Maoists keep GMR power project under siege in Nepal



Maoists keep GMR power project under siege in Nepal  Kathmandu: Four months after Maoists obstructed work on a hydropower project in northwest Nepal, the venture with high Indian stake continues to lie paralysed with the Nepal government failing to provide security.

The 250 MW Upper Marsyangdi project spanning two districts - Lamjung in the west and Manang near the Tibetan border - has been in disarray since February when a regional Maoist unit stopped work on the detailed project report, saying it went against national interests.

The project is being spearheaded by India's infrastructure and energy developer GMR Group after it acquired 80 percent shares in the Nepal company that held the licence originally, Himtal Hydropower.

However, the work was halted in February by the Maoist-affiliated Tamu Liberation Front that says the investors have to consult the local stakeholders first and get their approval.

With Nepal scheduled to be restructured into a federal republic, the regional wing of the opposition party says the licence should be issued by the regional government once the restructuring is complete, not the government sitting in the distant capital.

Despite several rounds of talks among the former guerrillas, the administrative authorities and GMR and its partner company, the deadlock continues. It has resulted in eight engineers and 80 workers leaving the site, a report said on Friday.

The ruling parties allege that the Maoists are holding up the work trying to extort the investors as well as inconvenience them because of the former rebels' anti-Indian bias.

GMR has a second hydropower project in the pipeline in Nepal as well.

The 300 MW Upper Karnali project has been opposed on and off by Maoist groups as well as local organisations.

Though GMR officials met Nepal's Energy Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat in April and urged him to provide security, the situation has not improved.

As per the agreements signed by GMR, both the projects are to be completed by 2016 on a build, own, operate and transfer basis for 30 years.

IANS