Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Ramifications of MCC’s “interpretive declaration”

MCC Compact (agreement) signed in 2017 to build 400 kV transmission line from Lapsiphedi and Ratmate in Kathmandu valley to Hetauda and to Damauli-Butwal through to Indian border as well as to repair and maintain some roads with a grant of US $500 million in 5 years had become controversial as it was heavily criticized from a number of perspectives. Grounds of criticism The road repair and maintenance part of the compact was not criticized. But the transmission infrastructure component was highly criticized as Nepal herself is languishing for lack of transmission infrastructure to increase electricity consumption within Nepal. The transmission infrastructure from Kathmandu to Butwal and eventually to Gorakhpur in India is obviously for export. Prima facie same to Hetauda seems to be for domestic use of electricity. Actually, it too is for export as the 400 kV transmission infrastructure from Hetauda to Dhalkebar is under construction while the 400 kV transmission infrastructure from Dhalkebar to Mujaffarpur in India was operationalized in 2016. Prudent course would have been to export electricity only after meeting Nepal’s electricity need to saturation level. This facet was completely ignored by the Compact. Not only Karnali and Sudur Paschim provinces are lagging behind economically for lack of access to industrial quality electricity, even 4 industrial corridors in Tarai belt, which are accessible by road, lack requisite transmission infrastructure and electricity requirements of industries there have yet to be fully met. Nepal’s per capita electricity consumption last year was 300 kWh only while the same was 1,200 and 2,800 kWh respectively in India and Bhutan. Nepal’s goal should be to make industrial quality electricity available in each of 753 municipalities of the country and increase per capita electricity consumption by industrializing the country massively and electrifying transportation to displace imported fossil fuel. This was one main reason that attracted criticism. MCC was also criticized as it planned to build 400 kV transmission line at the cost of Rs 150 million per kilometer while NEA had already built same from Dhalkebar to Bhittamod in Jalwshwar, which is connected to Mujaffarpur in India, at the cost of less than Rs 40 million per kilometer. Since the transmission line planned by MCC entailed building it over hilly terrain, at most it should have cost Rs 60 million per kilometer. Additionally, instead of having NEA, capable and experienced in building 400 kV transmission line cost effectively, build the transmission line, MCC had set up a new institution for the purpose, which was not wise from any angle. In this respect the deafening silence of NEA is surprising. MCC was categorically mentioned as the economic pillar of Indo Pacific Strategy (IPS) in the document published by the US State Department in 2019. In this backdrop GoN accepting MCC grant and affiliating herself with ISP entailed Nepal renouncing her non-aligned foreign policy, which she was adhering to since 1955, and this was stridently criticized. Most ministers, MPs, politicians, bureaucrats, media persons, etc. denied that MCC is related to ISP. But US secretary of state Michael Pompeo had mentioned in 2018 that Nepal already is part of ISP. Similarly, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Asia at the US Department of State David J Ranz had said that “MCC was one of the most important initiatives being implemented in Nepal under the US Indo-Pacific Strategy” in 2019 during his Nepal visit. Additionally, various Articles of the Compact were also criticized. However, most ministers, MPs, politicians, bureaucrats, media persons, etc. claimed that there were no provisions in the Compact detrimental to Nepal. Parliamentary ratification The then finance minister Sharma tabled MCC and “interpretive declaration” thereto for the ratification by the House of Representatives (HoR) on February 27, 2022. The interpretive declaration attempted to amend some Articles of the Compact that had become controversial. It is surprising that GoN tried to explain away some of the controversial Articles of the Compact through interpretive declaration, while initially it had failed to see any problem with any Article of the Compact. This action on the part of GoN proved the critics right. Finally, MCC and the interpretive declaration were ratified by HoR pursuant to Article 279 of Nepal’s Constitution. It is interesting to note that there are a number of “condition precedents” stipulated in the Article 7.2 and Annexes 4 and 5 of the Compact. But parliamentary ratification finds mention nowhere in the Compact. In this backdrop the Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs ministry advising GoN that Compact needs parliamentary ratification also became highly contentious. Question in the mind of everyone was why is it necessary to have an ordinary grant agreement ratified by the parliament, especially when no grant agreement signed so far have ever been ratified by the parliament. In the considered opinion of the critics, having MCC Compact ratified by the parliament impairs dignity of the parliament. The provision of Clause (d) of Article 279 (2) of Nepal’s Constitution had been flouted time again by not ratifying agreements related to division of natural resources and its use except for the Mahakali treaty. But surprisingly MCC