Jul 14, 2018-The Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project has finished digging almost half of the 12-km tunnel in the past eight months using a tunnel boring machine (TBM). The equipment is being used in the country for the first time.
The project said 5.6 km of the tunnel had been completed as of Thursday. The TBM is performing smoothly, and there have been no major glitches, project officials said.
With half of the tunnel completed, project officials said digging would proceed gradually as the machine has entered a weak zone with a geological fault.
“As the TBM has reached the weak zone, it will be operated at slower pace in order to prevent possible damage to the tunnel,” the project office said.
“Although we are yet to encounter the weak zone at the construction site, our detailed project report (DPR) shows that there is a geological fault nearby,” said Shiva Kumar Basnet, the government appointed project chief of Bheri Babai. “Therefore, we are being very cautious while operating the TBM.”
The tunnel the TBM is boring will be used to divert water from the Bheri River to the Babai River to irrigate farmland and generate electricity.
The project office is also reviewing the DPR for the construction of the powerhouse and the headworks of the hydropower project which is another component of the multi-purpose project.
“As the DPR was prepared around six years ago, we are reviewing it for updates in case of necessity. And we are working on the bidding documents for the construction of the powerhouse and the headworks,” said Basnet. “We are planning to bring out the construction schedule of the other component of the project within a month.”
While China Overseas Engineering Group has been appointed as the contractor to work on the irrigation component of the project, global tenders will be called to appoint a contractor for the construction of the hydropower component. Bheri Babai is a national pride project located in Bheri-Ganga Municipality in Surkhet district in western Nepal. It will have a 15-metre-high dam and divert 40 cubic metres of water per second from the Bheri River to the Babai River. The water will be used to irrigate 51,000 hectares of land round the year in Banke and Bardia districts.
The project will also generate 48 MW of electricity. The irrigation-cum-hydroelectric project is one of the strategic projects of the country, as it is expected to ease the food crisis in the mid-western region by increasing agricultural yield.
The government had invited bids for the construction of the project in July 2012, but lack of resources and delays in the appointment of a contractor prevented the four-year project from getting off the ground. The construction of the project was finally inaugurated in April 2015 by the then prime minister, the late Sushil Koirala.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be around Rs16 billion. It is expected to make an indirect financial contribution of Rs3.1 billion to the state, and a direct revenue contribution of Rs2.1 billion through electricity sales.