Hetauda, June 2019.
Audience in the hall was full of confusion at the start of a stakeholder consultation in Hetauda, but seemed satisfied and happy at the end.
Local participants of the event organized in Hetauda were carrying reservations regarding the alignment plan of electricity transmission lines if it would have adverse impact on their private property, public structure or heritage sites. They heaved a sigh of relief when they found the program has addressed their concerns regarding the route and paid attention to minimize the impact of infrastructure development initiation on the project locations.
Millennium Challenge Account Nepal (MCA-Nepal) organized the consultation with representatives from local governments and Community Forest User Groups on 13 June 2019 to share the final alignment route of proposed 400 kV electricity transmission lines and preliminary findings of Environmental Impact Assessment Baseline Survey of the area with local stakeholders, and to solicit local perspectives on proposed alignment from them.
The program was one of the important series of consultations with local stakeholder in 30 municipalities through which the transmission line is going to cross.
Introducing the Electricity Transmission Project (ETP) of MCA-Nepal, Rajendra P. Thanju, the Quality Assurance Manager for Social Inclusion and Resettlement in MCA-Nepal, highlighted the importance of availability of green energy for the economic development, and said, “ETP is an initiative to fill the infrastructure gap for the development of energy sector in Nepal with an assistance from the US Government.”
“It is obvious that any development projects have some impacts on physical and natural life, but impact minimization and mitigation have been prioritized in this intervention based on the guidelines of the Government of Nepal and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the donor agency”, Thanju informed the audience.
“I have worked in impact studies and management of high voltage power projects before joining the program, but this is the first project in which such a concerted and serious attention is paid to minimize and or mitigate the impacts, and concerned people are consulted”, he added.
Madhukar Khadka, are presentative of a consultant firm to MCA-Nepal, took the participants a tour of electricity transmission towers, to be constructed at different locations in Hetauda, with the help of a slide presentation, and asked them repeatedly to observe keenly if there were any public structure or human settlement or heritage site under the cable.
“I was worried if our suggestions regarding the alignment of the towers, forwarded earlier with an objective to avoid locations with public importance, were incorporated or not”, Nara Nath Subedi, the Chairperson of Ward No. 19, said, “I found the route has been improved considering our inputs, so I am relieved.”
“We have been victimized by various transmission lines time and again. Previous projects have acquired our land without providing compensationin a satisfactory rate. One transmission line has not provided us the compensation yet. The story shouldnot be repeated by this project”, Manju Roka, the Secretary of Dalit Women Association, Makawanpur, added, “Development is must, but it shouldn’t be achieved at the cost of people’s interest.”
Responding to her and othersimilar concerns raised by most of the participants, Shyam Upadhyaya, theQuality Assurance Manager for Environment, Health and Safety in MCA-Nepal,mentioned, “The acquired land and shifted private structures will be fairly compensatedbased on a rate, determined by a Compensation Fixation Committee, formed under the Chief District Officer. Any land lying under transmission lines will also be compensated in lieu of some restrictions on their use.”
“We don’t have nice experience about the replantation of trees. While cutting trees in our community forests to clear land for the construction of such infrastructure, projects commit nicely to compensate with sufficient replantation, but in practical, they don’t”, Sadhu Ram Chaulagain,the Makawanpur President of Community Forest User Groups’ Federation, “This project should ensure the replantation of trees and conservation of them.”
“I was having a negative thought on the project before joining this meeting. Now my confusions and fears have been cleared well. I have found the present version of alignment consisting enough positive changes”, Nawa Raj Subedi, the Chairperson of Ward No. 19, stated.
The transmission line arrives in Hetauda Sub-Metropolitan City from Ratmate crossing some hills in Galchhi, Thakre, Kailash and Rakshirang, and a 12.19 KM long part of the transmission line travels through Ward No. 3, 11 and 19 of the Municipality. There will be total 41 towers inthese wards.
MCA-Nepal is in the preparatory phase to implement the US Government Grant of US $ 500 million and Government of Nepal’s contribution of US $ 130 million in electricity transmission line construction and road maintenance in various parts of Nepal. The Government of Nepal has declared the Electricity Transmission Project, which is responsible for the construction of 313 KM of 400 kV double circuit transmission line as a ‘Project of National Pride’.