License of Nine Hydropower Projects Likely to be Revoked due to Obstruction from Protected Areas

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License of Nine Hydropower Projects Likely to be Revoked due to Obstruction from Protected Areas

February 14: The permits of nine hydropower projects with a capacity of 461 megawatts are on the verge of being revoked due to their failure to get consent for survey from national parks and various protected areas.

Those hydropower companies have already paid millions of rupees in royalties and have also received survey license from the Ministry of Energy. However, the national parks and conservation areas under the Ministry of Forests and Environment have not given their consent for the survey of the hydropower projects. As a result, their license is likely to be revoked.

A team of promoters of the projects affected by the protected areas, under the leadership of Ganesh Karki, the president of the Independent Power Producers Association, Nepal (IPPAN), met Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment Dr Deepak Kharal on Monday and urged him to take initiative to resolve the problems faced by these projects.

The promoters said that their permits will expire after three months if the Ministry of Forests and Environment does not give its consent to conduct the survey. Therefore, they requested Forest Secretary Dr Kharal bail them out by giving  permission immediately to carry out the survey of the projects.

IPPAN President Karki also requested Secretary Kharal to recommend to the Ministry of Energy to extend the deadline of the permits of the affected projects by two years, as the deadline of the survey license is about to expire due to the non-cooperation from the national parks and protected areas.

The promoters of hydropower projects argued that they have been paying millions of rupees as royalties to the government every year since the Ministry of Energy granted then survey license five years ago. Since the non-cooperation from the national parks is likely to waste their investment, the private sector energy promoters requested Dr Kharal to take a secretary-level decision to grant them permission for survey.

Promoter Sitaram Timalsina said that it is not fair to threaten to arrest the promoters just because the park officials are not satisfied with certain provisions.

"They have threaten us that they will come to our houses at night and arrest us. They insist that all three generations of our family must attend the meeting fixed by them," Timalsina told the forest secretary, adding, "We are building hydropower projects. We are engaged in a campaign to make the country prosperous. It's not like smuggling.”

Bharat Parajuli, the promoter of the Lagang river (Brahmaani A) hydropower project, said that it is sad that the park officials treat tree smugglers and hydropower promoters in the same way.

"We feel like we are insulted. They are threatening to imprison people who are engaged in the campaign to make the country prosperous," Parajuli said, "If there is a weakness, let's correct it. We build hydropower. That’s not a crime.”

Businessmen complained that the national parks did not give them permission to expand the capacity of the projects. They argued that the park officials are not ready to give them permission to increase the capacity of hydropower projects from 20 megawatts to 30 megawatts without cutting more trees in the forest and without adding any new structures.

 They demanded revising the procedure for releasing water in the protected areas under the Procedure for Providing Land for Construction of Physical Infrastructure in Protected Areas 2080. They argued that the new provision of releasing water in cumec instead of cusec will affect many hydropower projects and therefore urged to reverse it to the previous provision.

Secretary Dr. Kharal assured the delegation that he would do all he can to address their problems including recommendation for two-year term extension.

The government has started the process of improving its policies through reforms in the legal system to create a conducive environment for investment in the country ahead of the Third Investment Summit scheduled for late April.

However, the draft submitted by a task force for law reforms, mentions that hydropower projects need to plant ten times more trees if they require to cut trees in national forests and protected areas. There was no such provisions until now, say the promoters.



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