Approximately 30,000 people of Baitadi’s Chwangadh neighborhood, who have been waiting 40 years for the West Seti project, have been forced to live in darkness.
The electrical poles installed by the Sigas Rural Municipality for the expansion of the national transmission line at a cost of Rs. 10 million have started crumbling, leaving 30,000 people in the Chwangadh district of Baitadi without power.
Despite spending millions of rupees from the government coffer over the last three fiscal years, Bir Singh Dhami of Sigas Rural Municipality-1, Irana, said that electricity could not be delivered in Sigas village in the Chwangadh district.
“The national transmission line has not yet been connected in Chwangadh,” Dhami remarked. The remote municipality had promised to bring national grid three years ago. The wires have snapped. Even when poles have collapsed and electric wires have been damaged, the people’s representatives have shown no interest. Our wish to light power bulbs has yet to be realized.”
After the delay in the construction of the West Seti Hydropower Project, Gagan Singh Dhami, chairman of Sigas Rural Municipality-1, stated the municipality had already paid Rs. 10 million to connect to the national transmission line.
“In the last three fiscal years, almost Rs. 10 million has been spent for the erection of power poles,” Ward Chairman Dhami stated. The construction committee’s power poles are collapsing, and wires are also broken.”
According to residents, the municipality has organized a building committee led by the party head to provide electricity to the Sigas Rural Municipality.
Villagers have organized a power generating committee under the chairmanship of Lokraj Bhatta, a local RPP politician, Ram Chandra Airi of the Nepali Congress, and Gangaram Bhatta of the CPN-UML to deliver electricity to Sigas Rural Municipality in the last three fiscal years, according to Dhami.
According to Baldev Airi, a local worker, the construction committee set up to provide electricity to the community has not even paid the workers’ salary.
“We have been using oil lamps since the time of my father and grandfather,” Airi, who was lugging electricity poles and cables, remarked. We’ve been told to expand the national transmission line, but we haven’t been paid in three years, therefore West Seti will not be built. Neither electricity nor wages have been paid to the workers so far.”
Surendra Airi, another worker, expressed his disappointment with the Consumers Committee’s refusal to pay workers’ wages.
Workers have reported that after filing three complaints with the local ward office and police station, no hearing has been held.
Despite allocating the necessary cash to electrify the Sigas Rural Municipality, which is without electricity, the municipality has been unable to switch on the lights on time due to the consumers’ frailty, according to Sigas Rural Municipality Chairman Hari Singh Dhami.
“As we speak with the Baitadi power distribution center this year, the lights will be turned on as soon as the fallen poles are repaired,” he stated.
The government signed an agreement with Australia’s Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation Limited (SMEC) on July 7, 1994 to construct the West Seti Hydropower Project, which will create 360 MW of energy by building a dam at West Seti in Dhungadh, Sigas Rural Municipality-5, Baitadi.
The government then struck an agreement with Three Gorges International Corporation, a multinational Chinese corporation.
On February 29, 2012, the Ministry of Energy inked an agreement with Three Gorges to finish the construction work in five years.
According to the deal, building would begin in 2014 and be completed in 2019.