March 8: The sharing of water and its benefits after the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project between Nepal and India and putting a value to the benefits in the project’s Detailed Project Report (DPR) are the major issues that need to be agreed, experts and government officials say.

    Energy from the project that is to be developed jointly by India and Nepal will be divided equally as per bilateral treaties. However, the sharing the benefits and water from the reservoir — like irrigation and flood control — are yet to be agreed in terms of price and quantity.

    The issue is likely to draw major debate as the Pancheshwar Development Authority — a joint entity to develop the project, plans to give it final touches within three months to determine the project’s viability and feasibility as well as the confidence of both countries to move forward.

    “The project demands a rigorous discussion on counting the benefits for both countries on irrigation facility and benefits of flood control, among others, before entering into final agreement,” Surya Nath Upadhyaya, a former government secretary who was one of the negotiators for the Mahakali Treaty — signed between Nepal and India in 1996 — on the basis of which the project is now being developed, says.

    With finalization of the draft DPR prepared recently, Pancheshwar Development Authority has now started evaluation of the bulky DPR reports that define all the details of the benefits.

    The countries will invest in the project based on these benefits, which will to be about 4,800 MW as per the draft report. An additional 240 MW will be generated from a re-regulating dam.

    The Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS) submitted its draft report to Pancheshwar Development Authority two weeks ago, just before  a meeting of the governing body of Pancheshwar Development Authority held in Kathmandu.

    As per the Mahakali Treaty, investment will be made by the countries on the basis of the benefits they get but a value on benefits like irrigation facility and flood control is likely to be an issue of controversy, a government official who preferred not to be named, says.

    A 1995 study said that the project’s water can irrigate about 1.6 million hectares of land while the irrigated land will be merely 93,000 hectares of the land. The benefit of flood control for India is expected to be huge and government officials say the benefit of flood control should also be counted in monetary terms.

    As per bilateral treaties, Nepal will have first right to use half of the water. But many believe Nepal cannot use all the water on its own, so the country should now separately seek a price for its water from India.

    Government officials also say that the price of the energy should be determined and agreed on by both sides while finalizing DPR as the price also determines the overall project cost. The draft-DPR has not been made public.

    “Project agreement should be endorsed by a two-thirds majority of the parliament,” former secretary Upadhyaya says.

    Mahendra Gurung, the CEO of Pancheshwar Development Authority, says the authority will send the reports to both the governments and their opinion will be collected to be incorporated in the draft DPR before coming out with a final report.

    “As per the requirements, experts will also be consulted for assessment of the documents and WAPCOS will give the final touches to it,” Gurung says.

    Energy Secretary Suman Prasad says that the government will use all the experts from the Department of Electricity Development, Nepal Electricity Authority, and the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat, among others, for the DPR.

    Upadhyaya also says that there are experts in the country who should be consulted properly before taking a decision.

    The project’s development was stalled for nearly two decades until India Prime Minister Narendra Modi took up the project forward after his visit to Kathmandu in August 2014.

    Source : Republica