Indian power firm to co-host summit in Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : Faced with an imminent energy crisis and stiff resistance to hydro-power projects, Nepal’s independent power producers have tied up with bankers and PTC India Ltd to host a power summit here to break the ice and cut the red tape.

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Co-hosted by Nepal Bankers’ Association and Independent Power Producers’ Association Nepal, the two-day Power Summit 2007 that kicks off Monday will see major players from India and government officials taking part.

Besides PTC, GMR, IL&FS, PowerGrid, Larsen and Toubro and National Insurance Co of India will be presenting their capabilities and potential at the seminar in a bid for alliances.

Girish Pradhan, joint secretary at India’s power ministry, will provide an overview of Indo-Nepal cooperation in electricity.

Three of Nepal’s ministers – Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat, Minister of State for Hydropower Gyan bahadur Karki and (Maoist) Minister for Physical Planning and Infrastructure Hisila Yami – will address the summit. So will the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Shiv Shankar Mukherjee.

The power summit comes at a time several Indian companies, including GMR, L&T, the Jindal Group, Reliance and others, are in the fray for hydropower projects.

However, the government is yet to award any licence due to the opposition of political parties as well as NGOs who have been accusing the government of trying to give undue benefit to Indian companies.

One of the largest power projects in the pipeline has been taken to court because it entered into an agreement with PTC to sell all the power to the Indian company.

The bilateral power projects to be executed by India and Nepal together have also been surrounded by controversy, with none even close to implementation.

Even the power project to be built by India upon the request of Nepal is on hold following mounting political turmoil in the country.

The Maoists, who had obstructed development projects during their decade-old insurgency, have now threatened to quit the government and start a new revolt. If they do that, foreign investors would shy away from the trouble-torn country.

Even if they don’t, with a critical election scheduled for Nov 22, it is unlikely that new deals could be struck up before the dust settles down.

In the past, two more power summits had been organised in Kathmandu under the initiative of the private sector.

However, there has been virtually no movement, thanks to political obstruction. Currently, Nepal faces a four-hour weekly power outage that officials have warned would go up to 12-17 hours daily after November.