Compact was ratified to receive a grant of merely $10 million/year. Last fiscal year Nepal had received $1.756 billion as grant from various countries and none of the grant agreements were ratified by parliament. Topics covered by interpretive declaration The first clause of the interpretive declaration stated that Nepal shall not be a part of any United States' strategy, military or security alliance including ISP. Similarly, it was also stated that the Constitution of Nepal would prevail over the Compact. Moreover, the declaration attempted to amend Articles 2.7, 5.1 (b), 3.2 (f), 3.5, 3.8 (a), 5.1 (a), 5.5, 7.1 and 8.1 of the Compact. Status of interpretive declaration Under contract law of each and every country of the world, any agreement signed between two parties can only be amended by the agreement of both parties. Any such agreement cannot be amended especially by interpreting the provision of the agreement just the opposite of what is written in the agreement. Interpretation can be resorted to in the cases where clarity is called for. But contradictory interpretations cannot be made. Besides, Article 6.2 (a) stipulates that “The Parties may amend this Compact only by a written agreement”. Therefore, no ex parte interpretative declaration can effectively amend any Article of the Compact. Further, Dr Himesh Dhungel, MCC’s former country director for Nepal (and an American citizen), speaking after Nepal’s HoR passed the interpretive declaration said that the interpretive declaration has no value in international law. Moreover, MCC’s office in Washington DC issued a statement welcoming the ratification of the Compact, but did not even acknowledge the interpretive declaration. Basically, MCC ignored the interpretive declaration, thereby impairing dignity Nepal’s HoR. Therefore, the interpretive declaration is one sided and HoR was not able to make any change in the Compact. Similarly, the then law minister opined that treaties can be amended by issuing interpretive declarations by one party under Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. However, there is no provision as such in that Convention. Therefore, MCC Compact stands unchanged as it was signed in 2017 and the interpretive declaration has not made any change or amended it. Since MCC and US government did not acknowledge the declaration, Nepal’s contention that the Constitution of Nepal would prevail over the Compact has also become dubious. Meaning MCC Compact supersedes Nepal’s Constitution. This is very ominous. Indo-Pacific Strategy The interpretive declaration disclaimed that Nepal is affiliated to the Indo-Pacific Strategy (ISP). But, since MCC and the US government did not even acknowledge it, it indirectly proves that Nepal has become affiliated to ISP. In other words, Nepal has renounced her nonaligned foreign policy and that is not prudent. Especially due to the geopolitical situation, Nepal affiliating with ISP could be lethal. Ukraine renouncing nonaligned foreign policy to join NATO has proved to be lethal as Russia has invaded her for that very reason. The war has lasted more than one year and there is no certainty when that war will end. By now over hundred thousand civilians have died and many towns and a lot of infrastructure have been completely destroyed. Western countries are supporting the war by supplying armaments, but army personnel of Ukraine are meeting untimely death. Ukraine is not engaged in the war because her sovereignty is at threat. She is waging war to join NATO and renounce non aligned foreign policy, which cannot be deemed wise from any perspective. Similarly, Afghanistan was adhering to non aligned foreign policy till 1973. But after she renounced that policy, the then Soviet Union invaded her in 1979 only to retreat in 1989, after which the Taliban government was formed in 1996. The US invaded her in 2001 to unseat the Taliban government and Islamic Republic was established with the support of western countries. Western countries also deserted her in 2021 and the country is now in shambles. Therefore, since the declaration was not accepted by the other party to the Compact, it could be costly for Nepal to be affiliated to ISP in view of the geopolitical situation, especially since it would not be acceptable to Russia and our northern neighbor China. Even India is maintaining neutrality in the matter of the Ukraine war and Nepal affiliating with ISP could become unacceptable to India after some time. Conclusion As Nepal is not industrialized to the optimum level, there is rampant unemployment and youth are migrating to gulf nations and eastern Asian countries for employment, where they are exploited to the hilt. Further, since USAID has established that use of one kWh electricity results in value addition by 86 US cents, it is not wise to build infrastructure to export electricity. Better use of that grant would have been to build infrastructure to maximize electricity use to industrialize the country, electrify transportation to displace imported petroleum products. Besides, NEA should have been entrusted to build transmission infrastructure instead of establishing new institution to build the same at unnecessarily huge cost. Moreover, MCC and the US government's failure to acknowledge the interpretive declaration, passed by HoR, amounts to contempt of parliament. Furthermore, although the declaration sought to amend controversial provisions of the Compact, the same failure to acknowledge has left those provisions intact. Additionally, it is not wise to renounce the nonaligned foreign policy that Nepal had adopted for almost 70 years. Published in People’s Review of March 23, 2023 Ratna Sansar Shrestha, FCA

