An unidentified group has detonated a crude bomb at the office of an India-funded hydropower plant in northeastern Nepal, two weeks before the Indian prime minister was set to inaugurate the project during a trip to the country, officials said Monday.
The explosion occurred at the office of Arun III, a 900-megawatt (MW) project funded by the Indian government, in Tumlingtar, a town in Sankhuwasabha district, the district chief officer Shiva Raj Joshi said.
The blast damaged the office at the compound, but no one was injured, the officer said.
The blast occurred two weeks before the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu on May 11.
Preparations are underway for an inauguration of the construction of the project, one of the key investments of Nepal’s powerful neighbor India.
Police have yet to identify the bombers, but a splinter Maoist group which targeted the India-funded hydro projects late last year, is suspected of carrying out Sunday’s attack.
In December last year, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), led by Netra Bikram Chand, a former guerrilla leader, detonated a crude bomb at the offices of Upper Karnali, at the 900 MW Arun III project in northwestern Nepal.
The Indian company GMR is developing the Upper Karnali project, though it has been marred with delays.
Meanwhile, Independent Power Producers’ Association, Nepal (IPPAN), which represents Nepal’s private hydropower investors, in a statement on Sunday urged the government to ensure security to hydropower developers.
“The blasts have created a climate of fear at project sites. Security must be ensured at these sites,” Shailendra Guragain, the president of IPPAN, said in the statement.
The attacks have cast a shadow over the Indian premier’s visit in Nepal. Modi is keen to improve ties with Nepal, which of late has inclined towards China for investment on infrastructure projects such as roads and railways.
In February last year, the Indian government approved an $853.8 million investment proposal to state-owned Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited, the developer of the Arun III project.
China has invested in infrastructure development including roads and airports in Nepal. It has also invested in a 750 MW hydropower project in the country’s west, but work on the project is yet to begin.
Nepal has the potential to generate at least 40,000 MW of hydroelectricity, but its current production is only 1,000 MW.
By Deepak Adhikari in Kathmandu, Nepal