It is impossible to mobilize the economic resources in a district
if one is not able to mobilize the human resources.
The mighty Gandak river drains most of the central parts of Nepal. It swings like a giant S through the landscape from its source in the almost desert-like landscape behind the two mighty mountainsDhaulagiriand Annapurna, which are both over 8000 meters high. The river changes names several times underway through the mountains and the plains. Down in the lowlands where it runs quietly across Terai, it is called Narayani. When it crosses the border to India it is given the name Gandak. From here it is a wide sailable riverwhich flows through the Indo-Gangetic Plain 300 kilometersfarther southeast toward Ganges. In the mountains where it streams in raging rapids down through narrow gorges it is called Kali Gandak, named for the bloodthirsty goddess Kali, wife of Shiva.
In the mountain district of Syangja the tributary Andhikhola runs quietly through a broad and fertile valley with lower, heavily populated hillsides on both banks. It has its sources just under the snow line and is directly dependent on monsoon rains in the same way as the Tinau river, but it doesn’t behave as dramatically and unpredictably in the flood season as the problem-river down at Butwal.
After being joined by the Andhikhola, Kali Gandak takes a long turn westwards and then bends 180 degrees to the east. At one point it comes quite close to the Andhikhola valley again, but runs in the opposite direction on a level 250 meters lower. Here lies the village of Galyang in a hollowin the ridge that divides the two rivers. In November 2006 the business owner Prem Raj sits with a glass of strong spiced tea in a little tea shop here in Galyang and tells about when he was a little boy:
- Odd Hoftun went from Pokhara to Tansen. When he passed by here and saw the rivers, he had a dream. He told about his dream. It became a rumor even then. Now the dream is fulfilled and the rumor has come true.
Another local fellow tells the same story in his own way:
- A foreign man came by and saw the resources in our land. Where we didn’t see any value ourselves, he saw the potential. He sat here on the ridge with the view of the Andhikhola and Kali Gandak rivers and thought: “I want to build a hydropower plant here!” The man has spentso many years in Nepal; he was young and has become old here in this country.
This chapter is devoted to the Andhikhola project - by international standards a prettysmall hydropower plant. But along with the hydropower plant came a whole host of goals and possibilities. It’s about development. Changing the landscape, the ecosystem, society, life. At the same time, it has become something even greater. The whole project has come to stand as an example in Nepal and even internationallyfor how one can achieve successful, integrated development of a whole district with the help of a coordinated effort on several social levels simultaneously.
The first start for the Andhikhola project is rightly enough a hiking trip in 1959, as the hospital builder Odd Hoftun hurries from Tansen to Pokhara. Since that time he has not been able to forget his impressions of the naturally beautiful Andhikhola valley. But the strongest impression was made by the two rivers that lay so close to each other.
What the drop between them means in terms of energy and the resulting development potential became a favorite theory.
The thought is still so present in Odd’s mind that when surveyor Gerold Müller has finished measuring the Tinau canyon in 1966, Odd sends him up to Galyang. It would be fun to know the exact figures. Gerold comes back and reports that the difference in level between the two rivers is about 250 meters, and the shortest horizontal distance between the rivers is about 1800 meters. A quick calculation suggests an outputat least five times larger than that of the hydropower plant in Tinau.
In the course of the Tinau construction, the first contours of a genuine Nepali capability to carry out hydropower development have taken shape. This dawning industry needs new challenges. The thought of Andhikhola comes up with renewed intensity. It was the plans for the Andhikhola project that made it important and meaningful that BPC continued its existence. Now, time has helped mature the plans. The road has been finished. In practice, the opening of the new road is as good as a start signal for the Andhikhola project. Now the necessary machinery can get through.
Even the basic concepts have matured significantly.The key word is Integrated Rural Development. Jonathan Lindell was a proponent of this line of thought already in the late 1950’s, when he completed a similar social project in the Gorkha area. Odd’s own experiences point in the same direction. At the end of the 1970’s he gave muchthoughtto forming principles, thoughts and methods in this field. The book manuscript that he was putteringwith in the summer of 1979 never made it to print. But much of the basic thought is expressed in a presentation on Integrated District Development, which he gives to NORAD staff in Oslo in October 1980.
This lecture gathers much of the experience he has gained from Butwal and Tinau. For in essence the combination of vocational training, industrial development and hydropower development in Butwal can also be considered a form of integrated development. Each individual component of this integrated project would have fallen through if it had stood alone.
This lecture pointed forward to the Andhikhola project. Odd intends to do things in his own way:
He adds a new element to the philosophy on Integrated District Development: He wants to turn a larger main project—in this case a hydropower plant—into a platform or engine for a huge variety of projects in a wide spectrum of social fields. [The lecture is reprinted as an at the end of this book].
In keeping with this line of thought, the project swells to involve nearly all sides of everyday and social life in the region. The closest natural spin-off effect is to ensure electricity in local houses. This creates in the next round a broad contact base of which other development projects in the region should be able to reap the benefits. It might be industry, drinking water and sanitation, agriculture, reforestation, animal health, irrigation. Perhaps also redistribution of land from the richest to the poorest. As much as possible, in a program that develops slowly enough so that each individual effort can grow up naturally, rooted in being understood and accepted by the local people, each activity in harmony and balance with the other. Then the totality of the project will become far more than the sum of its individual parts.
In the early 1980’s, about 160,000 inhabitants live on the 700 square kilometer of land that is to be included in the power supply area of the Andhikhola project.