Monday, March 20, 2023

एमसीसीः व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा र त्यसको उपेक्षाको प्रभाव

काठमाडौंको लप्सिफेदी र रातमाटे देखि हेटौंडा तथा रातमाटेबाट दमौली हुँदै बुटवल र भारतीय सीमानासम्म ३१५ किलोमिटर लम्बाइको ४०० केभी प्रशारण लाइन लगायतको पूर्वाधार निर्माण गर्ने र केही सडकहरु मर्मत सम्भार गर्नको लागि एमसीसी नामक अमेरिकी सरकारको एक निगमले नेपाललाई ५ वर्षमा ५० करोड अमेरिकी डलर अनुदान दिने सम्बन्धमा सन् २०१७ मा सम्झौता भएकोमा बिभिन्न तप्काबाट बिभिन्न दृष्टिकोणबाट आलोचना गरिएकोले त्यो सम्झौता विवादास्पद बनेको थियो । विरोधका कारणहरु केही सडकहरु मर्मत सम्भार गर्ने सम्बन्धमा त्यति विरोधको भएन । तर प्रशारण लाइन भने देशभित्र बिजुली अधिकतम खपत गराउने उद्देश्यले नभएर निकासी गर्नको लागि निर्माण गर्न लागेकोले धेरै विरोध भयो, देश भित्र बिजुली खपत गर्नको लागि आवश्यक पूर्वाधार अभाव भएको अवस्थामा । बुटवल हुँदै भारतीय सीमानासम्म निर्माण गरिने प्रशारण लाइन बिजुली निकासीको लागि नै भएको स्पष्ट छ । तर काठमाडौंको रातमाटेबाट हेटौंडा पु¥याइने प्रशारण लाइन पनि बिजुली निकासी गर्नैको लागि हो, किनभने हेटौंडाबाट ढल्केबरसमम ४०० केभीको प्रशारण लाइन निर्माणाधीन छ र ढल्केबरबाट भारतको मुजफ्फरपुरसम्म ४०० केभीको प्रशारण लाइन हाल संचालनमा नै छ । देशभित्र बिजुलीको माग अधिकतम पूरा गरेर प्रति व्यक्ति बिजुली खपत केही हजार युनिट पु¥याइ सके पछि बाँकी बचेउब्रेको बिजुलीमात्र निकासी गर्ने सोच बुद्धिमानीपूर्ण हुन्थ्यो । प्रशारणको पूर्वाधारको अभावमा कर्णाली र सुदूर पश्चिम प्रदेशहरु मात्र होइन आवागमन सहज भएको र ४ वटा औद्योगिक करिडरहरु भएका तराइका जिल्लाहरुमा समेत प्रशारणको पूर्वाधारको अभाव छ र उद्योगहरुलाई चाहिने जति बिजुली आपूर्ति हुन सकेको छैन । गत आर्थिक वर्ष नेपालमा प्रति व्यक्ति बिजुली खपत ३०० युनिट थियो भने भारतमा १,२०० र भुटानमा २,८०० युनिट । लक्ष्य हुनु पथ्र्याे देशका सबै पालिकाहरुमा औद्योगिक स्तरको बिजुली आपूर्ति गर्न आवश्यक पूर्वाधारको निर्माण गरेर औद्योगिकरण गरेर प्रति व्यक्ति बिजुली खपतमा वृद्धि गर्नु । तर यस विपरित बिजुली निकासीलाई मुख्य लक्ष्य बनाएर थप पूवाधार निर्माण गर्ने अवधारणाले गर्दा चर्को विरोध भएको हो । साथै नेपाल विद्युत प्राधिकरणले निर्माण गरेको ढल्केबर देखि भिट्ठामोडसम्म ४०० केभीको प्रशारण लाइन (जुन भारतको मुजफ्फरपुरमा जोडिएको छ) को लागत प्रति किलोमिटर ४ करोड रुपियाँ भन्दा कम लागेकोमा यो सम्झौता अनुसार निर्माण गरिने प्रशारण लाइनको लागत प्रति किलोमिटर १५ करोड रुपियाँ भन्दा बढी पर्ने भएकोमा पनि विरोध भएको थियो । पहाडी भूभागसमेतबाट प्रशारण लाइन लैजानु पर्ने हुनाले बढीमा प्रति किलोमिटर ६ करोड रुपियाँसम्म लाग्नु पर्नेमा अनुभवी तथा क्षमतावान संस्था प्राधिकरणलाई प्रशारण लाइन निर्माणको जिम्मा नदिाएर नयाँ संस्था खडा गरेर बढी लागतमा निर्माण गर्नु कसै गरेर पनि बुद्धिमानी मान्न नसकिने हुनाले बढी विरोध भएको हो । तर यस सम्बन्धमा प्राधिकरणको मौनता आश्चर्यजनक रह्यो । अमेरिकी स्टेट डिपार्टमेन्टले सन् २०१९ मा प्रकाशित गरेको हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीति सम्बन्धी दस्तावेजका अनुसार एमसीसी हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिकोे आर्थिक खम्बा हो भनेर किटानीसाथ लेखिएको छ । यस्तोमा एमसीसीको अनुदान स्वीकार गरेर नेपाल हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिमा परोक्षरुपमा सामेल हुन लागेकोमा धेरै चर्को विरोध भयो । हुन त नेपालका धेरै मन्त्री, सांसद, कर्मचारी, बुद्धिजीवि, पत्रकारले एमसीसीको हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिसंग कुनै सम्बन्ध छैन भनेर ठोकुवा गरेका हुन् । तर सन् २०१८ मा तत्कालिन अमेरिकी सेक्रेटरी अफ स्टेट (मन्त्री) माइकल पम्पिओले नेपाल हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिको अंग हो भनेका थिए भने सन् २०१९ मा हिन्द–प्रशान्त हेर्ने तत्कालिन कायममुकायम सहायक उप सचिव (राज्यमन्त्री) डेभिड राय्न्जले एमसीसी हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिको महत्वपूर्ण पहल हो भनेका थिए । त्यसैले नेपालले सन् १९५५ देखि अवलम्बन गर्दै आएको असंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति परित्याग गरेर हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीति जस्तो पाश्चात्य सैन्य गठबन्धनमा सामेल हुनु आत्मघाती हुन्छ भनेर कडा विरोध भएको हो । यस अतिरिक्त उक्त सम्झौताका बिभिन्न दफाहरु सम्बन्धमा पनि व्यापक विरोध भएको थियो । तथापि नेपाल सरकारका मन्त्रीहरु लगायतका बिभिन्न पदाधिकारीहरु, बिभिन्न सांसदहरु, केही पत्रकार तथा बुद्धिजीविहरुको अतिरिक्त एमसीसी र अमेरिकी सरकारका पदाधिकारीहरुले उक्त सम्झौतामा कुनै पनि कमि कमजोरी छैन भनेर कडा पैरवी गरेका थिए । संसदीय अनुमोदन प्रतिनिधि सभाबाट उक्त सम्झौता अनुमोदनको सन्दर्भमा २०७८ साल फागुन १५ (२०२२ फेब्रुअरी २७) मा बसेको प्रतिनिधि सभाको दशौं अधिवेशनको बैठक संख्या ७ र ८ मा प्रतिनिधि सभाबाट जारी गरिने उक्त सम्झौता माथिको प्रस्तावित व्याख्यात्मक घोषणासमेत छलफलको लागि तत्कालिन अर्थमन्त्री जनार्दन शर्माले प्रतिनिधि सभामा प्रस्तुत गरे । विशेषतः उक्त सम्झौतामा भएका अस्वीकार्य भनेर व्यापक विरोध गरिएका दफाहरुको सम्बन्धमा समेत उक्त व्याख्यात्मक घोषणामा प्रस्ताव गरिएको थियो । पहिले ती व्यवस्थाहरुमा कुनै गल्ति नदेख्ने सरकारले उक्त व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा प्रस्ताव गर्नु नै अचम्भित हुने कुरा थियो । किनभने सरकारको यो कदमले आलोचकहरुका भनाइ पुष्टि गरेको छ । उक्त व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा सम्बन्धमा सांसदहरु सुरेन्द्रकुमार कार्की देखि गगनकुमार थापासम्मले संसदमा आ–आफ्नो धारणा व्यक्त गरेका थिए । अन्ततः नेपालको संविधानको धारा २७९ तथा प्रतिनिधि सभा नियमावली, २०७५ को नियम २३० बमोजिम त्यस दिनको बैठकले सो सम्झौता र व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा बहुमतले पारित ग¥यो । स्मरणीय छ, सम्झौताको दफा ७.