With locals obstructing the construction, the future of the 400kV transmission line becomes uncertain

The Annapurna Express

The Annapurna Express

With locals obstructing the construction, the future of the 400kV transmission line becomes uncertain

Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) on June 14, 2022, announced that it has reached a three-point agreement with the agitating locals of the Lapsiphedi area of Shankarapur Municipality-3, over a planned construction of a transmission substation.

With the locals disowning the agreement to end the agitation, the survey work being undertaken to construct the substation has continued to remain halted.

According to NEA, the planned substation is a vital component of the under-construction 400KV Naya Khimti-Barhabise-Lapsiphedi transmission line, which is essential to meet growing power demand in the Kathmandu Valley.

But, the locals have been protesting against the planned construction of a substation arguing that it is being built at a human settlement and demanding relocation of the substation to another place.

After the locals obstructed the ongoing survey work for the substation, the state-owned power utility held talks with the representatives of the locals. In a press statement, the NEA said that the locals have agreed to discontinue the ongoing obstruction with local administration withdrawing the police mobilized at the project site.

In line with the agreement, the NEA would suspend the drilling and survey works being undertaken at the proposed location for the substation for five days. The NEA had said that the locals would allow the NEA to carry out its work from the sixth day without causing any obstructions.

However, a senior NEA official said that it has not mobilized the workforce to carry out any further work as a solution is being sought from the political levels. “As the issue has become politically charged with elected local representatives talking about relocating the substation, there is a need to seek a political solution to the dispute,” the official said. Surya Bahadur Tamang, ward-3 chairperson has been at the forefront of agitation against the planned substation.

A coordination committee was formed headed by ward-7 chairperson Bishnu Prasad Shrestha to discuss with the locals on the positive and negative impact of the transmission line projects, and the demands of the locals. Krishna Chandra Poudel, undersecretary at the Area Administration Office, Sankhu, Surya Bahadur Tamang, ward-3 chairperson, Ranjit Tamang, president of Tamang Sarokar Samaj and locals Phurba Lama and Pawan Waiba were included as members of the committee. The committee was supposed to submit a report within five days after interacting with the locals, according to NEA.

However, a member of the committee said that the committee failed to take any decisions with representatives of local stakeholders and didn’t participate in the meeting. “The locals have a one-point agenda that the substation should be relocated,” the committee member said.

It appears that there is a wider consensus among local political leaders on the fact that the substation should be relocated. The Shankarapur Municipality itself in its budget and program unveiled for the current fiscal year (2022-23) has promised to make efforts to relocate the proposed substation. “As the substation and the Tamakoshi transmission line will affect the settlement of indigenous nationalities, a request will be made to (concerned authority) for the relocation of the substation,” states the Municipality’s budget and program 2022/23.

With the locals refusing to take a step back from their stance, the future of the 400kV Naya Khimti-Barhabise-Lapsephedi transmission line has become uncertain at a time when the project is in its final phase of completion. According to NEA, construction of this substation at Bojhini, Lapsiphedi, and four transmission towers are the only remaining tasks to be completed before the transmission of electricity starts through this power line.

Due to a delay in completing the construction of this high-capacity transmission line, the NEA has failed to bring the power generated from the country’s largest 456MW Upper Tamakoshi Project directly to the Kathmandu Valley. After the Upper Tamakoshi came into commercial operation in August 2021, its power has been transferred to Dhalkebar from where electricity is being transmitted to the eastern region of the country as well as Kathmandu.

According to NEA, protests against the substation took place only after the politicians made it the election agenda. NEA officials say that there was no protest against the acquisition of lands for the substation in 2017. The power utility has already compensated 49 out of 50 landowners for acquiring the land in early 2018.

Obstruction at Lapsiphedi is another example of the difficulty to construct the transmission line in Nepal at a time when the country is in greater need of transmission infrastructure to transmit growing power production in the country. Not only for domestic consumption, but the country also needs a better transmission infrastructure for exporting power.

In fact, Nepal is set to hold talks with India for constructing additional two transmission line projects in the upcoming bilateral meeting scheduled to be held in late February.

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