The geographical constitution of Nepal, with great variations in altitude from the high Himalayas to the lowlands of the Terai over a relatively narrow width (about 200km), combined with abundant snowmelt and monsoon water, offers tremendous energy potential for hydro power. In 1911, the 500kW Pharping plant was the first hydro power installation to be commissioned in the country, and progress has gone on from there.

The country has a hydro power potential of about 83,000MW and a technically and economically feasible potential of about 43,000MW. Storage projects constitute about 49% and the remaining 51% are run of river projects. The current hydro power generation of Nepal is 528MW; of the present installed capacity, the private sector owns and operates 115MW.

In keeping with the planned capacity for Nepal, there are four projects under construction which, together, are expected to increase installed capacity by 20% (a total of 149.5MW). Of these, the Middle Marsyangdi and Upper Modi projects are being implemented by the public sector and the remaining by the private sector. Two possible future projects would involve high dams – the 750MW West Sei hydro project would include a 189m high CFRD dam, and the 6480MW Pancheswar project on the border between India and Nepal would have a 315m high rockfill dam.

Nepal lacks huge capital and since large projects require large investments and international agreements, these are beyond the country’s national outlay capacity and so external financial support is required. Foreign investors are showing interest in Nepal’s market, particularly India. At present, the Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) of Australia is holding negotiations with India for a power purchase agreement for Nepal’s West Seti hydro project. A Nepal-India joint committee is also working on the preparation of the detailed project report for the 6000MW Pancheswar project on the Mahakali river. Furthermore, a number of IIP’s and public companies have shown interest in developing hydro projects in Nepal for exporting power to India.

Educational programmes

• A Master of Science programme in Water Resources Engineering and Renewable Energy Engineering exists at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. There are also plans to start a Master of Science programme in Hydro Power Development. Discussions have been ongoing between Tribhuvan University and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), which has a similar programme.

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