२ र अनुसूची ४ र ५ मा धेरै वटा पूर्वशर्तहरु उल्लेख गरिएको भएता पनि नेपालको संसदबाट अनुमोदन गरिनै पर्छ भन्ने पूर्व शर्त त्यो सम्झौतामा कहिँ कतै उल्लेख थिएन । तथापि कानुन, न्याय तथा संसदीय मामिला मन्त्रालयले सो सम्झौताको संसदीय अनुमोदन गरिनु पर्ने राय दिएकोले झन धेरै विवादास्पद बन्यो । सामान्य अनुदान सम्झौता समेत संसदबाट अनुमोदन गर्न लागेकोमा पनि प्रचण्ड विरोध भएको थियो, जब कि यस अगाडी सम्पन्न कुनै पनि अनुदान सम्झौता संसदबाट अनुमोदन गरेको इतिहास छैन । सामान्य अनुदान सम्झौता संसदले अनुमोदन गर्दा संसदको गरिमामा नै आँच आउने धारणाहरु व्यक्त गरिएको थियो । अर्कोतिर संविधानको धारा २७९ को उपधारा (२) को खण्ड (घ) मा उल्लिखित प्राकृतिक श्रोत तथा त्यसको उपयोगको बाँडफाँड सम्बन्धमा भएको कुनै पनि सम्झौता संसदबाट अद्यापि अनुमोदन गरिएको छैन, महाकाली सन्धि बाहेक । यस्तोमा वार्षिक १० करोड डलर अनुदान पाउन संसदले सम्झौता अनुमोदन गर्नु आश्चर्यजनक छ, जब कि गत आर्थिक वर्षमात्र बिभिन्न देशहरुबाट जम्मा १ अर्ब ७५ करोड ६० लाख अमेरिकी डलर वैदेशिक सहायता प्राप्त गर्न सम्झौताहरु भएका थिए, तर ती कुनै पनि अनुदान सम्झौता संसदबाट अनुमोदन गर्नु परेको थिएन । व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाले समेटेको कुराहरु सो व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको पहिलो दफामा नै नेपाल संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाको हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिमा आबद्ध रहेको मानिने छैन भनेर घोषणा गरिएको छ । यस अतिरिक्त उक्त सम्झौतामा समाविष्ट संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाको कानुन पालना गर्नु पर्ने दफा २.७ र ५.१ (ख), बौद्धिक सम्पत्ति सम्बन्धी दफा ३.२ (च), नेपाल सरकारले बाध्यात्मक रुपमा पालना गर्नु पर्ने एमसीसीको परामर्श सम्बन्धी दफा ३.५, अमेरिका स्थित लेखापरीक्षकबाट लेखापरीक्षण गराउन पर्ने व्यवस्था भएको दफा ३.८ (क), एमसीसीले बिना कारण एक पक्षियरुपमा यो सम्झौता अन्त्य गर्न सक्ने दफा ५.१ (क), उक्त सम्झौताको समाप्ति पछि पनि नेपाल सरकारको जिम्मेवारी कायम रहने दफा ५.५, नेपालको राष्ट्रिय कानुन र उक्त सम्झौता बाझिएमा सम्झौताले नेपाल कानुनलाई निष्प्रभावी पार्ने दफा ७.१ र सम्बद्ध सबै जग्गा र वनक्षेत्र एमसीसी मातहत रहने दफा ८.१ सम्बन्धमा व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाले संशोधन गर्ने प्रयास ग¥यो । व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको हैसियत नेपाल लगायत संसारका कुनै पनि देशको करार सम्बन्धी कानुन अनुसार दुइ पक्षबिच सम्पन्न सम्झौता एक पक्षले मात्र संशोधन गर्न सक्दैन, त्यो पनि सम्झौतामा भएको प्रावधानको ठीक विपरित व्याख्या गरेर । व्याख्या भनेको अस्पष्ट प्रावधानको सम्म गर्न सकिन्छ, तर विपरित अर्थ निस्कने व्याख्या गर्न कसै गरेर पनि मिल्दैन । उक्त सम्झौताको दफा ६.२ को खण्ड (क) मा किटानीसाथ सो सम्झौताका पक्षहरुले लिखित सम्झौताद्वारा मात्र संशोधन गर्न सक्नेछ भनिएको छ । यस्तोमा नेपाल एक पक्षले मात्र व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा गरेको आधारमा उक्त सम्झौतामा कुनै पनि संशोधन गर्न सकिन्न र गरे पनि त्यस्तो संशोधन प्रभावकारी हुन्न । एमसीसीको नेपाल कार्यालयका पूर्व निर्देशक डा हिमेश ढुङ्गेलले संसदबाट व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा सहित यो सम्झौताको अनुमोदन गरिए पछि सार्वजनिक रुपमा नै उक्त “व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय कानुनी हैसियत छैन” भने । त्यस्तै यो सम्झौता संसदबाट अनुमोदन गरिए लगत्तै एमसीसीको अमेरिकाको राजधानी वाशिंगटन स्थित कार्यालयबाट नेपालको संसदले गरेको अनुमोदन स्वीकार गरेर वक्तव्य प्रेषित गरियो । तर उक्त वक्तव्यमा संसदबाट अनुमोदन गरिएको व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा सम्बन्धमा एक शब्द पनि उल्लेख गरिएन । अर्थात एमसीसी नामक निगमले नेपालको प्रतिनिधि सभाले पारित गरेको व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको पूर्णतः उपेक्षा ग¥यो, स्वीकार गरेन । तसर्थ पनि व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा एक पक्षिय भयो र यसले एमसीसीसंग भएको सम्झौतामा कुनै हेरफेर संशोधन परिवर्तन गरेको छैन । त्यस्तै तत्कालिन कानुमन्त्री गोबिन्दप्रसाद शर्माकोइरालाले लः अन ट्रिटिज नामक भियना अभिसन्धि (एक अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय कानुन) अनुसार व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाबाट पनि एक पक्षियरुपमा सन्धि संशोधन गर्न सकिन्छ भन्ने धारणा अभिव्यक्त गरे तापनि उक्त अभिसन्धिको कुनै पनि धारा, उपधारामा एक पक्षियरुपमा व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको आधारमा सन्धि संशोधन गर्न सकिन्छ र त्यस्तो संशोधन मान्य हुन्छ भन्ने व्यवस्था छैन । तसर्थ एमसीसीसंग जे जुन व्यवस्था÷प्रावधानहरु सहित सन् २०१७ मा सम्झौता भएको हो ती सबै यथावत कायम छन्, व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाबाट कुनै पनि संशोधन, परिवर्तन, परिमार्जन भए गरिएको छैन । हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीति उक्त व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको पहिलो बुँदामा नेपाल हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिमा आबद्ध छैन भनेर अस्वीकरण गरियो । तथापि यो सम्झौताको अर्को पक्ष एमसीसी र संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाले सो व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा स्वीकार नगरेकोले नेपाल हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिमा आबद्ध रहेको पुष्टि गर्दछ । अर्थात नेपालले विद्यमान असंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति परित्याग गरेको छ, जुन बुद्धिमानीपूर्ण होइन । विशेषतः भूराजनीतिक परिस्थितिको सम्बन्धमा यो काम नेपालको लागि घातक सिद्ध हुन सक्छ । युरोपेली देश युक्रेनले असंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति परित्याग गरेर उत्तर एट्लान्टिक सन्धि संगठनमा आबद्ध हुन खोज्दा अहिले रुससंग १ वर्ष देखि युद्धरत र उक्त युद्ध कहिले टुङ्गिन्छ ठेगान छैन । गत महिनासम्ममा १ लाख भन्दा बढी गैर सैनिकहरुको मृत्यु भई सक्यो र पूर्वाधार लगायतका धेरै धनसम्पत्ति ध्वस्त भइ सक्यो । युद्धको लागि पश्चिमा देशहरुले हातहतियार त आपूर्ति गरि रहेका छन्, तर धेरै युक्रेनी सैनिकले ज्यान गुमाइ सके । युक्रेनको सार्वभौमिकता खतरामा परेकोले युद्ध गर्न परेको होइन, उत्तर एट्लान्टिक सन्धि संगठनमा आबद्ध हुनको लागि यत्रो जनधनको क्षति गराएर अंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति