Nepal: Maoists Demand Halt to Indian Hydropower Project
Posted by Ka Frank on January 28, 2010
This article was published in My Republica on January 25, 2010.
Maoists tell GMR to quit Upper Karnali
SURKHET: As part of their fourth phase of protest against “Indian interferences in Nepal”, Maoists have asked the Indian GMR Energy Limited, which is working on the construction of the 300 MW Upper Karnali, to pack up and leave the country.
Maoists on Monday reached the hydropower construction site at Tunibagar in Dailekh where they held a rally and asked the Indian power construction firm to halt the work and leave. The leaders said the decision to shut down the construction was taken by the party´s central committee. Maoist politburo members Dharmendra Bastola, Hari Bhakta Kandel and Khadga Bahadur BK addressed the rally.
After the rally, the Maoists held a press conference at Mahendranagar to inform about the party´s decision. “We have urged the concerned party (GMR group) to stop work from Sunday,” said BK. He warned of dire consequences if the work is not halted immediately. BK admitted that Maoists were also in the coalition government that awarded the Indian power production firm with Upper Karnali hydropower project, but argued that the government took the decision by hoodwinking his party.
“We had objected to the involvement of GMR in the project from the very beginning. Now the issue is linked with the party´s national independence campaign,” he said. The Maoist leader said the closure of the hydropower construction may hamper the development process, but the party took the decision for protecting “national interest”. “We are not the opponents of development process. But we don´t tolerate Indian interference in the name of development,” BK thundered.
However, the GMR group has not halted its work. The Indian company officials said they have not yet received formal directive to halt the work. “I have also heard the buzz, but nobody has formally asked us to stop the work,” said Pradip Nepal, assistant manager at GMR´s Surkhet office. He said the company´s field office at Paletada has been continuing the work.
GMR Energy Limited of India was awarded the project in January 2008. As part of the deal, GMR will provide about 12 percent free electricity, and 27 percent free equity of the project to Nepal. According to an estimate by Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the construct cost of the project is around US$468.6 million.
The company is currently conducting a survey and Environmental Impact Assessment of the project. The company plans to complete the project in seven years.
Previously, the local people had obstructed the work twice. GMR has stated that the hampering of the work is likely to delay the construction and will cost the company Rs 10 million per day. The company has also stated that the latest Maoist threat has worsened the situation.