Giant India-Nepal hydel projects may finally get going

September 25th, 2008 - 4:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 25 (IANS) Two giant hydropower projects that were to be jointly undertaken by the governments of India and Nepal but did not get off the ground for years due to political distrust could now be finally rolling out with a bilateral meeting in Kathmandu next week.The three-day meeting of the joint committee on water resources, to be headed by the secretaries at the water resources ministries of both countries, will kick off Monday, Nepal’s water resources secretary Shankar Prasad Koirala told IANS.

The meeting, the groundwork for which was laid earlier this month when Nepal’s new Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” visited India, would have on its agenda the controversial 6,480 MW Pancheswor project, the agreement for which was signed in 1996 but no construction was done even after 12 years, and the 3,300 MW Sapta Koshi multipurpose project.

While the detailed project report (DPR) for Pancheswor was to have been completed within six months of the signing of the pact, the Sapta Koshi DPR was to have been completed last year.

The Sapta Koshi project had been described as a top priority programme since 2004 by India when a devastating flood by the Kosi river wreaked havoc in India’s Bihar state.

Now, in view of the recent disaster unleashed by the same river in both Nepal’s Sunsari district and Bihar last month, the two neighbours are now finally opening fresh parleys on taming the river.

With Nepal’s new Maoist government having pledged to kick start the economy by generating 10,000 MW of power in the next 10 years, the two giant projects may finally see some action.

In the past, besides Nepal’s major political parties blocking the two projects, NGOs and anti-dam activists from both countries also opposed them, especially the plans to build high dams, calling it dangerous in an earthquake-prone country like Nepal.

India’s Minister of State for Power and Commerce, Jairam Ramesh, who visited Nepal this week to attend a power summit, urged the organisers to dedicate a session at the fourth summit next year to reviewing the progress made on projects like Pancheswor and Sapta Koshi.

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