परित्याग गर्नुमा न कुनै सार्थकता देखिन्छ, न बुद्धिमत्ता नै । त्यस्तै सन् १९७३ सम्म असंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति अवलम्बन गरेको अफ्गानिस्तानले सो नीति परित्याग गर्दा तत्कालिन सोभियत संघले सन् १९७९ मा आक्रमण गरेकोमा मुजाहिद्दिनसंग गृह युद्ध समेतका कारण सोभियत संघ सन् १९८९ मा अफ्गानिस्ताबाट पछि हटेको थियो । त्यस पछि त्यहाँ सन् १९९६ मा तालिबानी सरकार बनेकोमा अमेरिकी आक्रमणमा परेर सन् २००१ मा उक्त सरकार पनि अपदस्थ गरिएर पश्चिमा देशहरुको सहयोगमा त्यहाँ इस्लामी गणतान्त्रिक सरकार स्थापना भएको थियो । तर सन् २०२१ मा पश्चिमा देशहरु पनि अफ्नागनिस्तानबाट पछि हटे । अहिले त्यो देशको, त्यहाँको जनताको र अर्थतंत्रको अवस्था अत्यन्त दयनीय र भयावह छ, विशेष गरेर महिलाहरुको मानव अधिकारको चरम उल्लंघन भइ रहेको छ । तसर्थ व्याख्यात्मक घोषणालाई उक्त सम्झौताको अर्को पक्षले स्वीकार नगरेको परिप्रेक्षमा भूराजनीतिक हिसाबले नेपालले हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिमा आबद्ध हुनु महँगो पर्न सक्छ । विशेषतः हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीति नेपालको मित्र राष्ट्र रुस र उत्तरी सँधियार मित्रराष्ट्र चीनलाई पाच्य नहुन सक्ने परिवेशमा र ती देशहरु नेपालसंग चिढिएमा परिणति अनपेक्षित हुन सक्छ । भारत समेत युक्रेन युद्धमा निष्पक्ष रहेको अवस्थामा नेपाल पश्चिमा देशहरुसंगको बढी निकटता कुनै बिन्दु पछि भारतलाई पनि पाच्य नहुन सक्छ । व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा उपेक्षाको प्रभाव माथि उल्लेख गरिए अनुसार एमसीसी सम्झौताको अर्को पक्षले नेपालको संसदले पारित गरेको व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा स्वीकार नगरेकोले उक्त घोषणा उपेक्षित छ, निस्प्रभावी छ । यस सन्दर्भमा उक्त घोषणाको दोस्रो बुँदामा नेपालको संविधान उक्त सम्झौता भन्दा माथि रहेको भनि घोषणा गरिए तापनि यथार्थमा नेपालको संविधान भन्दा माथि उक्त सम्झौता रहेको छ भन्ने सिद्ध हुन्छ । त्यस्तै सम्झौताको दफा ७.१ अनुसार नेपाल कानुन र यो सम्झौताको व्यवस्था बाझिएमा नेपाल कानुन निष्प्रभावी हुने अवस्था छ र उक्त घोषणा निष्प्रभावी हुनाले नेपाल कानुन भन्दा माथि उक्त सम्झौता रहन पुगेको छ । त्यस्तै बौद्धिक सम्पत्तिको स्वामित्वमा पनि एमसीसीमा निहित हुने भयो, सम्झौताका दफा ३.२ को खण्ड (च) मा भएको व्यवस्था अनुरुप । अनि सम्झौताको दफा ८.१ अनुसार सम्बद्ध सबै जग्गाको स्वामित्व एमसीसीमा निहित हुने भयो । आदि इत्यादि । सार्वभौम संसदको अवहेलना संविधानको धारा २ अनुसार नेपालको सार्वभौमसत्ता र राजकीयसत्ता निहित रहेका नेपाली जनताले निर्वाचित गरेको संसदले उक्त व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा पारित गरेकोमा सो घोषणा अमेरिकी सरकार र एमसीसीले स्वीकार नगर्दा नेपालको प्रतिनिधि सभाको अवहेलना भएको छ । तर यस तर्फ अमेरिकीहरुको छोडौं नेपालको संसद, सांसदहरु र राज्य संचालकहरुको समेत चासो छैन । उपसंहार नेपालमा समुचित औद्योगिकरण नभएकोले गर्दा रोजगारीको चरम अभावमा नेपाली युवा पूर्वी एशियाली देशहरु तथा खाडी देशहरुमा रोजगारीको नाममा चरम यातना भोगि रहेका छन् । साथै १ युनिट बिजुली नेपालमा खपत भए अर्थतंत्रमा ८६ अमेरिकी सेन्टले मूल्यअभिवृद्धि हुन्छ भन्ने निक्र्यौल अमेरिकी सहयोग नियोगको रहेको अवस्थामा नेपालको जलस्रोत उपयोग गरेर उत्पादन गरिने बिजुली निकासी गर्नको लागि पूर्वाधार निर्माणमा यत्रो लगानी गर्नु नै गलत हो । उक्त अनुदान नेपालमा अधिकतम बिजुली खपत गर्न सक्षम बनाउनको लागि आवश्यक पूर्वाधार निर्माण गर्नको लागि लिइनु पथ्र्यो । त्यस्तै नेपालको व्यापार घाटा १० खरब रुपियाँ भन्दा बढी छ र त्यसको एउटा ठूलो कारक हो ३ खरब रुपियाँ हाराहारीको पेट्रोलियम पदार्थको आयात । आयातीत पेट्रोलियम पदार्थलाई यातायात क्षेत्रबाट बिजुलीले प्रतिस्थापन गर्न सके मात्र पनि अर्थतंत्रलाई ठूलो राहत हुन्छ, त्यता ध्यान पुगेको छैन । त्यसमाथि अनुभवी तथा क्षमतावान प्राधिकरणबाट निर्माण नगराएर महँगोमा पूर्वाधार निर्माण गर्नु झन गलत हो । यसले गर्दा प्राधिकरण पङ्गु हुने जोखिम हुन्छ । गत वर्षमात्र झण्डै पौने २ अर्ब अमेरिकी डलर अनुदान पाएको नेपालले वार्षिक १० करोड डलर अनुदान पाउन हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीति जस्तो पाश्चात्य सैन्य गठबन्धनमा प्रत्यक्ष वा परोक्षरुपमा सामेल हुनु आत्मघाती हुन सक्दछ । साथै नेपालको सार्वभौम संसदको गरिमामा आँच आउने गरेर केही रकम अनुदान लिन संसदबाट अनुमोदन गर्नु पनि गलत काम भएको छ । संसदले व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा पारित गरे पनि अमेरिकी सरकार र त्यसको एक निगमले उपेक्षा गर्नाले संसदको अवहेलना भएको छ भने उक्त उपेक्षाले गर्दा सो सम्झौतामा रहेका अस्वीकार्य प्रावधानहरु सबै यथावत रह्यो र सो सम्झौता नेपालको संविधान तथा कानुन भन्दा माथि रह्यो, जुन कसै गरेर पनि स्वीकार्य होइन । यस्तो पृष्ठभूमिमा केही करोड डलर अनुदान लिन नेपालले झण्डै ७० वर्ष देखि अवलम्बन गर्दै आएको असंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति परित्याग गरेर रुस जस्ता मित्र राष्ट र चीन र भारत जस्ता संधियार छिमेकी मित्रराष्ट्रहरुलाई चिढ्याउने काम नगर्नु पर्ने हो । २०७९ चैत्रमा बामपन्थमा प्रकाशित Ratna Sansar Shrestha

Counterproductive Exploitation of Nepal’s Water Resources

Currently there are two controversial projects on Karnali River: Upper Karnali Hydropower Project and Karnali Chisapani Multipurpose (Reservoir) Project. First one is the peaking run of river project which includes a small reservoir to store daily flow of Karnali River water and make spatial transfer thereof into a powerhouse to generate peak electricity. Second one entails building a high dam for temporal transfer (store rainy season water to meet dry season water demand) for uses ranging from drinking water, irrigation, animal husbandry/fishery to electricity generation. Upper Karnali Hydropower Project Located in Achham district of Sudur Paschim province and Surkhet and Dailekh districts of Karnali province, its installed capacity of Upper Karnali is 900 MW, generating annual average electricity of 3,466 GWh. Survey license for it as an export oriented project was issued to Indian promoter, GMR Energy Ltd. (GEL) in 2008 with 300 MW as installed capacity