RUPAK D SHARMA
KATHMANDU: Nepal and India have finally broken the ice on development of 5,600-megawatt Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, as the two sides today endorsed the statute of Pancheshwar Development Authority, decided to appoint a Nepali national as the Authority’s CEO and hired a firm to conduct a preliminary study on the project.
High-ranking Nepali and Indian officials were engaged in talks here on Pancheshwar since yesterday. Most of the officials were members of the Authority’s governing body and were meeting for the first time to exclusively discuss the project.
As the governing body’s first meeting concluded today, Energy Secretary Rajendra Kishore Kshatri said the Authority would oversee implementation of the Pancheshwar Project.
The statute, which came into effect from today, will serve as a guide to implement conditions mentioned in the terms of reference for the Authority, Kshatri told a press conference jointly organised by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu and the Nepal-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“With this achievement, we have revived over 17-year-old controversial Treaty Concerning the Integrated Development of the Mahakali River, Including Sarda Barrage, Tanakpur Barrage and Pancheshwar Project, ratified by the then Parliament,” Kshatri said, referring to the controversy that created a split in CPN-UML, although the political party was later unified.
He said, “We’ll develop Pancheshwar Project and deal with downstream issues based on the provisions laid in the Treaty.”
Indian Water Resources Secretary Alok Rawat said work on Pancheshwar should have begun earlier. “Better late than never,” he told the conference as he urged both sides to ‘leave the baggage of the past behind’ and start afresh. Pancheshwar Project will be entirely rolled out by the PDA, which was formally established today following the charter’s endorsement.
“We have decided to headquarter the Authority in Mahendranagar. But till the time the headquarters is set up, the Authority will carry out its work from Kathmandu,” Kshatri said.
The governing body, or board, of the Authority will have seven members each from Nepal and India, and will be co-chaired by Nepali energy secretary and Indian water resources secretary.
Nepali members in the governing body include joint secretaries of energy, finance and foreign affairs ministries, directors general of the Department of Electricity Development and the Department of Irrigation, managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority and CEO of the PDA.
“The Authority’s management will be led by the CEO, who will be a Nepali national for now,” Kshatri said. The CEO will be in office for a three-year term and will most likely be a government official, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Energy Keshav Dhoj Adhikari said, on the sidelines of the press conference. There is also a provision for additional CEO in the Authority, who will be an Indian national for now, according to Kshatri.
To fast track drafting of the detailed project report, the two sides have appointed Wapos, a private firm, to conduct a preliminary study on the project. “The firm, which is said to start its work from tomorrow, will recheck data and estimates on the project complied by both the countries in the past and update them,” Rawat said.
PDA’s next board meeting will be held in New Delhi within a month.