More attacks on Nepal’s biggest hydro power project

October 23rd, 2008 - 6:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Oct 23 (IANS) Even as Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” is urging the international investors to put their money in mega projects in Nepal, the country’s biggest hydropower project - developed by an international consortium including an Indian company - has come under fresh attack despite repeated appeals for security by the company.An NGO, suspected to be led by the Maoists, said it was indefinitely padlocking the information centres of the 750 Mega Watts (MW) West Seti Hydro project in remote Bajhang district.

Recently, the project’s other information centres in Doti, Baitadi and Dadeldhura also came under attack. While some were set on fire, one was looted.

Australian company SMEC Developments is the main developer with India’s Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services holding a 15 percent stake.

As per the agreement between the developers and the government of Nepal, the state will get 10 percent free energy while the rest of the power produced is to be sold to Power Trading Corporation of India for distribution in northern India.

The West Seti project is being regarded as a test case by India as well as other foreign countries who are wary of investing in Nepal’s potentially rich, but politically surcharged, hydropower sector due to the long history of dissent.

Though the Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 1997, work is yet to start on the construction due to continuous opposition by the locals of the four districts under the aegis of Nepali NGOs.

The information centres were established this year after the end of the Maoist insurgency, which had been a serious deterrent to development activities.

The centres are to disseminate information to the locals about the volume of displacement to be caused by the project and the company’s compensatory offers.

On Wednesday, Maoist Minister for Labour and Transport Management Lekhnath Bhatt wrote an article in a Nepali daily, saying that the project would have to indicate its plans for the development for the four backward districts.

The main opposition to the project apparently stems from the fact that the power is to be sold to India.

Though the project authorities have repeatedly urged Prachanda, Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai and Home Minister Bamdev Gautam for security, the government has continued to turn a deaf ear.

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