The Kathmandu Post, 27 May 2018
Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Company, a subsidiary of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and developer of much-talked about Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project, has completed construction of over 80 percent of the 220kV Gongor-Khimti Transmission Line Project. The 47km transmission line—crucial to evacuate hydroelectricity generated by 456MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project—is slated to come online well before the deadline of December 2018.
KEC International, the Indian contractor hired for the construction of the power line has installed electricity cables on 26km stretch of the transmission line project. Similarly, out of 127 power transmission towers that are needed, 105 have been erected. The contractor is installing 18 other towers and foundations of remaining towers will be ready within a month, according to the company.
Currently, the contractor, according to the company, is prioritising the installation of electricity cable over the towers that have already been erected. Also, the construction of the foundation to erect the tower has also been prioritised, according to Ganesh Raj Neupane, spokesperson at the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Company.
The contractor has also started construction of a substation at Khimti where electricity produced by the project will be evacuated. At present, the contractor is leveling the ground to lay the foundation of the substation. The company is planning to complete the construction of both power line and substation before December 2018.
Although the construction of the transmission line is going at satisfactory speed, the hydropower project is likely to miss its completion deadline as the Indian contractor assigned to execute the hydro-mechanical works has been going very slowly. At least one of the six turbines of the 456 MW plant should be churning out power by December 2018 as per the deadline set by the government. The entire project should come online by April 2019. But that does not look like happening. The NEA’s subsidiary has said the said there is only a slim chance of the project being ready by the government deadline due to the dillydallying by the Indian contractor Texmaco Limited which was assigned for the job.
As part of the hydro-mechanical works, the Indian company needs to build gates at the intake of the dam and fit the penstock pipe in the tunnel. Although the contractor is constructing the gates at the intake, it has yet to start installing the penstock pipes. The penstock pipes deliver water from the dam into the turbines in the powerhouse to generate electricity. Although Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Company has been putting pressure on the Indian contractor to speed up construction, its performance has not improved.
Work began at the 456 MW project in Dolakha before the 2015 earthquakes, and 79 percent of the civil works had been completed before the disaster struck. The quake and subsequent Indian trade blockade held up tunnel construction works.
The national pride project was originally scheduled to be completed in mid-July 2016, but it was delayed due to various technical and social issues. It faced cost overruns due to the delays. The project has spent Rs37.71 billion and completed 95 percent of the work so far.
According to NEA sources, the total cost of the project is likely to exceed Rs50 billion, significantly higher than the initial estimate of Rs35.3 billion. Nevertheless, the project is considered to be a role model project which is being developed with domestic resources and a high level of participation by project-affected locals and the general public.