initially, which was increased to 900 MW in 2009. An MoU was also signed with GEL in 2008 according to which 12% free electricity (415.9 GWh) is to be given to Nepal. Further NEA is to be provided 27% equity without having to invest in the JV company to be set up to implement this project. Project Development Agreement (PDA) was signed between GoN and GEL in 2014 under which GEL was given 2 years among others to achieve financial closure and sign agreement to export electricity with a provision to extend the deadline by one more year. GEL failed to meet the deadline and it was extended till 2017 pursuant to section 3.1.3 of PDA. Again, GEL failed to achieve financial closure and sign agreement to export electricity and the deadline was extended for one more year through till 2018 in contravention of section 3.1.3 of PDA itself. Due to failure to meet the deadline in 2018, PDA altogether ceased to exist. However, out of the blue a further extension by 2 years was granted in 2022, against which the Supreme Court issued a preliminary injunction a few months later. When GoN requested to have the preliminary injunction vacated, the Court decided to send the matter to the Constitutional Bench in early 2023 as the constitutional issue of parliamentary ratification needed to be sorted out. Karnali Chisapani Multipurpose (Reservoir) Project Situated in Kailali district of Sudur Paschim province and Bardiya district of Lumbini province, the installed capacity of Karnali Chisapani Multipurpose (Reservoir) Project is 10,800 MW and it can generate annual average energy of 20,842 GWh. A high dam of 270 meter needs to be built a little north of Chisapani gorge to create a reservoir, in which 16,200 million cubic meters of water would be stored, from which lean season augmented flow 191,000 hectare land would be irrigated in Nepal and 3.2 million hectares in India. Nepal had initiated discussion with India in 1965 to implement this project but did not meet with success. In 1996 Enron Corporation from the USA sent a letter of intent to GoN wishing to implement this project, but did not materialize as Enron itself went bankrupt in 2001. In 2017 a task force comprising two experts from Nepal and one from India was formed by Islamabad, Pakistan based SAARC Energy Center to review existing study of this project as a regional hydropower project. The recommendations of this task force are yet to be implemented. Its reservoir would inundate 340 square kilometers of Nepal’s territory and involuntarily displace 60,000 local inhabitants – negative externalities. Relation between electricity use and economy According to a USAID report, using one kWh of electricity can add 86 US cents to Nepal's economy. Meaning Nepal would become prosperous due to the multiplier effect by using electricity. Whereas NEA had exported electricity to India last year at rates ranging from Rs 6.58 to Rs 12.26 per kWh; equivalent to 5 to 9 US cents. It means that by exporting electricity, instead of using it domestically, Nepal lost 77 to 81 US cents per kWh. (NB: Last year NEA had imported electricity at Rs 38/kWh, equivalent to 29 US cents. But this is the subject for a separate article.) Export of 3,050 GWh electricity from Upper Karnali Hydropower Project, after deducting 12% electricity that Nepal is entitled to receive free of cost, will result in Nepal’s economy being deprived of value addition by US $ 2.62 billion a year. Since GEL is licensed to export electricity from it for 25 years, in that period Nepal’s economy would be deprived of US $ 65.57 billion. It should not be forgotten that export revenue, at whatever rate, is GEL’s revenue, Nepal would not receive a cent of that. Nepal would receive only export tax, free electricity and royalties under section 9.3.1,11.15.1 and11.25 of PDA respectively. Assuming GEL exports at 5 US cents per kWh, the total of export tax, free electricity and royalties that Nepal would receive from this project in 25 years amounts to US $ 1.02 billion. In other words, Nepal would be deprived of value addition in her economy by more than US $ 64 billion in 25 years (net of the amount that Nepal would be deprived of value addition in her economy minus export tax, free electricity and royalties under PDA in 25 years). Therefore, it makes no sense to export electricity from this project for a meager amount of revenue from export tax, free electricity and royalties of US $ 1.02 billion and be deprived of over US $ 65 billion value addition in Nepal’s economy. Some may point out that NEA could earn divided from 27% free equity in the JV company. In the first place, a dividend would be distributed only if the company earns profit, which is not definite. However, it is definite that using electricity would add value to the economy. In any case, since total project cost of this project is US $ 1.05 billion and 25% equity (if the debt to equity ratio is 3:1) would amount to $ 262.5 million, of which 27% would be $ 71 million. If 10% dividend is distributed NEA would receive only $ 177.5 million only in 25 years. Export proceeds from all electricity generated by Karnali Chisapani Multipurpose Project would amount to $ 1.04 billion per annum (at 5 US cent/kWh) and in 25 years total would be $ 26 billion. While Nepal would be deprived of value addition in her economy by US $ 17.92 billion a year and US $ 448.1 billion in 25 years. Meaning in 25 years Nepal would suffer a net loss of US $ 447.6 billion (total of lost value addition minus export