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The power produced by Statkraft's Khimti power plant has played a crucial role for Nepal in the wake of the devastating earthquakes in April and May 2015.

Nepal building damaged by earthquake(Photo: Shutterstock)

A total of 18 of the country's power plants were affected by the tremors. In late 2015, many of them were still out of service.

None of the employees at the Statkraft-owned Khimti power plant in the Dolakha district lost their lives or were injured in the earthquakes.

Nonetheless, this area suffered severe damage. Although the situation is slowly returning to normal again, the fear of a new earthquake and the constant mental strain are considerable.

"We're still experiencing tremors reaching more than 4.0 on the Richter scale every day," said Statkraft's country manager in Nepal and head of Himal Power Ltd (HPL), Sandip Shah, early in the autumn of 2015.

"They remind us all of the enormous amounts of energy that still lie stored in the earth's crust."

The Gorkha earthquake

> On 25 April 2015 Nepal was hit by an earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Richter scale. The quake claimed more than 9,000 lives and injured more than 23,000. The epicentre was in the Gorkha district, 80 kilometres west of the capital Kathmandu.

> A new quake struck on 12 May with a force of 7.3, in which more than 200 people lost their lives and 2,500 were injured.

Crucial energy

The power plant survived the earthquakes without serious damage, and downtime was kept to a minimum. However, the earthquakes seem to have led to more water in the river system, and in May and June 2015 Khimti produced record amounts for this time of year; 40 per cent more energy than the average for the same period last year.

The power supply from Khimti has been and remains crucial for Nepal, where 18 power plants were put out of action by the earthquakes. As much as 150 MW of a total capacity of around 700 MW was affected.

At the same time, filling restrictions have been imposed on the country's only adjustable speed pumped-storage power plant due to cracks in the dam. Many hydropower development projects also suffered setbacks due to the earthquakes, including the largescale and important Upper Tamakoshi (456 MW) upstream from Khimti.

"One of the challenges ahead will be to repair the destroyed power plants and complete the ongoing projects," says Shah.

"Many sites are struggling with access roads that were destroyed. The reduced access to power is also hampering reconstruction work."

Glacier-dammed lake
The first earthquake in April knocked out the measuring station that should issue warnings about rising water flow rates.

New challenges

One of the risk elements with large earthquakes in Nepal is the numerous glacier-dammed lakes in the Himalayas.

Vast amounts of water are dammed up by ice or moraines that could give way under pressure from strong tremors. One of the largest, Tsho Rolpa, lies upstream from Khimti and contains 85 million cubic metres of water.

The first earthquake in April knocked out the measuring station that should issue warnings of rising water flow rates, so it was crucial for HPL to replace the destroyed measuring station immediately after the quake. Repair work has been completed and several new stations established in cooperation with national and international authorities.

The aim is to be able to warn the downstream areas as soon as possible of imminent floods to allow time to evacuate the valley. Exercises have been carried out to test the warning systems and evacuation procedures.

Statkraft in Nepal

> Statkraft entered Nepal in 1993 through development of the Khimti hydroelectric power plant with 60 MW capacity.

> The subsidiary Himal Power Ltd (HPL) today accounts for nearly 15 per cent of the country's total electricity production.

> Statkraft is the majority owner in Himal Power Limited (HPL) with a share of 57.1 per cent. The other owners are the Norwegian energy company BKK and local investor Butwal Power Company.

Bright spots

Despite the many people who died or who were injured, and the large-scale material destruction the earthquakes caused, Shah sees some bright spots in the way the country handled the crisis.

"When this catastrophe struck, we were able to help each other, give each other shelter and food," he says. "And there were fewer cases of looting and outbreaks of disease than many predicted."

He is full of praise for the way in which his employees tackled the situation: "The Statkraft staff and HPL are deeply engaged, and have accomplished far more than expected at such a difficult time."

Immediately after the quake, the first priority was to secure the employees and their families and to help the inhabitants in the 11 badly affected villages in the Dolakha and Ramechhap districts closest to the Khimti power plant.

Shortly after the earthquake struck, emergency aid in the form of tarpaulins, blankets, medicines, food and other necessary items were distributed to 50,000 local inhabitants. This equipment was transported from India in close cooperation with Statkraft's New Delhi office.

Text: Lars Magnus Günther
Photo: Shutterstock, Statkraft
The article is also published in Statkraft's magazine People & Power no. 3/2015 

The Norwegian Red Cross and Statkraft

Statkraft is one of the main partners of the Norwegian Red Cross, and aims to strengthen international humanitarian efforts through its partnership agreement. Under the agreement with the Norwegian Red Cross, a humanitarian aid fund has been created to provide aid to countries in crisis.

When the earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, Statkraft donated funds from the humanitarian aid fund to support the Norwegian Red Cross's humanitarian aid efforts.