Energy starved Nepal solicits investment for electricity
By Philip Iglauer
The Nepalese Charge d’Affaires here pitched the Himalayan nation as a destination for Korean investment in a bid to begin to meet the energy needs of the electricity-starved nation of 27 million during a seminar at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul, Tuesday.
Current estimates are that Nepal has approximately 40,000 megawatts of hydro-electrical power potential.
But at present, Nepal has developed only around 600 MW of hydropower.
“Developing electricity production is a priority of the government,” said Nepali Deputy Ambassador to Korea Raja Ram Bartaula in welcome remarks during the half-day seminar.
A meager 1 percent of Nepal’s energy needs are fulfilled by electricity. The bulk is dominated by fuel wood, some 68 percent.
“Hydroelectricity is a particular area of concern for us, as almost 14 hours a day can be without light,” he said.
Bartaula said Korean businesses could glean “promising prospects” from investing in hydroelectricity projects in his country, in a bid to upgrade the South Asian nation’s hydro-power production capacity.
“We are planning to develop “Special Economic Zones” near the Chinese and Indian border areas,” for development projects in hydro-electricity, infrastructure development and food processing platforms, Bartaula said.
Agriculture is by far the main focus of the economy, as 80 percent of the country’s population, some 22 million people, work as farm laborers. Agriculture also makes up 40 percent of the country’s GDP. Nepal’s a per capita income is $600.
Bartaula said investors will have particularly favored access to markets in northern India and western China, inviting interested entrepreneurs to Nepal’s international trade fair from April 5-9 in the country’s capital of Katmandu.
“Investing in Nepal is a win-win situation. Businesses can benefit through profit and Nepal can benefit through development,” he said.
National development had been paralyzed through much of the 1990s and 2000s due to 10 civil wars and political unrest between a monarchy and Maoist guerillas.
Nepal is now a parliamentary democracy eager to bounce back from nearly 20 years of economic destruction.
The country’s key exports include processed food, and carpets, garments and leather and leather products. Tea, paper and paper products, gold and silver ornaments are also exported, but carpets and related garments make some 70 percent of the country’s merchandise exports. Important imports include fuel, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery and transport equipment.