Hydropower development in Nepal


One-fifth of the global electricity supply comes from hydropower, and hydropower development has promoted and helped shape economic growth in many countries and can play an important role to address growing demand worldwide for clean, reliable, and affordable energy. In context of Nepal as well hydropower can play a vital role to lead a path towards the prosperity but it seems a bit of unconcerned title.

Availability of abundant water resources and due to steep gradient and mountainous topography and other geophysical features provide ample opportunities for hydropower production in Nepal. Since wholly northern topography of country include mountain ranges in the result of which there originates the country’s three major river systems Koshi, Gandaki/Narayani, Karnali/Ghaghara and their smaller tributaries, which are responsible for the greater potential of Nepal’s hydropower production. Consisting of about 6,000 rivers crisscrossing the country, Nepal has total potential of about 83,290 Megawatts of electricity theoretically and about 42,133 Megawatt on the basis of economic potential. However the total installed generation capacity in Nepal is only 1,182 megawatts.


The history of hydropower development in Nepal began on May 22, 1911 (9 Jestha 1968 BS) by installing 500 kW electricity at Pharping named as Chandra Jyoti. After 25 years, long duration, Prime Minister Dev Shamsher initiated 640 kW, Sundarijal Hydropower plant with a capacity of 900 kW in 1936. Sundarijal, hydroelectricity development in Nepal was once again stalled for decades. Some years later, Morang Hydropower Company established in 1939 and completed construction of third Letang hydropower plant with an installed capacity of 1800 kW in AD 1943 under public-private partnership. The plant supplied electricity to Biratnagar Jute Mill and later destroyed by landslide. Historically, however, Nepal’s first bilateral agreements with India were Koshi and Gandak Projects in 1954 and 1959, respectively, exclusively designed to cater for irrigation and flood control in India with small irrigation and hydropower component for Nepal.

During the late 1960s, a hydropower plant was constructed with foreign assistance such as ex-USSR (Panauti-2.4 MW), India (Trisuli-18 MW, Devighat-14.1 MW, Gandak-15 MW, Surajpura-Kosi-20 MW), and China (Sunkoshi 10 MW, built in 1972 as a gift to Nepal from China). The 92 MW Kulekhani Hydropower Plant (I and II) was commissioned in 1982, which is the only project offering seasonal water storage in Nepal. The 144 MW Kali Gandaki A hydropower project, commissioned in 2003 is the biggest hydropower project in Nepal so far. In 2005, a plan to develop Kaligandaki-Nawalpur diversion (multipurpose) project (with about 20 km tunnel) to generate 22 MW of electricity was formulated but it could not be materialized. Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), founded on 16 August 1985, is the parent generator and distributor of electric power under the supervision of the government of Nepal now which is going thoroughly toward the better productivity of hydroenergy and also gives authority to other private companies to do so because of which more hydropower plants are under ongoing construction for the better productivity of abundant water resources.


Having a proper mountain range all over the northern part of the country total of about 84,000 Megawatt of electricity is possible. But due to the economic prospectus and other country’s issue, Nepal can produce up-to about 43,000 Megawatt of electricity on its own which is pretty good for the small country like ours. As given the tag of developing country which is it, we are able to produce about only 1000 Megawatt. So Nepal has a lot to do towards hydropower development. Previously it’s been very hard to raise a slope for the development of hydropower but recently from few year government and other non-government agencies are seen active towards the sustainable development. Huge scope is raising towards hydropower in coming years. There are more than about 200 hydropower projects plans now which can boost the power up-to 10,000 Megawatt. But the main concern is it’s should must be constructed in timely manner. But slowly Nepal is moving toward betterment due to hydropower. Hydropower development can assure energy security, food security, and health security, as well as preserve the environment, minimize greenhouse gas emissions, and give recreational opportunities in developing countries like Nepal.


It’s been a critical problem in Nepal to boost up the development of infrastructure. Due to the political instability and economics reason the development always remain delayed. Other than that due to geography of Nepal there has to be proper investment for the construction in desired locations. So due to fragile geology, hydrologic variability, geotechnical constraints, difficult terrain, and sparse hydro meteorological network etc., plentiful of technical challenges had to be borne up with for hydropower development. Himalayan Rivers contain large quantities of sediment with hard abrasive particles, which is a hurdle for the economic exploitation of hydropower resources. Almost all the power plants in the Himalayan region are affected by excessive sediment in rivers that reduce the life of plants either by filling reservoirs or by erosion of turbine components. Due to over-flooding and over-drying of water resources powerplants are affected.  So the environment, political and investment factors are the main challenges for hydropower development in Nepal.


Hydropower projects can be expected to have important effects because of the considerable construction expenditures they involve and their electrical power generation. The findings here, as might be expected,  is that hydropower projects will provide overall benefits, especially economic growth, although there may be an increase in the general level of prices and a decline in traditional exports in the short term. The benefits will be particularly significant if private foreign investment can be attracted to finance such projects. To the extent that the projects are financed domestically, the overall benefits are modest because funding for the projects will have to come from foregone investments. Given Nepal’s abundant water resources and the enormous demand for electricity in neighboring India and China, exploitation of this resource represents an excellent opportunity to finance the process of broad national development of Nepal. However, complex geopolitical problems in the region present serious challenges, and considerable political conviction will be required to see the projects through. It is imperative that hydropower projects are seen as equitable and take environmental issues into account through the highest degree of transparency and participation.


Despite of having many problems in efficient development in hydropower. Nepal is progressing steady. NEA has come through a lot of plans for the proper development of powerplants. Being a developing country Nepal can come up with various prosperous events if the hydropower development goes as plan.







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