Local people: happy to collaborate, but concerned about compensation

Route alignment has been improved as per our suggestions: Galchhi Village Municipality Chairperson

Kathmandu, 31 July 2019.

Participants keenly watching a presentation on the final alignment route of proposedelectricity transmission lines in a stakeholder consultation, organized atGalchhi Village Municipality.

“The Right of Way (RoW) provision of your project is going to cross our two houses at  Jamune Danda. After being destroyed by the devastating earthquake in 2015, one of the houses was rebuilt two years ago, and one just last year”, Mr. Prem Bahadur Rana Magar from Nilkantha Municipality shared with a sigh.“It seems that my family will have to search for a roof once again.”

Mr. Prem B. Rana Magar

Mr. Rana Magar, a teacher by profession from Nilkantha Municipality, does not live in those houses, but his father Durga Bahadur Rana Magar and brother Man Bahadur Rana Magar do. Mr. Rana Magar, who is living at Chanaute, at half an hour’s distance from Jamune Danda, voiced his pain- “When I saw the transmission line went above our houses during the presentation, I felt like the wire was crossing through my heart! I don’t know how I am going to convey the message to my father!!

“Anyway, my father won’t have any problem with cooperating with the project. He is a person with strong patriotic feeling.

Mr. Krishna Hari Shrestha, the Chairperson of Galchhi Village Municipality, addressing the gathering of local representatives.

He always says that country comes first. I believe that the project will not exploit his sentiment, but provide him with just compensation”, he said between pauses.

Not only Mr. Rana Magar, but other participants in a local level consultation program also expressed their concerns regarding the compensation to be provided for the private properties affected by the Electricity Transmission Project, being implemented by Millennium Challenge Account Nepal (MCA-Nepal). However, responses from the MCA-Nepal representatives helped calm their concerns.

The 16 June 2019 consultation was organized to share the final alignment route of the proposed 400 kV electricity transmission lines and preliminary findings of the Environmental Impact Assessment Baseline Survey with representatives from local governments and Community Forest User Groups from Galchhi Village Municipality and Nilkantha Municipality in Dhading district. The program was just one in the important series of consultations with local stakeholders in 30 municipalities through which the transmission line is going to cross.

A route map of transmission lines travelling through Galchhi Village Municipality.

Briefing the participants on the Electricity Transmission Project, Mr. Shyam K. Upadhyaya, the Quality Assurance Manager at MCA-Nepal, said, “This mega project is aiming to increase the country’s economic productivity by connecting various power houses’ electricity production in the national grid system. So it is a great opportunity to contribute and cooperate towards the nation’s development for the successful implementation of the mission.”

“We are exercising maximum caution to avoid any negative impact to private and public property as well as environmental and heritage sites in the course of the construction of the sub-stations, towers and lines”, he added, “However, it won’t be possible to completely neutralize the impact, so the project is going to compensate the damage in a fair and justifiable manner.”

Mr. Shyam K. Upadhyaya, the Quality Assurance Manager at MCA-Nepal, briefing the participants on the Electricity Transmission Project.

Mr. Madhukar Khadka, a representative of a consultant firm to MCA-Nepal, informed the gathering that the transmission lines will go through Ward No. 2, 3, and 8 of Galchhi Village Municipality and Ward No. 5 of Nilkantha Municipality.

Recalling a meeting with MCA-Nepal some time ago, Mr. Krishna Hari Shrestha, the Chairperson of Galchhi Village Municipality, said “I have found the transmission line route alignment has been amended as per our suggestions provided last time. Only three wards of Galchhi have been touched where as there were five wards in the proposed route last time. I have taken it as a commitment of the project to protect public property and consider our suggestions.”

He suggested collaboration with local people respecting their attachment to their land, heritage and environment.

Ms. Radha Timilsina, the Vice-Chairperson of Galchhi Village Municipality requested MCA-Nepal to hire local people in the project implementation process based on their capability and qualifications.

Mr.. Madhukar Khadka, a representative from a consultant firm, showing the alignment route of the transmission line.

Sharing her experience with the difficulty caused by other power projects in receiving compensation, she stressed that similar history should not be repeated for the smooth operation of this project.

Mr.. Nawa Raj Dhungana, Ward No. 5 Committee of Nilkantha Municipality, expressed concern about potential health impacts from the transmission line and requested MCA-Nepal to mitigate the project’s impact on community and religious forests.

Mr. Khadananda Khanal, the Chairperson of Ward No. 2 of Galchhi Village Municipality said, “Local people will be pleased to cooperate in moving the project ahead if the project fulfills their aspirations. Compensation should be fair and relocation cost should also be provided. We also request you to provide some community benefit, such as renovation of Bhaktabatsala Temple, replacing the existing transformers with high capacity transformers”

A route map of transmission lines travelling through Nilkantha Municipality.

Responding to the concerns, raised in the discussion, Mr. Upadhyaya mentioned, “We have a program, called MCA Partnership program, under which we incorporate community benefit initiatives. They will help in community development. We are also going to prioritize to provide capable local people with employment in project sites.”

Stating that there is no scientific basis on the claim that transmission lines can cause health impacts as they release less rays than mobile phones, he added, “But there are risks in staying under the lines. Long exposure to the rays may cause health hazards. Transmission lines could break and cause accidents. So we don’t allow the building of houses under the lines.” 

MCA-Nepal is in the last phase of preparation to incorporate the construction of a 318 KM long 400 kV electricity transmission line, which will run through Lapsephedi-Ratmate-Hetauda and Ratmate-New Damauli-New Butwal. It is going to touch 30 municipalities in 10 districts, and Galchhi Rural Municipality and Nilkantha Municipality are two of them.