The population is growing by 2.8 percent annually, meaning there are 4500 new mouths to feed each year. This is among the most densely populated rural hill areas in the world, with at that time 230 inhabitants per square kilometer. Half of the population are Brahmins, who often live in the flattest and best farming lands down by the rivers. The Magars populate the higher areas and make up about a third of the population. The Newars are few, but make up an influential group, especially concentrated around Galyang and a few larger villages around.
Cultivated land makes up 150 square kilometers of the total land area. This gives just barely 1000 square meter of cultivated land per person. Equally low ratios of agricultural land to an agriculture-dependent populatio are found otherwise only in fertile river deltas. But here we are speaking of dry fields, which become more and more exhausted by the year. When the harvest is brought in, the earth has given on average 110 kilos of grains to each person in the area. The need is 160 kilo, at least.
What does one do about the shortage? One clears the forest and sows grain even higher up on the steep slopes. The resulting harvests are wretched. The soil disappears with the monsoon rain. The rest of the earth slides away under prolonged heavy rain since the tree roots can no longer bind it. In the end, the climate itself is changed. That which was once green hills and mountains becomes a naked and barren wasteland.
The hundreds of millions of people who live on the plains below are hard hit as well. Topsoil from Nepali mountain villages silts up the riverbeds in North India and Bangladesh, or continues out into the Bay of Bengal. The floods in the rainy season grow steadily more violent. The drought in the dry season becomes correspondingly precarious, since the sources of water dry up so fast in the deforested mountains.
Until now the deficit of rice and other food grains has been somewhat covered by mountain people who work abroad and send their savings home so that the family can buy food. But the job market is also dwindling, and the prospects of getting a foreign job are looking steadily bleaker.
Catastrophes of a lesser scale can also strike. One night in April 1981, Odd is sitting together with Tor Møgedal and a couple of colleagues at Galyang’s Hotel Havildar and enjoying their dal bhat, when they hear panicked yells outside: Fire! A quick look outside the door gives confirmation. A flickering red glow hovers over the tiny town. The houses are tightly packed. This is many years before water faucets will be installed in every courtyard.
Here, there is no water other than that which is carried up in buckets and jugs from the nearest spring, a 20 minutes walk away. The roofs are thatched with straw. It won’t take more than a spark before they are in full blaze. The proprietor of the hotel reacts by frantically throwing all his inventory out into the street. The other villagers do the same. The household goods are safe, in any case. The whole scene is unreal. The main road through the bazaarfull of furniture, paraffin cans, sacks of rice and other wares from the stores piled helter-skelter. The house owners have climbed up on their roofs and show up as silhouettes against the red sky, where they are feverishly tearing away the straw thatch and trying to beat out the sparks that rain down over them.
“Isn’t the battle already lost? Tor Møgedal doesn’t want to give up. He sits on the roof of the house nearest the flames and directs the people with a sergeant’s voice, until the heat becomes so intense that he has to find some water and dunk his clothes in it so as not to be fried,” the Mission magazine describes.
What the magazine doesn’t say anything about is that Odd Hoftun is completely passive in this situation. He is suffering from an aching knee and is reduced to following the drama from a chair in the middle of main street.
Whether it is the firemen’s efforts, a helpful breeze, or that a few of the houses in line of fire had tin roofs, is difficult to say for sure. But the little town of Galyang still exists when the morning comes. Five or six houses have burned to the ground. The rest need new roof thatching. And the inhabitants have extremely good motivation to get tin roofs and running water.
AHREP – ANDHIKHOLAHYDROELECTRICAND RURAL ELECTRIFICATION PROJECT
Autumn 1976. It doesn’t take many hints of public interest before Odd brings his old pet project back to life. Odd contacts key people in UMN and acquaints them with the new possibilities: “Andhikhola is the perfect next step after Tinau.” He is also quick to send letters home to his contacts: Is there a hydropower plant with a head of around 250 meters that is going to replace its power generating machinery?
In April 1978, UMN gets a detailed proposal for the Andhikhola project. Naturally it doesn’t go through without a fight. “There are many here in UMN who are against it. I myself think it is a first-rate project. I can well imagine coming out again to lead it. Much rather that than continuing to stay here in Kathmandu,” writes Odd to his son Erik, March 1979. The arguments against it certainly stand in line within UMN circles: Wouldn’t it be better to go in with support measures for the agriculture which is Nepal’s decidedly most important sector? TheTinau project has already shown that it is possible to build an underground hydropower plant in the mountains of Nepal, so can’t we stop with that? Is it necessary to prove the same thing over again? Why on earth should UMN be the one to teach Nepal the art of hydropower construction?
Aren’t there dozens of other foreign development organizations and businesses that could finance and build hydropower plants in the country, with lots of experience, who could give Nepal this competence instead?
And the enormous costs! Wouldn’t it be much better to divide the resources evenly, with for example 100 small hydropower plants at 50 kilowatts each, instead of building one big hydropower plant in Andhikhola? Why should we insult the Nepalese by coming with yet more of old, second-hand equipment from Norway? And not least: will this be at all helpful to the poorest and most oppressed in the area?
Odd does his best to field all the arguments against the project: Of course agriculture is important, but the country needs more legs to stand on. In that case, it is only Nepal’s single truly great natural resource, hydropower, which can open the door for industry and save the existing agriculture by hindering deforestation, powering pumps for irrigation, and so on.
Yes, Tinau has set an example. But the country is still not prepared to make use of that example. Both state institutions and private entrepreneurs need more practice exercises.
