Developing Water Resources
Prof. Biswo Pradhan
Nepal is rich in water resources with the capacity of producing more than 83,000 MW of power, second to Brazil, out of which only 2 per cent is in production now to meet the local energy requirement of Nepal. Having such abundant power potentiality, Nepal has not been able to exploit it due to her financial constraints. If these untapped resources are properly developed, it would bring tremendous benefits not only to Nepal but also to the power hungry countries of the region.
As we are not in a position to undertake big river projects, Nepal government sought to implement some of these under bilateral arrangements with India. India is our nextdoor neighbour and the biggest market for the consumption of energy. They have entered into bilateral agreement to undertake construction of some major power projects, but they are lying stand-still, idle and far behind completion schedule.
The Koshi and Gandak hydropower agreements concluded between the two governments in the past were unequally treated as they were mostly in favour of India’s unilateral interest at the cost of Nepal. Nepal feels cheated in those two river projects. The attitude of monopolising a bigger share at the cost of the other will not work. Taking a lesson from it, Nepal is very conscious in letting the co-operation and collaboration of India in the execution of power projects and seeks to have it on the principle of equitable distribution of power and profits.
Nepal and India are co-riparian nations. The Pancheshwor multi-purpose power project is the one which should have moved ahead with a specified time-table as it is based on the Mahakali boundary river. It is very important that both the governments of Nepal and India with their well-planned strategy of collective collaboration move ahead to execute it without delay.
Way back in 1992, the Government of Nepal had adopted ahydropower development policy stressing local and foreign investment for the development of power resources. Local investment for energy development is now apace with the involvement of reputable commercial banks and financial institutions of Nepal. Some power experts have suggested implementing medium type projects based on the concept of “Build, Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT)” policy. They have suggested having a two-pronged energy policy, one for domestic consumption and the other for export purpose.
Primarily, Nepal being an agricultural country, we should mount pressure for private sector investment for the development of small scale power plants in the rural areas. Energy experts suggest the government should authorise the District Development Committee (DDC) to issue license for hydropower projects up to a capacity of 2 MW, Department of Electricity up to 20 MWs financially government supported companies up to 50 MW under the BOOT scheme, providing them with tax free facilities for specific periods for distributors of power at a cheaper price in the rural areas along with the establishment of an Electric Training and Research Institute for manpower development. It is important that the government take positive steps to engage and encourage private sector, firms and commercial banks to develop small and medium type power projects to generate low cost power through local investment, men and materials for the development of agriculture and cottage industries.
In June 2005, the Indian Petroleum Minister Manishankar Aiyar suggested cooperation in the energy sector among South Asian countries to meet the growing demand of energy in South Asia. He stated that the consumption of petroleum and other natural resources was growing; and by 2020, its demand in India would increase to 400 Mcm from 170 Mcm.
Mahendra P. Lama, former VC of Sikkim University, has stated that South Asia as a whole faces a serious energy shortfall in catering to the industrial and commercial needs with adversely affected activities relating to economic development. He shas uggested cross border energy trade mutually beneficial to the region.
If we look at the African continent, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia are cooperating to trade in energy to meet the demand of their more than 100 million people through the South African Power Pool (SAPP).
We should therefore develop a double-decked mechanism of Bilateral Power Cooperation and Pool trade to develop power, and Trilateral or Multilateral Power Trading Cooperation, under which power surplus countries can transfer power to deficient ones. Such schemes would lead to effective utilisation of natural resources, increase reliability of power supply, economy in operation and mutual support during contingencies and would contribute to the economic benefit of the region as a whole.
The 15th ministerial meeting of BIMST-EC held in Kathmandu on August 10 – 11, 2017 has emphasised the importance of setting up of a South Asian regional grid for cross border power trade in line with the spirit of SAARC frame-work agreement for energy cooperation.
With the development of SAARC and BIMST-EC concern over water resources, Nepal and India should seek appropriate frameworks, both bilateral and multilateral energy co-operation when things are moving toward regionalisation, globalisation and liberalisation.