proceeds) by implementing it as an export oriented project. Further inundation of 340 square kilometers of Nepal’s territory is tantamount to opportunity cost to Nepal in terms of Nepal being deprived from agricultural and forest produce from that land for several generations. Because the reservoir would continue to exist for several decades. Moreover, as the recommendation of the task force in 2017 was to implement it as a hydropower project only, it ignores multidimensional benefits of stored water. As mentioned above India would be irrigating 3.2 million hectare land by using lean season augmented flow from this project. But the task force made no mention of paying Nepal for it. Under an agreement signed in 1986 South Africa had paid Lesotho US $ 69 million for 780 million cubic meter water (24.74 cumecs) in 2020; which works out to US $ 2.789 million per cumecs. Based on that precedent India should pay Nepal US $ 3.25 billion/year for 1,750 cumecs lean season augmented flow that India receives from this project. In order to avoid having to pay for such lean season augmented flow, India is determined to have this project implemented only as a hydropower project and deny that she would benefit from lean season augmented flow that she stands to receive. Furthermore, if this project is built, a huge tract of land in India would benefit from flood control. Canada and the USA had signed an agreement in 1961, under which the latter paid the former US $ 64 million in 1964 for flood control benefit as advance for 60 years. Therefore, India should be made to pay Nepal for flood control benefits that would accrue to her if this project is built. Otherwise, it is pointless to inundate Nepal’s territory and displace thousands of local inhabitants to build this project. Since the time this project was conceived Nepal’s state machinery is fixated on export of electricity to India only and have failed to envisage sharing positive externalities (lean season augmented flow and flood control benefit) with India. Basically, India wishes to import electricity from this project at a few cents per kWh and receive invaluable lean season augmented flow and flood control benefits free of cost. India does not even plan to recompense for negative externalities of inundation and involuntary displacement that Nepal would suffer. Conclusion To draw an analogy, breastfeeding is gifted to women by nature; only when mothers give birth to babies. Nature has denied this gift to men. Therefore, a mother’s milk is not generally commercialized. Similarly, nature has gifted Nepal with water resources for the country, her people and the economy. Although all rivers from Nepal flow to India, it is not possible to generate electricity from these rivers there (except in small scale), neither can temporal transfer be made by building dams to generate lean season augmented flow and benefit from flood control. First and foremost, nature’s gift to Nepal is not for commercialization, it is for the country, her people and the economy. Further, if Nepal is to commercialize nature’s gift to her, it should be done at substantial profit in order to benefit the country, her people and the economy. From the assessment made above, it is clear that Nepal does not benefit by building export oriented hydropower projects. It makes no sense to exploit Karnali river just to export electricity, instead of using it domestically to derive value addition in Nepal’s economy. Hence, this river must only be harnessed to use electricity in Nepal to benefit from the multiplier effect. This cardinal principle applies to water resources of Nepal in general. Nepal’s rivers must not be exploited to recklessly build export oriented hydropower projects that would deprive Nepal from value addition in her economy for meager revenue from export tax, free energy, royalties, etc. Also because of the fact that building any physical structure on a river ravages the river and also Nepal becomes deprived from benefits by putting it to alternative uses like rafting, an important component of the tourism industry. These are manifestations of exploitation of rivers being counterproductive for the nation. It should not be forgotten that there are many sources to generate electricity. Fossil fuels like petroleum products, coal can be used to generate electricity. Similarly, electricity can be generated from sun, wind, geothermal, tides, biomass as well as uranium and even human excreta. But there is no alternative to clean/fresh water, for drinking, animal husbandry/fishery, irrigation etc. In this backdrop a river must not be exploited if it does not benefit the country, her people and the economy. Published in Peoples Review on February 9, 2023 Ratna Sansar Shrestha

Sunday, January 29, 2023

नदीहरूको निरर्थक दोहन

