Two hydropower projects are being built on the upper Trishuli River in Nepal, planned by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and funded entirely by China Exim Bank. Increased industrial activity, runoff, overfishing, and the construction of large hydropower projects has led the IUCN to declare that over 20% of Nepal’s freshwater fish species are threatened or endangered. The Upper Trishuli 3A and 3B hydropower projects will block fish migration and further impact these imperiled freshwater fisheries.
A powerhouse and access road to the 66 MW Trishuli A is already completed, and a diversion weir project will begin operation in 2011. The 44 MW Trishuli B will follow a year later. China Exim Bank is providing a US$200 million concession credit to Nepal for both projects, which promises to bring electricity to the capital through a 48-kilometer transmission line. But this energy will bypass nearby towns and villages. In addition, as “run-of-river” projects, these dams depend on snowmelt and a steady river flow to remain cost-effective. But climate change could reduce the snow pack in the headwaters of the Trishuli River and the energy benefits of these projects may be short-lived.
The cost to native fish populations, however, may be long-lasting. Though the dams include fish passage in their design, these new projects could still cause the fishery to decline if local authorities do not take adequate conservation measures. The NEA is only now conducting an EIA for the projects. Further, NEA stated in a recent presentation that it hopes to add additional dams to the Trishuli River dam cascade in the future.
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