Bibek Subedi, The Kathmandu Post, 12 May 2018
The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has been pressurising Indian company Texmaco, the contractor for the hydro-mechanical works of the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project, to subcontract the task to Austrian company Andritz Hydro as its sluggishness threatens to make the national pride project miss its completion deadline.
Andritz Hydro is implementing the electro-mechanical works of the 456 MW project. The state-owned power utility does not want to fire the Indian firm as terminating the contract and appointing another contractor will take three to four months. In contrast to Texmaco’s lacklustre performance, the Austrian company is carrying out the work on a war footing.
According to the officials of Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Company, a subsidiary of the NEA which is developing the project, they have discussed the issue with the representatives of both companies who have responded positively.
The NEA’s senior management is planning to hold a tripartite meeting with the representatives of both contractors soon and finalise the deal. “This is the only way to complete the project on time,” said an NEA official.
Lately, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Energy Ministry has been putting pressure on the NEA to complete the project on time. As per the deadline set by the government, at least one out of the plant’s six units should start generating electricity by December 2018, and the entire project should be completed by April 2019.
Although the civil and electro-mechanical contractors will have no problem meeting the deadline, the Indian contractor is yet to start fitting the penstock pipe, which is the most challenging task in the hydro-mechanical component. The penstock pipe conveys water from the reservoir to the turbines to generate electricity.
Work began at the 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.