Nepal’s biggest hydropower project under attack again

October 19th, 2008 - 6:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Oct 19 (IANS) Nepal’s biggest hydropower project, in which an Indian company holds 15 percent stake and which has been described by an Indian minister as a “test case” for foreign investors, is under fresh attack again despite the government’s assurances of security.Despite Nepal’s Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam pledging security, two of the West Seti project’s information offices in Baitadi and Dadeldhura districts were attacked, vandalised and torched by miscreants during the festival break while a third in Doti district was looted, the management said in a press statement.

The company said the pre-meditated series of attacks were a blow to plans to develop the backward remote far west.

Though the company sent SOSes to the prime minister, home minister and Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai, urging for security and action against the miscreants, the government has not taken any action so far.

The 750 MW West Seti project, Nepal’s largest development project, is supported by the governments of neighbours India and China and the Asian Development Bank.

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

The bulk of the power produced is to be sold to Power Trading Corporation of India for distribution in northern India.

Though the developers signed an agreement with the government of Nepal in 1997, the project was unable to get off the ground for years due to politicisation of the issue by Nepal’s major parties first and then the local opposition.

However, after a new Maoist-led government came to power in Nepal two months ago and some semblance of stability returned in the strife-torn nation, West Seti authorities said work would start after monsoon.

Last month, after the government pledged to generate 10,000 MW of power in the next decade and Nepal hosted a power summit to attract foreign investors, Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Power Jairam Ramesh repeatedly said that India and the international community were watching West Seti as a “test case” whose success or failure would affect foreign investment accordingly.

The West Seti case is being keenly watched by Indian companies like the GMR Group and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, which too have been awarded recent licences to develop new hydropower projects in Nepal.

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