Evacuation of electricity has become a bigger problem than power generation in Nepal due to absence of transmission lines. Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has a practical monopoly over construction of transmission lines; but it has been constantly confronted with a number of problems, leading to its inability to complete the targeted transmission line projects. Among all, acquiring land is the major one. Several alignments namely Thankot-Bhaktapur, Khimti-Dhalkebar, Hetauda-Bharatpur-Bardhaghat, Kusum-Hapure, Singati-Lamosanghu, Dumre-Damauli have not been completed for many years and a large number of projects have not gone into construction due to uncertainty in transmission line construction. Infrastructure sector like roads have alternatives such as railways, waterways, airways, but transmission lines have no substitutes. Therefore, if we want to see an end to the electricity problem in Nepal, we have no option but developing transmission system urgently.
RIGHT OF WAY
Acquiring land for Right of Way (RoW), constructing towers, and delay in securing timely clearance from forest department as well as security agencies, are some of the major challenges for developing transmission system. There is a field-level difficulty in acquiring private land for developing transmission system as people tend to feel that they are being unfairly treated by being forced to bear the cost for the benefit of other people. This perception of unfairness is the major source of dissatisfaction and social disruption. It is difficult for people to give up land for constructing any infrastructure because it separates them from their ancestral ties. Furthermore, the presence of a transmission line reduces the commercial value of the land to almost nil as it can’t be put for any alternative commercial use. As a result, people opt for not cooperating when it comes to this specific infrastructural development.
The level of non-cooperation of local residents can be minimized by involving them in planning of transmission line projects from the very beginning. Authorized personnel do not involve the locals in the planning process in order to reduce the possibility of political opposition and cost of land acquisition. However, if the locals are involved from the very beginning of the planning process, they can support such development initiatives by suggesting workable alternatives. In a democratic society like ours, decisions should be taken after adequate discussion and interaction among the individuals and groups. A collaborative effort among all stakeholders can solve this issue. Furthermore, landowners, developers and technical people associated with planning and design could discuss in greater detail for creating better and more aesthetically pleasing communities which adds additional value to society in the end.
During the development of transmission line in Nepal, while locals are not involved in the planning process, some informed people/insiders buy the land on low cost and later on, bargain with NEA and other responsible utilities for higher compensation. Such transactions are observed in many strategic locations where transmission line projects are being executed. Similar infiltration is suspected in Sinduli where the transmission system, consisting of only six towers, is incomplete. This sort of activities can be avoided if information is shared with the locals more effectively. Moreover, when participatory approach is followed, local residents will not feel ignored. It causes delay in planning process that often lead to increase in cost in the development stage, however, return will be far more than expenditures.
Additionally, for the smooth construction of transmission related infrastructure, NEA should think of different ways to minimize the degree to which people feel unfairly treated. A market price based monetary compensation of land might reduce the feeling of having suffered a net loss from an unfair practice. The land owners, whose properties have to be acquired for building transmission system, are ready to provide their land if they get market value of their fixed assets. Similarly, if the affected people get some benefits from the project under benefit sharing mechanism, their dissatisfaction will be further reduced and may even turn out to be supportive of the development activities.
Agriculture and Water Resource Committee (AWRC), the Parliamentary committee has identified that construction of transmission systems is a real bottleneck in development of power sector in Nepal. Therefore, the members of the committee have formed a subcommittee to conduct the detailed study on it and solve the critical constraints of energy sector. Acquiring land from the private owner for Right of Way (RoW) and constructing transmission towers are the major challenges and these cannot be resolved without providing marked based compensation to the affected land owners and including them in the planning process from the initial phase. Without such serious and timely reforms in the transmission system, the country’s problem in power sector cannot be solved and the shortage of power will lead to a greater loss of production of goods and services which also has serious implications on the country’s socio-economic stability. Therefore, reforms in transmission sector are essential not only for attaining a fast pace of economic growth by bringing efficiency in our economy but also for protecting our socio-political rights.
(This article was originally published in The Himalayan Times on 7th December, 2014. You can read it by clicking following link :