With an estimated 6,000 rivers, Nepal has enormous potential to generate hydropower that could serve as a gateway to social and economic development. However, realizing that potential has been a struggle. Nepal suffers from frequent power cuts and must import fuel to partially address shortages, while millions still use firewood to meet their cooking and other basic needs. Improving energy services in a responsible way presents Nepal with complex policy and regulatory challenges, along with institutional and political bottlenecks. Conflicts have arisen between government authorities and local communities over energy infrastructure siting, including that of high-voltage transmission lines. (In many parts of the world, these lines generate public opposition on economic, cultural, and health and safety grounds.) The World Bank, which manages a substantial energy program supporting Nepal’s government, engaged CBI in 2016 to conduct an analysis of the conflict dynamics and propose potential mechanisms for resolving them.
CBI’s comprehensive assessment involved extensive document reviews as well as interviews with a wide range of stakeholders from government, community groups, civil society, the private sector, academia, and international technical and financial partners. Field visits to project sites along the Khimti-Dhalkebar, Bharatpur-Bardaghat, and Kabeli transmission lines helped anchor CBI’s analysis and suggestions in grassroots realities. Given the dearth of codified global best practices specific to this type of energy infrastructure, there is an urgent need to develop innovative approaches to community engagement and benefit sharing. CBI therefore searched for relevant expertise and models elsewhere that could serve as inspirations for improvements in Nepal.
CBI identified significant opportunities for strengthening dialogue on the distribution of benefits and costs associated with energy development. These included methods for conducting meaningful consultations and redress of grievances at the project level and for promulgating enabling policies. Multi-stakeholder participatory planning at all levels will also facilitate a more productive, less acrimonious debate among Nepalis on forging a common energy future.