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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 13:03 GMT
Largest power plant in Nepal open
Children of indigenous people
It is argued that local people will not benefit
Nepal's King Gyanendra has officially inaugurated the country's largest hydro-electric power plant.

The multi-million dollar Kali Gandaki plant has the capacity to produce huge amounts of power in a country where many people do not have electricity.

But critics of the $450m plant argue that it has displaced the area's indigenous people and damaged the environment.

Another worry is that Maoist rebels are active in the area.

The new power plant has the capacity to generate 144 mega watts of power, vitally important in a country with a desperate shortage of electricity.

But critics argue that local people have not benefited from the project financed by the Asian Development Bank.

In an interview with the BBC last year Gopal Siwakoti of the Water and Energy Users' Federation said that the plant would have a double negative impact.

He said it would not provide local employment and would damage the local environment.

"The main tradition is fishing," he said, "but now there are no fish around."

Local flooding

Mr Siwakoti accused the Asian Development Bank of reneging on its policies towards indigenous people by not providing alternative land, housing and incomes.

Environmentalists have also warned that cultural and religious sites could be threatened by the construction of the dam, which may also trigger local flooding.

Trout in the river are reported to have disappeared

But the builders of the dam stress that they have done all they were told to do by the government.

They say that those displaced by its construction have been given training for new employment in addition to houses, schools and medical assistance where necessary.

But indigenous people say their new homes - near one of the world's largest power projects - do not even have electricity.

The BBC's Sushil Sharma says that another worry for the authorities is its location in an area where Maoist rebels are active.

Our correspondent says that security is bound to be a grave concern.

Experts estimate that Nepal has the capacity to produce 83,000 mega watts of power if it utilised all its river resources across the country.

But only a fraction of that potential has been tapped so far.

It is estimated that less than 20% of the country's 23 million people have access to electricity.

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