Pancheshwar DPR delayed again as Nepal and India fail to agree on key issues

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The proposed 6,480-megawatt project has remained in limbo for three decades since the two countries signed the Mahakali Treaty in 1996.

Nepal and India have failed to finalise the detailed project report (DPR) of the much talked about Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project although Nepali officials claimed they had sorted most of their differences during a bilateral meeting.

The fifth meeting of the teams of experts from the two countries was held in Kathmandu on Friday and Saturday. They took one more day to prepare the minutes.

Since Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi had instructed their agencies to work on concluding the DPR within three months when Dahal visited New Delhi from late May to early June this year, officials of the two countries accelerated their talks at different levels on the Pancheshwar project.

The main sticking point of bilateral negotiation has been which country gets how much benefit from the multipurpose project, which aims at not only producing electricity but also irrigating vast swathes of India and some areas of Nepal, besides controlling floods.

“Once again, we could not reach a conclusion on determining the benefits to each side from the project,” said Nabin Raj Singh, spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation. “Our point was that we get negligible benefits from this project in areas of irrigation and flood control while the Indian side wants to keep the benefits for itself.”

According to Singh, there will be equal benefits for both sides in power availability. Quantifying the benefit for each side is important because investments will be based on it.

As per the Mahakali Treaty signed in 1996, the two sides have agreed in principle that the cost would be shared based on the benefits to each side in the areas of power, irrigation and flood control.

Singh also said the two sides have agreed to hold another meeting of experts soon to reach consensus on the DPR.

Differences over the draft DPR have put the 6,480-megawatt project in limbo for nearly three decades since the Mahakali Treaty’s signing in 1996.

After the treaty, the two countries had prepared a separate DPR. India’s state-owned Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS) Ltd prepared and submitted the DPR in 2016 by merging the two reports. Still, the two sides were not on the same page on several issues of the joint DPR, consequently delaying the final report.

The fourth meeting of experts in late July had instructed the WAPCOS Ltd to revise the DPR in line with the understanding reached earlier. WAPCOS recently submitted a draft DPR to both sides.

“We shared each others’ views on the draft and reached an understanding on a lot of other issues,” said Singh. “But the cost-benefit issue could not be resolved at this meeting.”

Source : The Kathmandu Post