Yes, it’s true that some other countries and firms are in Nepal with hydropower projects. But these just reinforce the vicious circle of underdevelopment that Nepal finds itself in, a circle in which others come from outside and do the job for them, because Nepal is unable itself. These contractors want to get their assignments completed in a hurry: “Time is money!” And they have no motivation to train the country’s own inhabitants and let them gain experience. In that way, Nepal fails to build up its own expertise. The new construction company Himal Hydro has been created through the united efforts of Nepali authorities and UMN, with the exact purpose of breaking this vicious circle. But to do this they will need projects for practicing, in order to grow and further develop.
The poorest of the poor also need an infrastructure in the form of transportation and electricity to be able to improve their living situations. Now there is a motor road through the Andhikhola valley. When the hydropower plant is also in place, much will be possible. Besides, the hydropower plant would be just the beginning of a many-sided project. Not least important is the psychological side. An expectation is spreading that change will take place when the light bulbs are switched on. This is even more important for the poor than for the rich.
And when it comes to used equipment, the answer is the same as it was before: The choice is between second-hand or nothing at all. To buy new is far over the mission’s economic abilities. Gifts in the form of used equipment also makes up part of the Mission’s own contribution to project financing as required for private agencies to receive development aid funding from the Government of Norway. In addition, used hydropower equipment is often a better alternative than new, because it is usually more solid and may still have a long working life. After an overhaul in the workshop in Butwal it will be almost as good as new. And it’s easier to understand, and simpler to repair. Perfect for Nepal at this stage of industrial development!
There seems to be someone in the Nepali Board of Electricity who does not agree with Odd’s point about used equipment. The project is resisted on a high level, both because the authorities don’t like the competitor BPC, and because BPC offers to build cheaper than the authorities can.
The Andhikhola project also has a strong advocate within UMN. The economist and hospital administrator San Ruohoniemiis UMN’s representative in the BPC board, and enthusiastically supports the completion of the project. At the same time he makes it a condition: that the hydropower plant be used as a platform for Integrated District Development programs in the area.
And in April 1979 AHREP is accepted by UMN. The acronym stands for Andhikhola
Hydroelectric and Rural Electriﬁcation Project, but soon becomes part of daily conversation without additional explanations.
In concrete terms, AHREP is a three-part project: Part one is a hydropower plant, the supporting beam of the project. Closely tied to this is a distribution network to bring electricity out to the villages in the area. Both these parts will be owned and run by BPC. The third part is a broadly designed development program for the area. This falls into the newly created UMN department for ruraldevelopment, but will at the same time work in close cooperation with BPC. While BPC’s involvement in the Andhikhola project is permanent, the other development programs under UMN will end after a maximum of ten years. For the whole project, a staff of seven to ten foreign employees is needed, in addition to the much bigger number of Nepali employees at different levels.
In November 1979 Odd sends an application to NORAD through the Mission for 7.2 million kroner. The answer comes 13 months later, in the beginning of December
1980: NORAD will contribute 9.6 million kroner, having adjusted the budget up a third to compensate for the anticipated rise in costs during the construction phase. “This is one of the largest sums ever given by NORAD to a private organization. Thanks to Odd Hoftun’s vision and skillful efforts, the Missionhas taken a central position in NORAD’s appraisal of private organization’s work in developing countries”, the Mission magazinereports.
All together, three agreements between five parties will ensure that AHREP
becomes a reality. The funding agency NORAD relatesto the Mission in Norway. Next, the Mission relates to UMN. And finally, UMN enters a ten-year project contract with the Government of Nepal.
The latter contract also defines the relationship to BPC as builder, owner and future operator of the project; and lays down that DCS will function as consultant and Himal Hydro as civil contractor. Now the firms will learn to practice commercial relationships.
The first timeline for the hydropower plant is five years, from 1981-86. In 1980 the budget is 20 million kroner. Now NORAD has already put in nearly half of that. It’s still in the conditions that the Mission comes up with 50 percent, four million kroner, of their own contribution in the form of equipment and services. All that will appear as UMN’s share investment in BPC. The last six million or so will come as share capital invested in BPC by the Nepal Government, and as loans from Nepali financing institutions.While the amounts look high, the power generated will still be cheap. In Tinau, the investment cost per kilowatt was actually 8500 Nepali rupies per kilowatt at the price level of that time. In Andhikola, it appeared that the investment per kilowatt would be 7000 rupies at 1980 prices. Other, comparable government-owned hydropower projects are considerably more expensive.
In the meantime Odd’s job status has changed. 15. mai 1980 he officially resigns as EDS, even though he still for a time is acting in the place of his successor. Now he can concentrate on the Andhikola project, both in Nepal and to start with not least in Norway, where the work of dismantling and packing second-hand equipment is in full swing.
MESNA – An Astonishing Coincidence
The Andhikhola power plant needs machinery. Clarence Yggeseth at Sørumsand Verksted is once more a key figure. In March 1977 he visits Nepal and checks the turbine wear in the hydropower plants in the country, with Tor Møgedal as a local guide. Naturally they talk about the new project Andhikhola. Back in Norway, he gets an inquiry from an older hydropower company about the price of new turbines. Yggeseth puts two and two together: This must mean that the old machines here are going to be replaced.Oddgets a greeting: Three suitable Pelton turbines and generatorsmay become available! The inquiry which puts Yggeseth on the trail comes from MesnaPower Company in Lillehammer.The Company is considering whether they should build one entirely new hydropower plant to replace four old plants.
The tip from Yggeseth sounds unbelievable to Odd’s ears. He gets the specifications: Three turbines for 250 meters head, with a capacity of 1700 kilowatts each – together 5,1 megawatts – match so wellthat one would almost think they were designed with Andhikhola in mind. These are rugged, slow-turning Pelton turbines, made in Norway in the 1920s.Their age actually guarantees their longevity, because in those days one didn’t skimp on the dimensions to save money like they do today. Instead, one added enough to make sure.
