(Adds details on project, Nepal hydropower potential)
By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU, April 13 Nepal's investment board on
Monday cleared China's Three Gorges International Corp
to build a long-delayed $1.6 billion new hydropower
project, the single biggest foreign investment in the Himalayan
The dam, to be built on the West Seti river in northwest
Nepal, will generate 750 megawatts (MW) of power when complete,
board official Ghanashyam Ojha told Reuters.
A Nepal parliamentary panel first approved the project in
2012 but state-owned Three Gorges had been waiting for the
investment board's clearance.
The project is forecast for completion by 2021-22 and
officials said some of the generated power is expected to be
given to locals for free with the rest sold to Nepal.
One of the world's poorest countries, Nepal is opening up
its vast hydropower potential to help ease chronic power
shortages and grow an economy still emerging from a decade-long
That has prompted a rush by China and India to invest
billions exploiting their neighbour's rivers and, in the case of
India, import electricity to its energy-hungry economy.
In October, India and Nepal signed an agreement to start
selling electricity to each other.
Last year Nepal also cleared two major Indian hydropower
projects worth a combined $2.4 billion, including what was at
the time the largest foreign investment scheme in the country.
New Delhi has long seen Nepal as part of its sphere of
influence but growing Chinese investment in recent years has
altered the relationship.
In March, Beijing said it would extend a $145 million grant
for the upgrade of a 114-km (71-mile) road that links the
capital Kathmandu with the Tibetan border, as well as other
Three Gorges is China's biggest hydropower developer and
operates the world's largest hydropower plant at the Three
Gorges on the Yangtze river.
Nepal is estimated to have the potential to generate 42,000
MW of hydropower but today produces 800 MW -- less than the
demand of 1,400 MW.
(Writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Mark