NEA forms committee to mediate worker strike at 456-MW Upper Tamakoshi hydropower plant

Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Plant

Officials are hoping that talks mediated by a four-member committee will allow construction to resume on Nepal's 456-MW Upper Tamakoshi hydroelectric plant and end a strike that began earlier this month.

Asian news sources report that many of the project's workers began striking March 13, saying each of the nearly 800 laborers should be given 500 shares in the plant by developer Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Ltd. (UTHL). UTHL is an autonomous company established by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA).

According to representatives from the Nepal Electricity, Painter, Plumber and Construction Workers Union -- which is leading the protest -- UTHL has not provided the builders with the same allotments of shares that it has extended to employees of the project's lending institutions.

NEA, which formed the mediation committee, said it has already begun working to resolve the issue -- but that delays could push the project's completion date back from July 2016 to February 2017 due to other issues not entirely related to the current workforce problem.

The run-of-river plant is being financed by a number of entities, with the NEA holding the largest share at 41%. Also represented are Nepal Telecom, Citizen Investment Trust, Rastriya Beema Sansthan and the general public.

UTHL first floated public shares for Upper Tamakoshi in February 2013 with an initial offering worth about US$97.5 million being issued in two phases. most recently reported on the project in February 2013, when officials announced construction of the plant's 16-kilometer-long tunnel was half completed.

The Upper Tamakoshi is located on the Tamakoshi River -- one of the major tributaries to the Sunkoshi River in the Koshi River Basin near Nepal's northwestern border with Tibet.

The project is one of several revealed by Nepal's Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai in September 2008 as part of a government initiative to increase the country's hydroelectric capacity by 10,000 MW by 2018.

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