June 1977 the decision is made. Mesna Power Company has decided to build a new plant. There is some feeling on their board for keeping the old turbines as back-up machinery. But of course it can do no harm to hear what this Mr. Hoftun has in mind? Odd gets an invitation to lay his case before the board meeting. There he tells about hydropower resources and impending ecological collapse in Nepal, of a poor farming population, of how desperately necessary it is to build up Nepali technical expertise and local industry.
The board members listen attentively and thank him for the information, goodbye, before they go back to the agenda. Not many days after Odd gets the message he was waiting for: Alright, you can have two of the units right away, but we will keep the third for the time being. They won’t cost you anything, but you must dismantle them yourselves. A couple of years later a new message comes: the Andhikhola project can have the third and last unit also, on the same conditions as the first two.
With that, the most important single question for the whole Andhikhola Integrated Rural Development has been answered. The Mission has received a gift which has an estimated value of 1,2 million kroner.In the time it takes for the equipmentto be dismantled, packed and sent, the value has increased to almost two million, thanks to volunteer work and other free contributions.
Operation Mesna soon becomes the code name for a great effort by numerous volunteers of different vocations. Among the many more or less professionally trainedhelpers are academics who enjoy handling heavy tools for a change. An eye surgeon beams over getting to turn huge screws. Doctors, lieutenant colonels, and members of parliament join in. Luckily the volunteer workers get good advice and aid from the power company’s own people. At the head of everything is veteran Sverre Skjelsbæk, who already has a solid volunteer effort under his belt after getting the plywood factoryin Butwal started.He takes charge, moves to Lillehammer and lives in the old powerhouse buildingfor months at a time.
The tasks are complex and require great exactitude. Every single part must be systematically labeled, so that it will be easy to put back together again. The machines are partly embedded in concrete. Some real jackhammer work is part of the job. Then comes the packing. It is an art in itself, entailing drawings and detailed instructions. The generators are the biggest and heaviest.Each of them can be divided into three main components of over ten tons each, in addition to a number of smaller parts. Each of these nine heavy packages must have its own solid crate, as big as a small house. The packing materials are yet another question. The Mission is offered the job of tearing down a house in Lillehammer that is in the path of a new road. The materials go to packing crates. But more is needed. At Gjeving an old wooden boatyard building is going to be removed. The Mission gets this too. The demolition work forms the basis of a youth camp in August 1981, somewhat like that in Valldal when Odd was a young engineer, but on a smaller scale. Odd notes with satisfaction that the spiritual dividend is high. Several of the participants end up later as mission workers in Nepal. The practical result is also good: 25.3 cubic meters of good size materials for heavy duty packing crates.
The employees at Mesna follow the work with great goodwill. Several of them help enthusiastically. A wave of excitement, goodwill and curiosity spreads. The newspaper Lillehammer Tilskuer follows up with interviews, reporting and headlines that claim that the hydropower machinery from Mesna will hinder catastrophe in Nepal! “The last parts of two turbines are being sent now. On Friday there was only one crate left. Now two frighteningly deep and black holes gape[...] in the floor of the power station where the turbines once stood,” the newspaper reports on the 18th of December1981. It also cites the fact that 35 people have put in 2700 hours of work in the course of four months that autumn.
Machinist Alf Karlsen is one of those who have tended these machines in the hydropower plant through all the years. He also became one of the most enthusiastic volunteer workers. The old machines continue to be on his heart even long after they are in place in Nepal. How are they working where they now stand, do you suppose? That question causes Karlsen to get on planes heading to Nepal several times over the years to come. Once there he can’t rest until he’s been down in the power house cavern in Andhikhola and listened to the old turbines: Oh, yes. Everything sounds good.
When the hydropower machinery from Mesna is shipped off, Odd can celebrate a little anniversary. It is 25 years since the first shipment of technical equipment and machinery was sent from Norway to Nepal on a Wilhelmsenfreighter. After that about 2000 tons of machinery and equipment have followed the same way—with the difference that there are now Indian ships that take care of the cargo. And the land transport through India is much simpler than in the beginning: Now the crates go directly by truck from Calcutta to Butwal, where the machines are overhauled and stored.
In the beginning of 1981, Odd is back in Nepal for two and a half months. In this period the plans for the hydropower plant take their final shape. The plans present one huge challenge: They need to blast a 240 meter deep shaft with a diameter of four meters. This shaft will be the only entrance to the power station down at the bottom. What is needed here, both during the construction phase and later when the power station starts operation, is a powerful hoist. It will have to take out all the muck from the shaft excavation and must be able to move parts of machinery that weigh up to 12 tons each. Later, when the power plant starts operation, it will function as an elevator for personnel transport. Mining operations require similar hoisting facilities. So Odd looks for appropriate used equipment from the coal mining districts in England. No luck. Then he happens upon an industry magazine from Norway with an advertisement from a firm at Gryte, near Tønsberg, a city on the South coast, which has used cranesand other machinery for sale.
On 24. april 1981 Odd is in Norwayagain, and he travels immediately down to Tønsberg to take a look. The sight makes his jaw drop: this is a scrap yard for machines of huge proportions! Cranesand other heavy equipment lie strewn over a large industrial lot. There is a factory hall and a roomy storage shed, both stuffed with all kinds of welding equipment, drills, lathes and other power tools large and small in an enormous muddle. And outside, over the whole lot an old mobile crane juts majestically against the clouds. Odd stands motionless, as though before Aladdin’s cave. Here is so to speak everything one could wish for of equipment for the dawning hydropower and industry sector in Nepal.
