Cabinet panel divided on Upper Trishuli-1 license revival
RAMESH PRASAD BHUSHAL
KATHMANDU, Aug 15: The Cabinet´s Economic Infrastructure Committee meeting today could not decide about reviving the 216 MW Upper Trishuli -1 project as members were divided for and against.
“The meeting discussed the hydro project but could not reach any conclusion as the discussion became strenous. So we decided to seek more clarifications from the energy ministry why the license had to be scrapped,” said Minister for Environment, Science and Technology Keshav Man Shakya, who is also a member of the Economic Infrastructure Committee. The license was scrapped a few weeks ago.
The license for Upper Trishuli-I was scrapped by the Energy Ministry after the license holder, Nepal Water and Energy Development Company (NWEDC), failed to complete necessary work for receiving the generation license. However, once the license was scrapped, political lobbying started for its revival and it reached even the level of the prime minister.
The issue became more complex after IDS Energy and China Hydro submitted an application at the Department of Electricity Development (DoED), seeking a license for the same project just two days after NWEDC´s license was scrapped on June 29. “No one else had applied when we scrapped the license. So, it´s not our duty to predict and take decisions. It was decided as per existing laws,” said a highly placed source at the ministry.
According to ministry sources, the prime minister exerted pressured to move forward a proposal to restore the scrapped license to the same company, after which Secretary at Energy Ministry Hari Ram Koirala forwarded the file to the Cabinet for a decision.
Following heated discussion at the Cabinet a few days ago, where most of the ministers argued for not reviving the license as that would place moral pressure on the government for breaching legal norms, the file was forwarded to the Cabinet´s Economic Infrastructure Committee for further discussions.
The ministers said they were worried that the project was becoming highly politicized and getting blown out of proportion and asked instead for initiating of a new process to award the license through competitive bidding.
However, some of the ministers demanded revival of the license, claiming the company´s work was satisfactory and the necessary financial arrangement had also been seen to. “This is a serious issue, so we decided to take a final decision only after getting more details from the energy ministry,” said Shakya, who attended the meeting.
Officials at the Ministry of Energy claim that the company had not even completed an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and other feasibility study processes that were to be completed by the end of five years maximum, a period that ended a month ago.
“Their claim is not correct as the work was not completed and the ministry took its decision to scrap the license as per existing law,” said a high-level official under condition of anonymity. “If they are not satisfied they can go to court but turning to media houses and political leaders is no way to seek justice,” he added.