Bheri-Babai Multipurpose Diversion Project

Though tunnel work was completed before the deadline, the construction of barrage and powerhouse is moving at snail’s pace

HATTIKHAL BABAI – The tunnel construction of Bheri-Babai Multipurpose Diversion project in Surkhet district was completed one year before the deadline.

With the objective of opening the tunnel by mid-April 2019, the digging work was started in November 2017 by using tunnel boring machine (TBS) for the first time in Nepal.

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Of the total 12-km long tunnel, now only two kilometers is left to be dug. Preparations are being made for the breakthrough of the tunnel in the presence of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on April 16. The TBM Machine penetrated from the bank of Babai River will be taken out after the breakthrough.

Though the tunnel digging work was completed a year ago, the work related to the construction of barrage and power house has been moving at snail’s pace. As a consequence of the delay in the construction of barrage and power house, it will take at least three years for the expansion of irrigation and electricity generation.

The building of power house and barrage was delayed by six months because of the Irrigation Department and the Ministry. According to Senior Divisional Hydrologist Krishna Prasad Upadhyay, the project has been preparing to call for a global tender to build the power house and barrage.

Initially, it was estimated that the tunnel digging work would complete within two years by assessing the probable challenges that would encountered as it was the first time Tunnel Boring Machine was used in Nepal. The process for building barrage and power house was initiated based on the estimated timeframe for digging the tunnel.

Given the failure to give impetus to build the barrage and power house in line with the tunnel digging, there is a slim chance of bringing the tunnel into operation until the next three years though it was completed a year ago. To see it happen, one has to wait until the financial fiscal year 2079/80.

Senior engineer of the project and divisional hydrologist, Upadhyay said the decisions to be taken by the department and the ministry were delayed after the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority lodged a corruption case against the director general at Irrigation Department, engineers and consultants as part of its investigation into the Sikta Irrigation Project, a national pride project.

The work of Bheri-Babai Multipurpose Diversion Project was started with the aim of diverting the water from Bheri River in Surkhet into Babai River and generate 46.8 Megawatt electricity and expand irrigation network for 51,000 hectares of land in Bardiya and Banke district.

Around 75 cusec water flows through Bheri River during dry season. There will be enough water in other seasons. Only 40 cusec water would be diverted into Babai River through the tunnel that would be used to generate 46.8MW electricity and 51,000 hectares of arable land would be irrigated in Bardiya and Banke.

It has been projected that the project would make an annual income of Rs 3 billion to the government and the electricity generated from the project will earn Rs 4 billion annually. The tunnel digging work was contracted for Rs 10 billion. However, the project spent nearly Rs 8 billion until mid-March.

The master plan amended by the irrigation department has estimated a total budget of Rs 33.19 billion for completing the projects including tunnel digging, embankment construction, powerhouse, and hydro-mechanical and electromechanical works. The project is expected to complete by the fiscal year 2079/80.

Once the water from Bheri River is channeled to Babai River through a single tunnel, nearly 51,000 hectares of arable land can be irrigated throughout the year from the canal of Babai Irrigation Project. Around 40 cubic meter water would be channeled into Babai from Bheri by building a 15-meter tall embankment at Chiple.

The water would generate 46.8 Megawatt electricity on the banks of Babai River. After generating electricity, the water will move 45 km down via Babai River and then the water will be channeled to the arable land in Banke and Bardiya through the dam of Babai Irrigation Project.

Nearly 30 years ago, the construction of Babai Irrigation Project was initiated in the fiscal year 2045/46 BS to irrigate the arable land of Bardiya. The Babai Irrigation Project’s main canal can flow maximum 53 cusec water.

However, during the dry season (March to May), only 5 cusec water would be flown in the canal as water level in Babai River drops sharply.  Because of that, the farmers of Bardiya has not been able to get enough water for irrigation due to land of canal.

Once the Bheri-Babai Multipurpose Diversion Project comes into operation, the farmers of Bardiya would get enough water for irrigation even during the dry season.

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