The proprietor’s booming voice, whichreverberates from far inside the storage area, also bodes well. The owner of the voice is Eivind Skudem, formershipyardowner, now dealer inused machinery. Skudem and his customer quickly hit it off, in a mutual respect for the other’s professional knowledgeand their common sense of the re-usage value in the different pieces of machinery.
Skudem lets himself be charmed by Odds practically directed idealism. And Odd can’t help but like this growly bear of a man. It also becomes clear that Odd has come at just the right time, for the firm Eivind heads has just gone bankrupt. In practical terms he is working on assignment from the bank: He must realize the value in the firm as quickly as possible, so that the property can be cleaned up and handed off—to the satisfaction of the neighbors and the municipality. Conditions are ripe here for a pleasant bit of trade.
While it looks messy, Skudem still has a good overview and can give prices on the spot for every single object they come across. If a certain type of equipment could not be found here on the lot, he takes it upon himself to find one. Odd’s first question comes spontaneously—does Skudem have a hoist that can take a twelve ton load down a 240 meter deep shaft? “I have that hoistlying right outside the door here,” grunts Skudem. And quite rightly so. It even proves to be brand spanking new.
It’s all almost too incredible to be true! In the car on the way back Odd’s head is full of numbers and technical details. The offer on the hoisting equipmentis just absolutely irresistible. Odd has also thought and calculated and sees clearly that here at Gryte he can find everything necessary to allow the workshop in Butwal to build a fully satisfactory hoist for the shaft in Andhikhola. There are also big gantry cranesandwinches which could come in handy at a future heavy equipment manufacturing workshop.in Butwal. And indoors there is a rich assortment of lathes and other heavy machine tools, welding equipment and other items that would go a long way towards equipping a future turbine workshop in Butwal. The price quoted for the huge, brand new travelingcraneintended for a bankrupt shipyard is, however,quitehefty.
It’s not long before Odd seeks out his new friend again. The more Odd tells about the work in Nepal, and the more machines he finds interesting, the roomier gets the margin for bargaining. The 16 of June, 1981 Odd signs a purchase contract for machines and other equipment for all together a good 200 000 kroner. The crane makes up about a fourth of this sum. Bought new, the price would have easily been 50-100 times higher. Certainly, there will be added expenses for packing, freight, rebuilding and overhauling, but still, it’s a dream of a deal.
Some of the purchases are at only a few percent of the normal price. For example: a truck carrying a sophisticated, almost unused heavy duty lathe takes a sharp turn at too high speed: Crash, the big machine lies in two pieces on the ground. Then, naturally, it ends up in Eivind Skudem’s yard at Gryte. Undamaged, it was worth a million kroner. Odd buys it for 5000, and hopes to stumble over an expert who can repair it.
Such challenges often lead to new contacts. Life changes direction. Fate unfolds itself.
In the cool of the evening the same day that he signs the contract with Skudem, Odd tells about the Andhikhola project at a meeting in the Mission’s local support group in Drammen. Over coffee afterwards he sits next to an older fellow who introduces himself as Karstad, a teacher in
mechanics at the vocational school in Drammen. Odd senses that here is a potential volunteer candidate. It also shines through that the company of loud-mouthed vocational school students has been a heavy burden for this quiet man.
Erling Karstad was a missionary kid from China, educated as a mechanic, a prisoner of war in Germany during WWII and has many years of experience as a teacher. Now he makes himself available on the spot, and spends hours of hard labor on weekends and evenings together with many other volunteers at Gryte. It is Karstad who gets the job of packing the broken lathe. Perhaps it was exactly the challenge he needed? In any case, later on he signs up for missionary service in Butwal. Once there he does wonders with that broken lathe. Then he takes on machine after machine working together with the young apprentices and BTI tradesmen. He encounters a totally different will to learn than he saw at the school in Drammen. The spark is definitely rekindled. And the lathe is constantly in use.
Operation Gryte is certainly a complicated and demanding undertaking in the line of volunteer projects that Odd sets in motion: The trusses for the gantry craneshave to be divided up with blowtorches, and the big machines must be disassembled, rust-proofed and packed in crates for shipping. Dozens of volunteers take part. It gives an edge to the whole thing that two demanding volunteer projects are going on at the same time, one in Lillehammer and one at Gryte, some 200 kilometer apart.
How does Odd work things out? By being everywhere at the same time. Excerpt from a work week: Odd travels with a truck from Gjeving to Lillehammer early in the morning with a load of packing materials and tools. Return to Oslo in the evening. Tuesday. In the Oslo office. To Gryte. Return to Olso late evening by train. Wednesday. Train to Lillehammer. Back by private car. Afternoon: to Gryte. Spend the night. And so on. At the same time, he is always on the lookout for good bargains for Nepal. A 70 kilometer long high tension line from the power plant Solbergfoss to Oslo is going to be replaced. Could the Mission have the aluminum cables and insulator chains? Of course. With that the materials for the planned high tension lines in Nepal are secured. An aluminum plant in northern Norway is going to replace all its high tension gear. Could the Mission have some of that? Certainly.So the project is supplied with all the 33 kilovolt cirquit breakers it needs. They even have enough so that the need is also covered for the next big project after Andhikhola.In short, Odd is more in Norway than in Nepal in his first couple of years as AHREP leader.
