The Kathmandu Post, Bibek Subedi, 20th April 2017, Kathmandu
The Kulekhani III Hydropower Project has been in construction since 2008, and does not look like meeting its completion deadline even after four extensions as the contractors are working in slow motion claiming delays in payment by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA).
The NEA, the owner of the 14 MW hydropower project, has said the plant will start generating electricity by July.
Sino Hydro, the civil contractor for the project, has completed 98 percent of the works while Jheijian Jialin Company, the contractor for the hydro and electro mechanical works, has completed installing 50 percent of the plant and machinery.
As per the construction schedule, the civil contractor should have completed 99 percent of the work by now, but it has been taking its time due to a payment dispute with the NEA.
The Chinese civil contractor has claimed a total of around Rs40 million as variations under different headings, but the NEA has delayed arbitration and payment.
Irked by the NEA’s dillydallying, Sino Hydro has been working at an extremely slow pace. “It has not stopped working, but the pace is very slow,” said Subash Mishra, the NEA appointed project chief of Kulekhani III.
Meanwhile, the electro and hydro mechanical contractor, Jheijian Jialin, has been working even more slowly. By this date, it should have completed the water gate; but the way it has been working, the task does not look like being completed any time soon, according to Mishra.
The company has to construct three towers to evacuate the electricity generated by the plant. It has just started building one of them, that too at a very slow pace. “Considering the speed at which they have been working, both contractors are going to miss the deadline,” said Mishra.
The two contractors had agreed to complete the project by the end of July 2017 during a meeting with Energy Minster Janardan Sharma on December 25. The project’s completion deadline has been extended four times since construction began in April 2008. It was originally scheduled to be finished by 2012. When the project missed the deadline, it was extended by 30 months. When that deadline too passed without the project nowhere near completion, the target was pushed back once again till the end of the last fiscal year.
NEA officials have blamed the hydro and electro mechanical contractor for the slow progress at the hydropower project. Also, the Chinese officials representing Jheijian Jialin rarely stayed at the project site or elsewhere in Nepal, making it very difficult to contact them.
Although the contractors were supposed to move faster after being prodded by the prime minister and the energy minister, it did not happen.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had also directed project officials to expedite the construction and complete it on time during his visit to the project site last December. When they complained about the apathy of the Chinese contractor, he said the government would take up the issue with the Chinese government.
The project has encountered cost overruns due to delays, and the developer has spent double the amount of money originally estimated. The initial estimated cost of the project was Rs2.43 billion, but its cost has ballooned to Rs4.22 billion. In May 2014, the National Planning Commission declared Kulekhani III a troubled project.