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Building Budi Gandaki

Sunday, August 6th, 2017


Mukesh Pokharel in , 6-12 August

In June, a week after bagging the controversial contract to build the 1,200 MW Budi Gandaki Hydropower Project, the China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) team reached the field site for a survey. CGGC’s Nepal Country Director Yuan Zhixiong told the locals: “We need one chance to prove ourselves.”

Budi Gandaki is Nepal’s second reservoir-type hydroelectricity project, and it is far bigger than Kulekhani. For years, Nepal viewed Budi Gandaki as one of its national pride projects, and just before it stepped down the Maoist-led government of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal decided to sign an agreement with the Chinese company to develop the project.

The decision was made a day before Dahal resigned in May, and the MoU was signed a day before Parliament elected Sher Bahadur Deuba as the new Prime Minister in June. The move raised suspicions about Budi Gandaki’s future because of the CGGC’s poor track road because it had earlier failed to build the 60 MW Trisuli 3A, inflated the project cost of Chameliya, and was back-listed for its failure in Upper Sanjen.

But things have changed now. CGGC seems desperate to rebrand its image in Nepal, and there is hope in some quarters that the company  will deliver this time because the Chinese government is also keen to see this project completed in eight years. Congress MP Radheshyam Adhikari says: “No matter which Chinese company is building Budi Gandaki, it is now Beijing’s responsibility.”

Tanka Karki, Nepal’s former ambassador to China, agrees, he says: “Beijing clearly has an interest in Nepal. It wants strong diplomatic ties with a stable and prosperous Kathmandu, and this very Chinese interest will help make Budi Gandaki happen.”

During his visit to China in March, Prime Minister Dahal sought Beijing’s support in building Budi Gandaki. Sources say Chinese leaders have promised their full support to the project. But the Budi Gandaki contract with the Chinese company is facing stiff criticism from Baburam Bhattarai’s New Force Party. The main opposition UML is also pressing the government to reveal details of the agreement.

UML MP Rabindra Adhikari says: “Did the government award the Budi Gandaki contract to CGGC, concluding that it cannot do it on its own? Why was there no open competition? If Beijing was interested, why not a government-to-government deal?”

A petition has also been filed at the Supreme Court seeking termination of the contract. Dinesh Ghimire, spokesperson of the Ministry of Energy, says CGGC is waiting for the court verdict before starting the project.



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