The packing at Gryte continues in summer 1982. The second hand machinery business at Gryte proved to be a goldmine for Odd’s work in Nepal. It would also prove to be the scene of great drama. On the morning of the 9th of June that year Odd gets a frantic telephone call from Skudem: There’s been a fire at Gryte! Odd travels there within the hour, and has to confirm the facts. Only a burned-out shell remains of the big industrial building, where lots of stored furniture in the basement gave good fuel to the fire. But incredibly enough, both the storage shed and the office have been spared, although they are wooden buildings that stand only a few meters away from where the fire raged. It is here that all the packed equipment is stored. The heavy equipment that was outdoors is not damaged either.
But for Eivind Skudem the catastrophe is fatal. He dies two weeks later, and on the 2nd of July 1982 Odd attends his funeral inNøtterøy church.
In Nepal the principles are clear. The hydropower construction projectis to serve as a Trojan horse with many larger and smaller projects in its belly. The other projects will get a solid helping start from the winds of change that will sweep through the valley as soon as the construction equipment isin place and the workmen start their work.
While the plans for the Andhikhola project may seem ambitious, the whole project is starting almost without anyone noticing it. In April 1981 the young missionary couple Joy and Duane Poppe rent a country house in the area for 150 rupies a month. They make a few quite small, necessary changes in the house, but otherwise they adapt themselves to rural village life. Four years earlier they have done something similar: that time it was the village Titeng near Baglung which became their home for a year. Joy Poppe Stephens has told about this in her book “Window on to Annapurna” (1990). The engineer Duane has experience from Tinau and Baglung and will be involved in detailed planning work for the Andhikhola hydropower plant. Joy’s assignment is to do a base line socio-economic study of the villages in the Andhikhola-valley. She does the work by talking with people: What is the way of life like here? What does the earth actually yield? What do you think about the future? What changes do you wish most could take place? The interviews take the form of long, pleasant conversations. She tells about the planned project. This arouses interest. But at the same time it is difficult to understand. Well, what does an ordinary village farmer actually want for himself? It’s not easy to say before one has seen what it entails in practice. In the space of a couple of months Joy has systematically visited all the larger villages in the area and interviewed members of 145 households. These households represent a selection of 1002 people. In January 1982 the results of all the pleasant conversations come in, in the form of a comprehensive and detailed report on the social and economic conditions in the district.The future project has gotten its knowledge bank and reference point.
In the spring of 1982, the stream of missionaries to the Andhikhola region starts in earnest. UMN gives clear goals,rules and guidelines both for recruitment of missionaries, and for how they should live. They should rather be generalists than specialists. Interdisciplinary cooperation must be a matter of course. All are expected to contribute to the running discussion of goals, means and principles in the project work. Long-term workers are absolutely preferred. Families are heartily welcome. The wider contact area, the better.
And, perhaps most uniquely for this mission project: It is absolutely forbidden to make it a ‘mission station’. The missionaries should for heavens sake not clump themselves together in their own building compound. Instead they should rent each their own village house, maximum one foreign family in each village, and as much as possible live in the same way as the villagers. Why? To be agents of influence, of course. “Tens of thousands of instructors are needed who for years will live in the villages, live with the people and little by little win their confidence and trust. [...]These instructors must be endowed with a missionary’s devotionand ability for understanding, they must be willing to forsake comfort and social fellowship, and they mustn’t give up when the disappointments come and the results seem far away. - With such a giant army of dedicated souls, Nepal could be transformed in 10 years, but without such people one can do little,” Odd writes with utopian fervor already in 1963. Now is the chance to try out the idea, if not with ten thousands, in any case with a good handful of idealist for a few years in a limited area.
Odd also creates guidelines for how the projects should recruit and paytheir hired workers. Labor-intensive operations are to be preferred. Landless and marginalized local inhabitants shall come first in line when the project is hiring workers. The work shall also involve an element of training. Perhaps the local employees could also be “agents of change” and motivate families and neighbors at home in their villages to get involved in the big changes that are to come?
But this works poorly in practice. It becomes apparent that the workers have enough to think about in managing their daily struggle. Ideas like setting a little of their earnings aside for later use are distant and foreign.
Odd tries to make his own program which will motivate the local employees to save, but it proves to be fruitless. This gets him to change his tune: instead, AHREP increases salaries by ten percent without telling the workers. They put the increase in the bank for them. And so the workers get the extra amount paid out when the employment comes to an end - together with some good advice about how not to spend it.
The many different project-ideas begin to get firmed up. They can be roughly divided in two: There are the BPC-run projects that are directly connected with the construction of the hydropower plant and the network for distribution of electricity in the surrounding areas. And then there are all the other projects that fall under UMN’s jurisdiction.
Among the UMN projects, drinking water supply appears as a high priority choice among the local population. Only a few people have a source of water nearby. Often they must walk a half hour or more to fill their water jars with somewhat clean spring water. In the dry season, the wait time in the water line is often around an hour. And then it takes perhaps 15 more minutes before enough water has trickled out to fill a jar. The alternative is to go down to the river at the bottom of the valley. The distance there is even farther. In addition the river water is often terribly polluted.
Having one’s own water faucet in the courtyard is not even a dream. It is beyond comprehension. Is it really possible? Certainly. But the water will not come begging.UMN offers support, but it is up to the individual village to express its desire for assistance. They also must organize the water supply themselves, for example by making local committees. And then those who want water must commit themselves to building an outhouse. Water supply and sanitation are intimately related. No latrine, no water.
When these conditions have been met, UMN’s water supply experts offer their services to the village water committee, who will function as the owner and administrator of the system: Similar principles are followed in all UMN projects. Citizen committees pop up. Needs are described, conditions taken under consideration, alternatives debated. How shall they best approach the work? Depend on traditional village leadership or establish user groups that look after operation and maintenance. Not surprisingly, the Magars in the mountain villages prove to be the first who master the art of cooperation. This ability seems to lie farther beneath the surface among the people
down in the valley-sides. There the Brahmins dominate on their more productive land, but they are restrained by their religious traditions tend to be less open for new ideas and methods.
