RAM KUMAR KAMAT
NEW DELHI: The sixth meeting of the Nepal-India Committee on Water Resources has started here on Thursday after a hiatus of two years.
At the meeting, Nepal’s Energy Secretary Balananda Poudel is leading a 16-member team comprising Nepal’s Acting Ambassador Khaganath Adhikari, Nepali Embassy’s Minister (Political) Yagya Hamal and Chief of Foreign Ministry’s South Asia Division Bharat Raj Poudel, among others.
Indian Water Resources Secretary Dhruv Vijay Singh is leading a 20-member team comprising senior government bureaucrats.
The two-day meeting is expected to discuss hydropower projects like Pancheswor and Sapta Koshi high dam projects, Sunkoshi-Kamala diversion project, Gandak River projects and flood control measures, according to Indian and Nepali team members.
The development of the 250-MW Naumure hydropower project will be also figured in the meeting.
Energy Secretary Poudel said, a bilateral power trade agreement will be one of the major agendas.
Nepali and Indian officials have figured out that Nepal can import 100 MW from India by upgrading existing infrastructure at the cost of five crore rupees, Poudel said.
In the next two years, Nepal can import an additional 150 MW from India if Rs 29 crore is spent to upgrade the infrastructure, he said. Currently, Nepal can import only 134 MW from India.
According to Poudel, Nepal has already sent a PTA draft, but India is yet to respond. Asked what will possibly be India’s major concerns, the Nepali team leader said the Indian side has not hinted about its major concerns so far, except for the sharing of realtime flood forecast data. The Indian side believes that sharing of the realtime data among countries of the region will help lessen the impact of floods.
“At this stage, I can only tell you that we will discuss all issues that figured in previous rounds of talks,” Indian team member ASP Sinha, Senior Joint Commissioner (Ganga) at the Ministry of Water Resources, said.
Indian water resources expert BG Verghese said, the meeting is likely to revive some of the bilateral projects that had been stalled due to various reasons. The sixth round meeting, he added, could revive works on the Koshi high dam and Sunkoshi-Kamala diversion projects.
He said the Indian side is not very willing to discuss issues of long-term effect as it is little apprehensive about political instability in Nepal. “ In the existing constitution, there is a provision whereby treaties should be ratified by two-thirds majority. It is not clear if the same provision will be in the new constitution. India does not want to do a project now which can be stalled in the future on grounds that it has not been approved by two-thirds majority in the parliament,” he said.
He maintained that there is a great possibility of speeding up the 6500-MW Pancheswor multipurpose project but the issue of pricing of energy, water and dam site are delaying it.
“Nepal wants to fix the price of energy before the project generates it but today energy is traded like grains on a daily or weekly basis. Nepal wants price for Mahakali waters, but the international practice is that prices are paid only for stored water,” Verghese added. He said if the two countries expedite Pancheswor, Budhi Gandaki and Arun III projects, they can easily change the economic landscape of Nepal. “These projects would not only produce huge amount of energy, but would also expand modern infrastrastructure to hill districts, bring development to remote areas and provide immense job opportunities,” he said.