The Kathmandu Post, 4 July 2017
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has expressed commitment to expedite implementation of West Seti Hydroelectric Project and Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project to develop the economy of the far western region of the country.
His call comes at a time when developers of both the mega projects are dragging their feet to roll out the projects, which have the potential to transform the energy-deficit country into a net exporter of electricity.
West Seti Hydroelectric project is a 750MW project being built by China Three Gorges Corporation at a cost of $1.6 billion. The project will spread over Baitadi, Bajhang, Dadeldhura and Doti districts. Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, which has an installed capacity of 4,800 MW, on the other hand, is being built on the Mahakali River in far-western part of the country by the governments of Nepal and India. The project, along with Rupaligad project, has the potential to generate around 12 billion units of electricity per year and irrigate over 1.5 million hectares of agricultural land in Nepal and India. Both of these projects are being implemented at a very slow pace.
“The far western region has an abundance of water resources. If this is used properly, it will not only change the fate of people living here but the entire country,” PM Deuba told a workshop organized to prepare a guideline for the socio-economic development of Province No. 7 in Dhangadi on Monday. “We will introduce a special program to make maximum use of water and other natural resources available in the far western region. This will help generate job opportunities in the region.”
The Far western region is not only rich in natural resources but has ample tourist spots, which if exploited could generate ample employment opportunities, as tourism is a labour-intensive sector.
“This would discourage more and more people from going abroad for employment purpose,” PM Deuba said. Over the years, over 500,000 people, mostly youths, have been leaving the country per year seeking employment opportunities.
“How can the country develop when most of our skilled and semi-skilled workers are working abroad?” Deuba questioned.
“We need the political will to develop the country and generate employment opportunities here. But to achieve these targets we also need support from a cross section of the society.”
Although the government has been allocating a sizeable chunk of the budget every year to execute development works in the far western region, these resources are not utilized properly, which is pouring cold water on people’s aspiration for rapid economic growth.
“This practice of under utilizing available funds should end,” PM Deuba said, adding, “However, it would also be an exaggeration to say development works have not picked up in the far western region, as road networks are being expanded to link various villages. These roads will ultimately raise people’s access to markets.”
Yet he acknowledged works are not moving ahead at the desired pace. “Against this backdrop, it is necessary to revise programs designed for socio-economic development of the region,” PM Deuba told the workshop.
The workshop was also attended by former minister Lekhraj Bhatta, Prabhu Budathoki, chairman of the Far Western Development Council, and Energy Secretary Anup Kumar Upadhyaya. The workshop will continue for two days.