Many ideas and models come up over the course of the years within the Andhikhola project. Some of them look lovely, but never get off the ground. Others need a long time to mature. And still others must be held back. This last is especially true of health work, which has a tendency to dominate completely if it is allowed to. Odd sticks decidedly to the principle that they will not compete with the UMN hospital in Tansen. Those who need medical help will find it a bus-ride away. Hygiene, nutrition, childcare, basic health teaching and not least literacy work are among the topics that are natural to take up in daily village life.
In February 1983, both Tullis and Odd are back in Nepal. What is Odd’s role when most of the work of getting equipment from Norway is done? He takes with him his function as leader for AHREP and becomes a full-time general manager for Butwal Power Company again, after a ten-year hiatus. Since the government took over the Tinau-hydropower plant on 18. juli 1980 BPC has been a sleeping company.
It has had a board, but no regular employees or other salaried personnel.
Now this company awakes to fight anew. According to the main agreement with the Government, BPC is the owner and operator for the Andhikhola-project as a whole. With that Odd becomes responsible for coordination of all UMN’s projects in the Andhikhola valley. The individual component projects must connect themselves to BPC, even if they are financed and directed by UMN. The agreement also says that Himal Hydro should be the main civil contractor for the hydropower project. In that way BPC and HH will get to practice and relate to each other like normal commercial firms.
Odd establishes an office for BPC at Jyathatol in Kathmandu. He himself lives on the floor above: «You should see the view from the roof» Himal Hydro has its main office right nearby. Good contact at leadership level is secured. Now a rhythm in the work takes shape, which Odd sticks to in the coming years: He spends three weeks in Kathmandu. Then a week in Andhikhola follows, before he travels on to Butwal and back to the capital. An old van serves as a means of conveyance, a roadsideoffice and a mobile home.
In principle the hydropower project itself is easy to grasp: Water shall be ledfrom one river to the other via a tunnel through the hillside. But the terrain down to the Kali Gandak river on the other side is steep, with unstable terraces and deep ravines. This rules out building a surface penstockand an access road in the hillside to a power station down on the lower riverbank. The solution must be to construct the hydropower plant entirely inside the mountain, as at Tinau. The first concept entailed dynamiting a vertical shaftright by the bank of Andhikhola, put the power station in the bottom of the shaft, and go in there with one long tailrace tunnel a bit over the water level in the river on the Gandak side. One day in 1978 Odd is on inspectiontogether with the then BPC-boss Balaram Pradhan, and Balaram comes up with a brilliant idea: if one instead built a tunnel through the hillside with a bit larger diameter than that needed for the power plant, and shifted the shaft to the other side of the ridge, it would become possible to transfer additional water through the tunnel during much of the year when there is plenty of water in the river. Then this extra water could be used to irrigate dry agricultural areas on the hillside in the Gandak valley.
Also, by moving the intake a little further upstream one would find a better dam site and gain a few meters head. The total length of the headrace and tailrace tunnel would then be almost two and a half kilometers - about the same as for the Tinauplant, but the cross section would be somewhat larger.
A big difference between the two sites is that in Tinau the tunnel runs parallel to the valley with many possible access points, while in Andhikhola the 1360 meter long headrace tunnel goes through the hill and can be accessed only at two ends. And still worse, the nearly 1050 meter long tailrace tunnel can be driven only from the outlet end down by the Gandak river. In Tinau they could make up for slow progress at each face by working at several points at the same time. In Andhikhola they will have only three facesto work on so they need to improve the efficiency radically. That means using rail transport and powerful ventilation fans to reduce the time between each blast.
The 240 meter deep shaft must be excavated from above. All the blasted muck, as well as water that seeps in through cracks in the rock, has to be hoisted up to the surface by the big hoist from Gryte. Workers and tools must go down and up the same way. First when the shaft is completed, can they begin to blast out thebigpower house hall. That would be the toughest part because of the risk of rockfalls from the roof in the wide cavern.
With the main outline of the project determined, the most important question remains:How to get the job done? The tunnel work is simple enough. The staff from Tinau are Nepal’s foremost experts in the field. The work looks like it will be easier than that which they already have completed down in the narrow canyon by the Tinau river. The danger of flooding and rockslides is almost absent.The new main road from Butwal to Pokhara goes literally right over the construction area, and the climate is comfortable. All seems ready and set to go.
All the same, two questions remain unanswered: How will this rock behave? And perhaps most important: How in the world does one dig out a 240 meter deep vertical shaft?
Once again the expertise arrives to order, steaming on a platter. In Tinau it was the old mining superintendent Bøckmann who showed up. In Andhikhola it is an adventurer by the name ofJulianFrancis Pagella who comes in an angel’s stead. This 40 years old British engineer-geologist had already managed to do big jobs in places as different as Antarctica and Zambia. In 1977 he took service as an advisor for the Hydropower Ministry in Nepal and searches high and low for possible exploitable hydropower resources. In October 1978 he meets Odd’s coworker Duane Poppe. It is a meeting of two enthusiasts. It doesn’t take long before they stick their heads together over a chart of the Andhikhola valley. Pagella’s intuition and experience become clear to see. He also reveals a greatappreciation ofthe Andhikhola plans, both as a hydropower and a social project.
