Prakash Adhikari, The Kathmandu Post, 29 June 2017
Pre-construction works of Bheri-Babai Multipurpose Diversion Project have been completed within the deadline, paving the way for actual construction of the irrigation-cum-hydroelectric project to begin in mid-July.
The Chinese contractor of the project, located in mid-western Nepal, was given a deadline of mid-July to complete construction of entry points of access road and tunnel, 150-metre tunnel, and ring plant.
It was also asked to conduct activities for socio-economic development in project-affected areas within the deadline. The contractor, China Overseas Engineering Group, has completed these works.
The contractor has also installed a 4MW diesel plant at the project site and built a facility to store 200,000 litres of diesel.
Also, gravels are being laid on rural roads of Babai, seven wells are being built to extract drinking water, villages are being electrified and irrigation channels are being repaired in the vicinity of the project site.
“With this, all pre-construction works have been completed,” said Min Raj Dhakal, the project’s senior divisional engineer.
The Bheri-Babai Multipurpose Diversion Project is a national pride project. It will divert 40 cubic metres of water per second from Bheri River to Babai River using a 15m-tall dam, which will be built at Chiple of Bheri-Ganga Municipality, and a 12km-long tunnel.
The water can be used to irrigate 51,000 hectares of land round the year in Banke and Bardia districts.
The project will also generate 48MW electricity. The tunnel of the project-a crucial component of the project-is being built using a tunnel boring machine for the first time in Nepal.
“It will take around two months for the 250m-long tunnel boring machine to arrive in Nepal,” said Dhakal. “It will take another two months to install it.”
Manufactured by The Robbins Company of the US, the tunnel boring machine, a device to excavate tunnels, will be used to dig a 12km-long and 4.2m-wide tunnel at the Chure range that lies between Bheri and Babai rivers.
It will take around two-three years to dig the entire tunnel, according to Dhakal.
The Chinese contractors have already dug a 150m-long tunnel manually to place the tunnel boring machine. “The manufacturing company will demonstrate the use of the machine by digging 5m-long tunnel,” said Dhakal.
The irrigation-cum-hydroelectric project is one of the strategic projects of the country, as it is expected to ease food crisis in the mid-western region by increasing agricultural yields.
“Some of the salient features of the project are: easy access to road network, limited environmental hazards, less use of water from Bheri River and little negative impact in the vicinity of the dam site,” said Dhakal. “Also, only 30 hectares of land need to acquired at the dam site, which is very little.”
The government had invited bids for construction of the project in July 2012, but lack of resources and delay in appointment of a contractor prevented the four-year project from moving ahead in time.
The construction of the project was finally inaugurated in April 2015 by late former prime minister Sushil Koirala.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be around Rs16 billion. It is expected to make indirect financial contribution of Rs3.1 billion to the state, and direct revenue contribution of Rs2.1 billion through sales of electricity.