Nepal: CPN-M’s direct challenge to PM Bhattarai’s hydroelectric deal with India

[See the two articles, below. — Frontlines ed.]


Telegraph Nepal, Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nepal PM Bhattari’s India Utility: Until Koshi High Dam?

The World Bank (WB) is providing loan for the construction of high-dam to India….The research carried out by the Indian government in 1981 had proposed the construction of a 269m tall dam in the Koshi river. The current project is based on that proposal.

Three days after Chairman Mohan Baidya Kiran led Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist declared in Kathmandu that their immediate objective is to save the country from India’s direct intervention in Nepal’s hydro power resources, some three hundred cadres of the party reached the proposed construction site of Sapta-Koshi Multipurpose High Dam, November 3, 2012.

The NCP-Maoist has been claiming that the project is not in the interest of Nepal and Nepali people.

The Party’s newly formed Youth wing called ‘National Youth Volunteers’ (NYV) had organized the protest program.

The Maoists have been claiming that some 84 VDCs of Saptari, Sunsari, Udayapur, Dhankuta, Bhojpur, Sankhuwasabha and Panchthar would be directly affected by the project.

To recall, Indian minister for Water Resources Pawan Kumar Banshal had forwarded the proposal for the construction of the project in Kathmandu, July 12, 2009.

As per the Indian proposal, the construction of a 269-metre high dam on the Sapta Koshi River at about 400 meters upstream from the Barah Chhetra Temple shall be carried out to generate around 300 MW of electricity and irrigating thousands of hectares of lands.

An already rejected proposal while King Mahendra was Head of the State and B.P. Koirala as the government head, the Indian government has once again, after a span of five decades, forwarded the same proposal notably after confusing republican order established in the country.

The visionary King and then PM after conducting the site visit had out rightly rejected the proposal saying that the project was neither in the larger interest of the local population nor that of the country , recall Nepal’s energy experts.

After republican order established presumably as per the wishes of the Indian establishment, during his visit to India as Nepal’s Prime Minister, the Unified Maoists’ Chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal had assured the Indian regime that the Government of Nepal will facilitate construction of the dam and provide safety to the Indian technicians.

“Sapta Koshi High Dam is a project that is not in Nepal’s interest,” says energy expert Mr. Hari Man Shrestha who is a council member, Center of Energy Studies, Institute of Engineering, Nepal.

“Officials of the Nepali establishment are deeply caught up in India’s water politics”, he adds.

Survey expert Buddhi Narayan Shrestha opines that if Koshi High Dam were to be built at Baraha Chhetra as per Indian insistence, valleys and villages upstream of the dam in Dhankuta, Bhojpur and Terahthum would be submerged into waters.

“There is also no guarantee that this dam will prevent further devastation in India’s State of Bihar for long as expected by the Indian planners,” concludes Shrestha.

Similarly, Dipak Gyawali, a former Minister of Water Resources is also concerned over the technology used to construct the high dam over Koshi.

In an interview published a year back in the Kathmandu Post, Gyawali had claimed that the construction works would take two or three decades, which thus will fail to address problems of current and immediate future concerns.

“It is highly expensive, does not address the primary problem of sedimentation (the reservoir will fill up too soon with Himalayan muck), has no convincing answer regarding the cost of attending to high seismicity in the region as well as diversion of peak instantaneous flood during construction (it is a major engineering challenge with no easy solution), and will create more social problems when indigenous population in Nepal have to be evicted from their ancestral homes”, so said Gyawali.

Anyway, there are rumors in Kathmandu that Baburam’s utility to the Indian establishment will not be over until Koshi High Dam comes entirely into India’s fold. Could be?

After all the Indian investment has to be repaid and mind it that the June 6, 2002 Maoist-India Treaty is presumably still in force.Atal Bihari was then the Indian Prime Minister.


Monday, November 05, 2012

CPN-M to protest hydro project deals with India


Mohan Baidya

KATHMANDU, NOV 01 – The Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist on Wednesday said it will launch protest programmes against “Indian intervention” in Nepali hydro resources from Thursday.

According to party leaders, the youth wing, National Youth Volunteers (NYV), is organising a protest programme on the Upper Karnali hydroproject on Thursday. The party will also hand over a memorandum to the government to scrap the contract as the first phase of the protests.

A three-day national conference of the NYV, which concluded two weeks ago, had announced mass gatherings against the Upper Karnali, Arun III and the Saptakoshi multipurpose high-dam project from November 1-3.

CPN-Maoist Politburo member Dharmendra Banstola said the protests will target “freeing the nation from Indian inteference in local water resources and thereby, freeing Nepal’s national sovereignty.” “These projects are more in favour of India than Nepal. We will block their implementation until the unequal agreements are scrapped and fresh ones signed,” said Banstola at an interaction, ‘Indian meddling in Nepal’s Water Resources’ here on Wednesday.

Banstola claimed that the handing over of the Upper Karnali and Arun III projects to Indian developers was illegal as they were offered without the parliament endorsing them. “The handing over of the Upper Karnali and Arun III breaches Article 196 of the Interim Constitution,” said Banstola. A total of 28 projects have been taken up by Indian developers.

Banstola said his party was not against development, but that hydropower deals should be in mutual interests. He claimed that if given a chance, his party would generate 4,180 MW of energy from the Karnali river. “We have already formed a committee to initiate this process,” he said.

This new move is certain to discourage foreign investment, particularly from India, in the hydropower sector. Indian hydropower developers–GMR Infrastructure and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam–are currently in PDA negotiations with the government to develop the Upper Karnali and Arun III respectively.

Meanwhile, a pre-feasibility study and soil testing has begun to develop the Saptakoshi high dam project. Nepal and India had in 1996 agreed to conduct a feasibility study on the proposed 3,000 MW multi-purpose high dam and the Sunkoshi-Kamala diversion project. Authorities, however, failed to expedite the work because of protests by Maoist-affiliated associations and local residents.

Posted on: 2012-11-01

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