A common refrain one gets to hear in Nepal is how the country is blessed with hydro power potential of over 83,000 MW, arguably the second highest in the world. But that richness hasn’t transformed into anything good for the country.
The country produces barely 1% electricity of its total potential. Hence power outages occur all through the year with over 14 hours of scheduled cuts in winters. Significantly, Nepal was one of Asia’s first nations to generate power over a century ago.
This shortage has crippled Nepal’s economy and manufacturing industries are worst hit. A variety of factors has contributed to this scenario. A long civil war, prolonged transition period, political instability, wrong policies and lack of political will are some.
Inability of domestic investors to construct big power projects has led Nepal to look outside. But persisting problems in two major projects handed over to India and China, Nepal’s two power guzzling neighbours, show that things are far from normal on the ground.
Now in a bid to address this problem, a hydro power summit is underway in Kathmandu this week. The two-day event will witness industry leaders from India and Nepal confabulate with policy planners and ministers to remove bottlenecks and move forward.
The summit could lead to a review of the existing power policy, make clear commitments to international investors in line with best practices worldwide, develop transmission lines and reduce procedural delays and red tape in allocation and development of projects.
If that happens, Nepal could not only fulfil its domestic power needs but export surplus electricity. Successful implementation of power projects would have a positive cascading effect on flood management, irrigation and agriculture as well.
PM Baburam Bhattarai is aware of this. “We have lost enough time and energy over procedural hassles and not a single big project has been implemented in the past decade. I am committed to end this sad legacy soon,” he said at the summit.
Only time will tell, if his words translate into actions.