From now on Pagella’s abilities of reading the terrain and knowing the properties of different kinds of rock are the most important card in the planning process. Odd is renting a test drilling rig and Pagella is giving advice on which places they should take samples. Then he interprets the core samples they take out and evaluates the stability of the terrain. Through these evaluations they determine the place for the shaft: It will lie in the bottom of a narrow ravine, on a level with the outlet of the headrace tunnel. This location requires that they build a motorable road in the steep terrain from the main road on the hilltop. Pagella also gives the stamp of approval to the big shipyard crane that Odd has with him from Gryte: This is a good tool, with extra brakes and a reassuring excess capacity. Now the first step is to put it in place. As though that could be done in an instant. It was designed for other purposes, and must undergo a comprehensive rebuild, and a bigreinforced superstructure has to be built above the shaft.
As the uncertainty about the location of the shaft disappears, Himal Hydro orders five tons of dynamite and a compressor from India. A short time after the Nepali government and UMN sign the agreement about AHREP on the 14 of June 1982, the first charge is blasted. Now there’s going to be a shaft!
Still, it does not take so many days before a mood of discouragementsinks again over the little flock of engineers and laborers in the entrepreneurial company HH. To blast one’s way down is something rather different than blasting along sideways. The big crane is still not in place. For the time being they use smaller winches. The water seeps in and creates huge problems. And what about the safety of the people down in the hole when the heavy loads of muck and sludge are hoisted out from the shaft? The project engineer in charge, a fairly young American engineer without experience in shaft excavation of this sort, becomes more and more nervous. Finally he puts his foot down. The work stops. The employees go idle.
This uncertainty is telling. The work crew of Himal Hydro are certainly skillful, but they have little practical experience. They are still most comfortable with tools like shovels, sledgehammers and wheelbarrows.
Once again it is a coincidental visit of an expert that resolves the tangle of issues. The work crew are still standing and scratching their heads when an Australian mining engineer stumbles across them.He gives some simple advice: put a man with a whistle on top. He should stand there the whole time, keep people away and make sure that nothing falls down into the hole. He should have another man down on the bottom as a counterpart, also with a whistle. These two have no other job than to keep contact with one another via predetermined whistle signals. The third person is the crane operator who will take orders from the whistle man on the top, and no other. The engineers’ jaws drop: can it be done so simply? And to think they had been bothering their heads with all kinds of technologically advanced solutions!
Now the code is cracked: Fill up the container with muck. Whistle signal. Up with the container. Roll it out on the rail line and empty it in the ravine alongside. It becomes pure routine. And the hoist goes up and down. When the whole crew and all the tools go up for blasting, the container serves as an elevator.Wait until the air has become somewhat clear. Down again with people and equipment. The shaft gets deeper and deeper. The ravine is filled up with spoil from the shaft excavation and becomes a spacious construction site.
The tunnels are simple in relation to the shaft and the power house cavern down on the bottom. Almost, in any case. Near the upper end of the headrace, the tunnel roof suddenly gives way. A hole appears that goes all the way up to the rice paddies on the surface 15 meters higher up. Luckily, no one is hurt. The problem is no more than can be fixed by clearing out the debris, reinforcing the roof of the tunnel and filling in the hole. Then the work can continue, eventually in better rock.
The kilometer-long tailrace tunnel also has its problems. The valley side down to Kali Gandak is steep and cluttered with ravines and landslides. All transport has to take place with a cable car or by foot along slippery paths. To begin with the tunnel goes through seemingly solid rock. When the crew have gotten some hundred meters inward, they discover that the tunnel walls are being squeezed towards each other and the tunnel floor is being pressed up. The alarm sounds. What is going on? The movements in the power station in Tinau which gave Odd nightmares are small potatoes in comparison to this. Here the walls bulge by several dozen centimeters. Once again Odd gets a good word from the geologist world: This is what one can expect in this type of rock. It’s not dangerous. Just make the tunnel broader and deeper, so that it’s still enough room left when the mountain finally settles and becomes stable again.
The commercial relationshipbetween BPC as Employer and Himal Hydro as Contractor is unformal and simple. Normal business practice demand that there should be an ‘armlength’s distance’ between the contracting parties. Here, even they themselves scarcely know who is who. BPC and HH have sprung from the same root, and belong to the same family. It is also customary for this type of contracts that the employer asks for a binding price for the job as whole, and a fixed completion date: By this and that date the job will be done, here you are. Not here. How can they calculate how long it will take to do a job that none of them have done before?Instead, the calculation work is based on agreed unit prices: it will cost so-so to blast a cubic meter of rock. So-so much is the price for pouring a cubic meter of concrete. With this kind of undefined relationship follows a great demand for detailed documentation and time consuming control. Who will keep an overview over all this flood of details? It is the Dutch engineer Ari de Jung, who is Odd’s representative on the construction site. Poor fellow!
Normally, a third party plays a central role in construction contracts: The Consultant. To begin with, the intention was that DCS would be responsible for planningand quality control for the Andhikhola project. In this way one would achieve clear lines of responsibility andcommunication between the Employer, the Consultant and the Contractor. Then it appears that DCS doesn’t want to join in after all. The British engineers and architects who lead DCS are more interested now in building environmentally appropriate housing in Nepali style. But BPC can’t survive without an office for technical planning and construction supervision. Odd’s289response is to set up Hydroconsult as a separate BPCdivision for planning and quality control. Not until 2009 does Hydroconsult get status as a separate legal entity.
The development workers in Andhikhola learncompany managementand professional business practice practice the hard way:through innumerable frustrations, misunderstandings and blunders. The method proves to be effective. The until recently sleeping paper-company BPC, and the crew of ‘learning by doing’ engineers and foremenat Himal Hydro, get more professional with every day that goes by.