Harnessing water resources in Nepal


    Koshi BarrageKATHMANDU: It has been long discussed about exploiting water resources in Nepal multilaterally. One among it was harnessing the Koshi River basin in eastern Nepal with concerted effort of Nepal‚ India and probably Bangladesh.

    Bangladesh has been lobbying hard for its involvement and an early implementation of the Sapta Koshi High Dam Multipurpose Project‚ an ambitious venture that Nepal had already signed with India decades back. Dhaka‚ of late‚ has given much importance not only being an investment partner‚ but also interested in acquiring a major share of electricity as well as water to be generated there.

    Actually‚ many literatures even refer to the formation of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was closely linked to the Koshi. Also known as the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’‚ the river causes floods leaving massive damage of property‚ and lives in eastern plains of Nepal‚ northern India and sometimes even in Bangladesh during monsoon.

    Late Bangladeshi president Ziaur Rahman in 1970s approached King Birendra of Nepal and convinced him to construct a high-dam at somewhere in the hilly location of the Koshi in Nepal to control flash floods and use its vast reservoir-water for generating electricity and irrigation. Their discussion ultimately led to the formation of SAARC with larger objectives of promoting peace‚ prosperity and economic cooperation within South Asian countries in December 1985.

    The regional bloc has ever since grown with multiple summits‚ mechanisms‚ commitments and deliveries during the last 28 years. The very concept that became the starting point to the concept of South Asian cooperation‚ however‚ has still not been materialised. The 269-metre Koshi high-dam project is planned to produce 3‚300MW electricity‚ irrigate millions of hectors landmass and flood control in Nepal and India as well as navigation purpose.

    Currently‚ a feasibility study is underway by joint team of experts for the High Dam Project and Sun Koshi Storage-cum-Diversion Scheme‚ which was later included to address Nepal’s better irrigation concerns. Last month‚ during the Joint Committee on Water Resources meeting‚ both Nepali and Indian officials reviewed and committed for smooth implementation of field study of the project. They‚ however‚ did not discuss about Bangladesh’s prospect of being a third party‚ says Niranjan Man Singh Basnyat‚ South Asia Division Chief at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).

    Bangladesh has been voicing for Dhaka’s share in the Koshi project. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has personally discussed about it with her Nepali and Indian counterparts. Last time‚ she raised this issue with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai during their meeting on the sidelines of the 17th SAARC Summit in Maldives in November 2011. She had expressed Dhaka’s desire to procure one-third of electricity to be generated there.

    Recently‚ Dhaka once again has sought Nepal’s view over the project by shooting a letter to the MoFA‚ but Nepal is in dilemma about responding it without consulting India since the latter is also a part of the project. Some Nepali hydro-experts‚ including Deepak Gyawali‚ a former water-resource minister‚ interpreted Nepal’s muteness as the fear of India’s possible resistance. However‚ YB Thapa‚ a former member of the National Planning Commission‚ argues it is up to Nepal‚ not India weather to make Bangladesh or any other country as a party or not in Koshi project. “There has been no agreement between Nepal and India so far that a third party cannot be included‚” said Thapa‚ adding‚ the 1954’s Koshi Agreement was the most liberal among Indo-Nepal river treaties.

    SP Kakan‚ Additional Secretary at India’s Ministry of Water Resources‚ had also told THT earlier that New Delhi would have “no reservation in incorporating other countries” in harnessing water resources in Nepal. Nepal‚ Bangladesh and India have been facing huge power-deficit in their national grids. Bangladesh is facing over 10 hours of load shedding‚ slightly behind Nepal. India’s northern grid is also supplying 15‚000MW less electricity than the current demand.

    “South Asian nations can share benefits of Nepal’s huge water resources‚” Bangladeshi Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus said during his recent visit to Nepal. “What we all needed is a strong commitment to harness it jointly and share the benefits.”

    If the Koshi project became a success in trilateral efforts‚ it not only makes the SAARC-dream come true‚ but also will open other avenues to lunch many multilateral ventures within the South Asia region.

    Source : The Himalayan Times