Nepal Today

Friday, May 24, 2013

DIVERSION WASHED AWAY BY FLOODS IN NAWALPARASI Kathmandu, 25 May: Floods swept culverts and a diversion road at Kawasoti in Nawalparasi overnight disrupting movement of vehicles and leaving hundreds of bus passengers stranded on the Mahendra Highway. Flooded Lokaha river washed away seven culverts. .Road Division office has started emergency work to repair damage and restore movement of people and goods. Nnnn PLEGED GOVT. FACILITIES HAVEN’T REACHED FOR POWER PROJECTS Kathmandu, 25 May: ixteen hydropower projects have not received government-pledged facilities although it has been more than a year since the Ministry of Energy recommended their names for the samem The Kathmandu Post reports., . The Finance Ministry has refused to offer value added tax (VAT) exemption on construction materials citing existing legal provisions, while the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has not signed power purchase agreement (PPA) with the developers at higher rate. The NEA’s reluctance to sign PPA at increased rate also prevented the government from providing another facility — concessional loans — to the developers as such loans are sanctioned only after PPA signing. The projects were promised such loans at 10 percent interest on the basis of Rs 20 million per megawatt. Currently, the average cost of hydropower projects stands at Rs 140 million per megawatt. NEA has cited its deteriorating financial health for not signing the agreement with the 16 projects. The NEA has signed the agreement at increased rate with seven of the 23 power projects recommended by the Energy Ministry for the state facilities. NEA Managing Director Rameshor Yadav said the power utility “cannot afford signing PPA at increased rate” as it is “financially vulnerable”. An NEA official expressed dissatisfaction over the Energy Ministry’s commitment to revise the PPA rate despite being well aware about the poor financial health of the NEA and that NEA can no longer afford the upward revision in the rate. Showing the organisation’s bad financial situation, the NEA has been avoiding signing PPA with projects whose capacity is above 25MW of late. NEA has been avoiding signing PPA with the projects that supply majority of energy in the wet season but fail to do so in dry season. Shyam Kishor Yadav, senior divisional engineer at the Energy Ministry, said the projects were deprived of the government facilities due to the NEA’s reluctance to sign PPA at increased rate despite the ministry’s repeated request to do so. The private developers have questioned over the ministry’s capacity to convince its subordinate agency. Subarna Das Shrestha, president of the Independent Power Producers’ Association of Nepal, expressed surprise over the NEA’s refusal to sign PPA at increased rate although the facility was announced through a Cabinet decision. Private power developers have been seeking government support citing difficulties in completing construction due to high bank interest rates and low PPA rate, among others. In order to rescue troubled hydropower projects and ensure their operation by 2014, the government had announced a number of relief measures, including the aforementioned facilities. Yadav said the failure to provide the promised incentives has created confusion as whether to continue the provision. According to the Energy Ministry, an additional 70 projects have applied for such facilities. Nnnn 10 MILLION MOBILE LINES TO BE AVAILABLE IN ONE MONTH Kathmandu, 25 May: Nepal Telecom (NT) is preparing to distribute new mobile lines under its 10 million mobile lines project within a month. The state-owned telecom giant has been replacing old base transceiver stations (BTS) with new equipment in the Kathmandu valley as a prelude to the movem The Kathmandu Post writes.. NT had planned to start distributing 4.8 million new mobile lines under package B on May 17 coinciding with World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. However, technical problems and ongoing testing of the mobile network forced it to shelve the plan, according to NT. “We need to increase the capacity of the GSM network first to start distribution of new lines,” said Sangita Pahadi, deputy manager, Mobile Service Directorate of NT. She added that the company was expected to complete the capacity enhancement work within a month. Last June, NT and Chinese telecommunication equipment vendor Huawei Technologies had signed a contract to install 4.8 million mobile lines. NT currently maintains more than 500 mobile towers in the valley. NT said that it would add 1,000 plus towers for 2G and 3G services in the valley under package B after which service quality would have improved. NT has been receiving criticism for poor service quality which is mainly a result of a swollen user base and static network capacity. Pahadi said that the coverage area of 3G services and the speed of normal GPRS internet service would also increase after the GSM network has been improved. “We will be able to cover at least half of Kathmandu with the new network in a month’s time,” she added. As per the agreement, Huawei has to complete package B by June 2014. Apart from bringing the new lines into operation, the Chinese vendor will also provide maintenance services for five years after the new lines become operational. The package covers the Kathmandu valley and the Western Development Region and has a capacity to operate 2G, 3G, and 4G services. NT has awarded both the packages, A for 5.2 million lines and B for 4.8 million lines, to Huawei. It is expected to complete the projects in one and a half years. The lines under package A have been marked for the Eastern, Mid-Western, Far Western and Central regions excluding the Kathmandu valley. nnnn


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