In 1911, it had been only three decades since the world’s first hydropower plant had been installed on the Fox River in Wisconsin in 1882, and a year after China built its first hydropower plant in 1912 in Yunnan province.
Despite this early start, Nepal got around to setting up its second hydropower project only 28 years later, a 640kW plant in Sundarijal in 1939. For a country with such a vast potential for hydropower, it would take Nepal another half-century to produce just 1MW of electricity.
Since 1911 when Pharping was built, Nepal has managed to produce only 1,400MW of power from its rivers, not even 2% of its total potential. Since most of the plants are of the run-of-the-river type, electricity production fluctuates with water level on rivers. This spring, due to a long winter drought, for instance, Nepal is importing nearly half its peak hour demand from thermal power plants India.
Sadly, the history of Nepal’s oldest hydropower plant has now been almost forgotten. Although the government declared the power plant a ‘living heritage’ site in 1911, not much has been done to preserve the area. The power plant could be brought back into running condition, even as just a demonstration unit.