BARABISE – Sunkoshi Small Hydropower Plant (SSHP), the first hydropower plant developed by Non-Residential Nepalis, is at risk as it has remained submerged in the Sunkoshi River for the last two weeks.
After a landslide on Aug 2 blocked the river, forming a pool, the water level at the site of the 2.5MW project has risen to 30 metres. The powerhouse and staff quarter have remained underwater. “The project was waterlogged within 10 hours of the calamity,” said Kamal Prasad Khakurel, public relations officer at SSHP.
Based at Dhuskum-9, the project, developed by Sanima Hydropower Limited, was installed with an investment of Rs 460 million.
Its two generator sets have been underwater, while 15 transmission line poles have been destroyed. Subarna Das Shrestha, former president of the Independent Power Producers’ Association Nepal (IPPAN), expressed doubts whether the items that are submerged could be reused. “Not only the equipment, but the future of the entire project in at risk,” said Shrestha. The dam area in Chokati VDC is the only component of the project that is safe.
Constructed a decade ago, SSHP’s powerhouse lies 12m above the Sunkoshi River. The structure of the powerhouse alone is at the height of 13m. Based on the structure, the project was said to be one of the safest hydropower plants. However, both the powerhouse and related infrastructure have been underwater now. Shrestha stressed on the need for the government’s support to revive hydropower companies that are at risk due to the landslide and flood. “The state’s failure to implement proper policies could discourage investors,” he said.
Meanwhile, other hydropower projects, including Sunkoshi (10.5MW), Bhotekoshi (36MW), Lower and Upper Chakukhola (5MW) and Baramchi (3.5MW) are at risk. Due to the damage in its two gates, Sunkoshi has remained shut.
Nanikaji Thapa, administrative officer at the project, said it would take at least three months to repair the plant even if the maintenance work starts at the earliest. The Nepal Electricity Authority-funded project is expected to have undergone a loss of Rs 15 million.
Similarly, the Bhotekoshi project has been unable to generate energy after its transmission line was destroyed.
However, most of these hydro projects are said to be in a position to resume power generation if the transmission lines are repaired. With the power projects with a combined capacity of 66.5MW shut, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has hiked load-shedding hours.
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