Nepal’s bountiful water awaits to be tapped

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    The Nepalese embassy last week held a seminar to inform the public on the post-earthquake situation and investment potentials in water resources in Nepal.

    Nepal, a landlocked country between China and India on the Himalayan Mountains, has sizeable water resources. It has the third largest ice deposits and the second largest inland water deposits in the world.

    Nepal drains billions of cubic meters of fresh water annually from its more than 6,000 rivers and rivulets, which travel downstream to countries like India and Bangladesh.

    “Managing water resources in Nepal not only harnesses benefits to Nepal, but helps drive the development of the whole South Asia,” Nepalese Ambassador Kaman Singh Lama said in a speech at Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Wednesday.

    “Immense potentialities for generating clean hydroelectricity and its trade exist in Nepal, which would open up avenues for foreign investment and the development of agriculture, irrigation sectors, tourism, transportation and sports.”

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    Nepal’s per capita income was $425 in 2014 and its population was 28.2 million. The country aims to become a developing nation by 2022 and it has been focusing on upgrading its shattered and outdated infrastructures, particularly in energy and water, the ambassador said.

    Kathmandu has put concerted efforts to attract foreign investment by improving the country’s investment policies, legal frameworks and tax incentives, he stressed, adding that laws have removed hurdles. For instance, full remittance of profits is permitted and employing foreign workers is allowed in the absence of local workers. A five-year tax holiday is also guaranteed for export.

    The Global Green Growth Institute has agreed to increase support in climate-resilient programs and energy-development programs from 2017, and the Green Climate Fund will start its programs soon.

    Noting that Nepal has already secured Korean investment in hydropower over 450 megawatts, Lama requested the Korea International Cooperation Agency to initiate projects in energy and hydropower, following its assistance in Nepal’s agriculture and irrigation.

    Several Korean companies have begun hydropower projects in Nepal, including at Upper Trishuli-1, Chameliya, Upper Modi and Chalnakhola.

    At the seminar, which was cohosted by the Nepal Investment Board and the Water and Energy Commission of Nepal, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, vice chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal and former deputy prime minister and foreign minister, said that the earthquake of 7.8 Richter scale on April 25 last year and its aftershocks caused “inconceivable loss of lives and properties.”

    “Thousands of people were killed or injured, hundreds of thousands of homes were completely destroyed and people were rendered homeless,” he highlighted, adding to the list countless government buildings, infrastructures and historical, cultural and archaeological heritages.

    Thanking the Korean government for its “generous contributions and support during those crucial times,” Shrestha said that Kathmandu has embarked on various initiatives for rescue, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction with international support.

    Despite the devastating earthquake, he emphasized, “Nepal’s long-awaited dream of a constitution through the Constitution Assembly has come true, heralding an era of peace, democracy and development.”

    Nepal, which was ruled by a monarchy for nearly 240 years, became a secular state following a democracy movement in 2006. Since then, “inclusive democracy, social justice, federalism and secularism” have been constitutionalized and institutionalized, and a political consensus on attracting foreign investment has been unanimously adopted, according to the vice chairman.

    “Prospects for economic growth in Asia depend on geopolitical stability, mutual cooperation and equal sharing of globalization’s benefits,” he argued. “In the 19th century, territory was the main driver of geopolitics. It was oil by the end of the 20th century. In the 21st century, it will be water.”

    Nepal signed the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s framework agreement for energy in 2014 and power trade agreement with India in the same year, based on which the two countries started work on cross-border transmission interconnection infrastructures.

    Acknowledging that fresh water — arguably the most contested and precious resource on earth today — is fast depleting due to overuse and climate change, Lama claimed that Nepal’s vast water resources hold “tremendous potential” for the region’s energy, food and water securities.

    “Increased cooperation between Nepal, India and Bangladesh can bring about efficient and optimal utilization of water resources for the shared benefits of the region in food, water and energy security,” he added.

    Nepal’s present per capita electricity consumption is 132 kilowatt-hour, compared to 959 KWh in India.

    Pointing out that that all South Asian countries suffer from severe electricity shortages due to old and inefficient plants and congestion in transmission lines, Lama said Korea’s expertise in water management is well-suited to Nepal’s integrated hydro resources management and development of a multipurpose hydro dam.

    By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)