destroyed by the fire.

A high-level government source says the Cabinet has already taken a
decision regarding the mobilisation of security forces for the security
of hydel projects. According to sources, the Cabinet has decided that
security forces, including the army, can be deployed.

The Indian joint-venture has been at the centre of a controversy ever
since the Nepali Congress-led coalition government gave its go-ahead to
the project in 2008. The UCPN (Maoist), then a part of the ruling
alliance, later went into the opposition in 2009; and it was the first
to obstruct the preparation of the detailed project report (DPR)
protesting against the idea of exporting 88 percent of the energy
generated to India.

The UKHP being constructed by India's GMR-led consortium has been a
target of the UCPN (Maoist) earlier too. The GMR-led consortium was
preparing the DPR of the US$ 469 million project when the attack
occurred. The report work is in the final stage while the environment
impact assessment (EIA) is being carried out. GMR has a stake of more
than 60 percent in this export-oriented project. After the attack, a
high-level team from GMR visited Nepal and held talks with Energy
Minister Bista.

As per the agreement signed by the government with GMR, the country will
get 12 percent of the energy generated (approximately 36 MW) for free
and a 27 percent free equity share in the project.

GMR had also written to the Prime Minister's Office, the Home Ministry
and the Energy Ministry demanding action against those involved in the
arson and security arrangements in order to resume the stalled work.

Interestingly, the Home Ministry on May 28 had decided to deploy an
Armed Police Force elite squad to provide security to the project. As
per the Home Ministry's plan, a team of 46 personnel led by an inspector
would be stationed at the project site. GMR would have to bear the
expenses. However, energy ministry is for the deployment of the army, as
it would be more effective.

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