कर्णाली नदीमा हाल २ वटा जलविद्युत् आयोजना निर्माण सम्बन्धमा धेरै चर्चा चलेको छ- माथिल्लो कर्णाली अर्धजलाशययुक्त जलविद्युत् आयोजना र कर्णाली चिसापानी बहुउद्देश्यीय आयोजना। पहिलो नदी प्रवाही आयोजनामा सानो जलाशय निर्माण गरेर नदीमा दैनिक बग्ने पानी सञ्चित गरी विद्युत्गृहमा पथान्तरण गरेर हेरक दिन बिजुलीको उच्चतम माग हुने समयमा जलाशयबाट पानी छोडेर बिजुली उत्पादन गर्ने अवधारणा छ। दोस्रोमा उच्च बाँध निर्माण गरेर बन्ने जलाशयमा पानीको मौसमी स्थानान्तरण, वर्षायाममा नदीमा अत्यधिक बग्ने पानी सञ्चय गरेर सुक्खा याममा आवश्यकताअनुसार पानी निसृत गरेर पिउने पानी, सिँचाइ, पशुपालन/मत्स्यपालनदेखि बिजुली उत्पादनसम्मको काममा लगाउने अवधारणा छ। माथिल्लो कर्णाली अर्ध जलाशययुक्त जलविद्युत् आयोजना सुदूरपश्चिम प्रदेशको अछाम र कर्णाली प्रदेशको सुर्खेत र दैलेख जिल्लामा अवस्थित निकासीमूलक ९०० मेगावाट जडित क्षमता र ३ अर्ब ४६ करोड ६० लाख युनिट बिजुली उत्पादन हुने माथिल्लो कर्णाली जलविद्युत् आयोजना विवादित बनेको छ। भारतीय जिएमआरलाई ३०० मेगावाटका लागि २०६५ सालमा सर्वेक्षण अनुमतिपत्र प्रदान गरिएकामा २०६६ सालमा जडित क्षमता बढाएर ९०० मेगावाट बनाइएको थियो। प्रवद्र्धकसँग २०६४ सालमा गरिएको समझदारीपत्र २०७० सालमा संशोधन गरिएको थियो जसअनुसार यो आयोजनाबाट उत्पादन हुने बिजुलीको १२ प्रतिशत (अर्थात ४१ करोड ६० लाख युनिट) नेपालले निःशुल्क पाउँछ। साथै उक्त आयोजना कार्यान्वयन गर्न स्थापना गरिने कम्पनीमा २७ प्रतिशत सेयर पुँजी नेपाल विद्युत् प्राधिकरणलाई निःशुल्क दिइने व्यवस्था पनि छ। २०७१ सालमा नेपाल सरकार र प्रवर्द्धकबीच सम्पन्न आयोजना विकास सम्झौता (पिडिए) अनुसार प्रवर्द्धकलाई विद्युत् निकासी सम्झौता गर्न, वित्तीय व्यवस्थापन इत्यादि गर्न २ वर्ष म्याद दिइएको थियो। तर जिएमआरले हालसम्म विद्युत् निकासी सम्झौता गर्ने र वित्तीय व्यवस्थापन गर्न नसकेकाले पटक-पटक म्याद थपिँदैछ। गत असारमा थप २ वर्षका लागि म्याद थप्ने सरकारकोे निर्णयविरुद्ध सर्वोच्च अदालतमा रिट निवेदन दायर भएकामा कात्तिकमा म्याद थपविरुद्ध अन्तरिम आदेश जारी भयो। त्यो खारेज गर्न निवेदन परेकामा पुसमा संसदीय अनुमोदनको संवैधानिक प्रश्नसमेत उठेको भन्दै यो आयोजनासम्बन्धी एकै लगावका रिट निवेदनहरूलाई संवैधानिक इजलासद्वारा निरूपण गरिनुपर्ने ठहर्‍याएर आदेश जारी भएको छ। कर्णाली चिसापानी बहुउद्देश्यीय आयोजना सुदूरपश्चिम प्रदेशको कैलाली र लुम्बिनी प्रदेशको बर्दियामा अवस्थित कर्णाली बहुउद्देश्यीय आयोजनाको विद्युत् उत्पादन क्षमता १०,८०० मेगावाट हो र वार्षिक औसत २० अर्ब ८४ करोड २० लाख युनिट विद्युत् उत्पादन हुन्छ। चिसापानीबाट केही उत्तरमा रहेको खोँचमा २ सय ७० मिटर उचाइको उच्च बाँध निर्माण गरेर बन्ने जलाशयमा १६ अर्ब २० करोड घनमिटर पानी सञ्चय हुन्छ र त्यसबाट नेपालमा १ लाख ९१ हजार हेक्टर र भारतमा ३२ लाख हेक्टर जमिनमा सिँचाइ हुन्छ। यो आयोजना कार्यान्वयन गर्न २०१९ सालदेखि प्रयास हुँदै आएको हो। २०५३ सालमा एनरोन नाम गरेको एक अमेरिकी कम्पनीले यो आयोजना कार्यान्वयन गर्न अघि सरेकामा उक्त कम्पनी २०५८ सालमा टाँट उल्टेकाले यो आयोजना कार्यान्वयनमा गएन। फेरि २०७४ सालमा यो आयोजना अगाडि बढाउन भन्दै दक्षिण एशियाली क्षेत्रीय सहयोग संगठनको पाकिस्तानको इस्लामावादस्थित सार्क इनर्जी सेन्टरको तत्वावधानमा एक भारतीय विज्ञको नेतृत्वमा दुई नेपाली विज्ञ समाविष्ट कार्यदलले यो आयोजनालाई (दक्षिण एसियाको) क्षेत्रीय जलविद्युत् आयोजनाका रूपमा कार्यान्वयन गर्ने भनेर अध्ययन गरेर सुझाव दिएको थियो जुन कार्यान्वयनमा लगिएको छैन। यो आयोजनाको जलाशयमा ३ सय ४० वर्ग किलोमिटर नेपालको भूमि डुबानमा पर्छ र ६० हजार नेपाली प्रत्यक्ष विस्थापनमा पर्छन्। विद्युत् उपयोग र अर्थतन्त्रबीच अन्तरसम्बन्ध अमेरिकी सहयोग नियोगको एक प्रतिवेदनअनुसार १ युनिट बिजुली खपत गरिएमा नेपालको अर्थतन्त्रमा ८६ अमेरिकी सेन्टले मूल्य अभिवृद्धि हुन्छ। अर्थात अर्थतन्त्रमा गुणात्मक प्रभाव परेर देश समृद्ध बन्छ। जबकि नेपाल विद्युत् प्राधिकरणले यही साल न्यूनतम ६।५८ रुपियाँ र अधिकतम १२।२६ रुपियाँसम्ममा बिजुली भारत निकासी गरेको छ, जुन हाल प्रचलित विनिमय दरअनुसार जुन क्रमशः ५ र ९ अमेरिकी सेन्ट मात्र हो। यसको अर्थ हो नेपालमा उत्पादित बिजुली नेपालमा नै खपत नगरेर भारत निकासी गर्दा नेपालको अर्थतन्त्रलाई प्रतियुनिट ७७ देखि ८१ सेन्टसम्म घाटा हुन्छ। स्मरणीय छ, प्राधिकरणले विगत सुक्खा याममा भारतबाट ३८ रुपियाँ (२९ अमेरिकी सेन्ट) प्रतियुनिटमा बिजुली आयात गरेको थियो। माथिल्लो कर्णाली आयोजनाबाट १२ प्रतिशत बिजुली नेपाललाई निःशुल्क दिएर बाँकी ३ अर्ब ५ करोड युनिट निकासी गर्दा वार्षिक २ अर्ब ६२ करोड ३० लाख अमेरिकी डलरले अर्थतन्त्रमा मूल्य अभिवृद्धि हुनबाट नेपाल वञ्चित हुन्छ र २५ वर्षमा ६५ अर्ब ५७ करोड ६७ लाख अमेरिकी डलरले नेपालको अर्थतन्त्र मूल्य अभिवृद्धि हुनबाट वञ्चित हुन्छ। स्मरणीय छ, ५ देखि ९ अमेरिकी सेन्टमा निकासी गरिएको पूरै रकम प्रवद्र्धक कम्पनीको आय हुन्छ, नेपाल राज्यको होइन। नेपालले पाउने भनेको पिडिएको दफा ९.३.१ अनुसार निकासी कर, दफा ११.१५.१ निःशुल्क ऊर्जा र दफा ११.२५ अनुसार रोयल्टी मात्र हो। जिएमआरले यो आयोजना निर्माण गरेर सञ्चालन गरेमा नेपालले २५ वर्षमा पाउने निकासी कर, निःशुल्क ऊर्जा र रोयल्टीसमेत जम्मा १ अर्ब २ करोड ८ लाख डलर मात्र हो। २५ वर्षमा १ अर्ब डलर बराबर निकासी कर, निःशुल्क ऊर्जा र रोयल्टी पाउनका लागि साढे ६५ अर्ब डलर भन्दा बढीबाट नेपालको अर्थतन्त्र मूल्यअभिवृद्धिबाट वञ्चित हुने गरेर बिजुली निकासी गर्नु सार्थक काम मान्न सकिन्न, निष्फल र निरर्थक हो। हुन त, प्राधिकरणको २७ प्रतिशत सेयर पुँजी यस आयोजना कार्यान्वयन गर्ने कम्पनीमा हुन्छ तर लाभांश भनेको मुनाफा भए मात्र पाइन्छ। मुनाफा हुन्छ नै भन्ने निश्चितता हुन्न, जतिको बिजुली उपयोग गरेर अर्थतन्त्रमा मूल्यअभिवृद्धि हुने सुनिश्चित छ। तथापि १ अर्ब ५ करोड डलर अनुमानित लागत भएको यो आयोजनामा ३० प्रतिशत पुँजी भए प्राधिकरणको पुँजी साढे ८ करोड डलर जति हुन्छ र वार्षिक १० प्रतिशत लाभांश वितरण गरिएमा प्राधिकरणले ८५ लाख डलर पाउँछ जुन २५ वर्षमा २१ करोड डलरमात्र हुन्छ। कर्णाली चिसापानी बहुउद्देश्यीय आयोजनाबाट उत्पादन हुने सम्पूर्ण बिजुली निकासी गरेमा नेपालको अर्थतन्त्र वार्षिक १७ अर्ब ९२ करोड ४१ लाख डलरबाट मूल्य अभिवृद्धि हुनबाट वञ्चित हुन्छ र २५ वर्षसम्म निकासी गरे ४ खर्ब ४८ अर्ब १० करोड ३० लाख डलर बराबर रकमले नेपालको अर्थतन्त्र मूल्यअभिवृद्धि हुनबाट वञ्चित हुन्छ। नेपालले आफ्नै स्रोतबाट लगानी गरी यो आयोजना निर्माण गरेर बिजुली निकासी गरेमा वार्षिक १ अर्ब ४ करोड २१ लाख डलर र २५ वर्षमा २६ अर्ब ५ करोड २५ लाख डलर मात्र बिक्रीबाट प्राप्त हुन्छ। अर्थात यो आयोजना निर्माण गरेर बिजुली निकासी गर्दा नेपालको अर्थतन्त्रमा २५ वर्षमा ४ खरब ४७ अर्ब ६ करोड ९ लाख डलरले हुने मूल्यअभिवृद्धिबाट वञ्चित हुन्छ। यो आयोजनाका लागि निर्माण गरिने जलाशयमा ३ सय ४० वर्ग किलोमिटर नेपाल भूमि डुबानमा पर्ने कटु यथार्थलाई उपेक्षा गर्नु बुद्धिमानी हुन्न। किनभने उक्त जलाशयको अस्तित्व पचासौँ वर्षसम्म रहन्छ र नेपालले उक्त भूमिबाट प्राप्त गर्न सक्ने कृषि उपज, वन पैदावार इत्यादिबाट पचासौँ वर्षसम्म वञ्चित हुन्छ। साथै माथि उल्लिखित २०७४ सालमा प्रतिवेदन दिने कार्य दलले यो आयोजनालाई जलविद्युत् आयोजनाका रूपमा कार्यान्वयन गर्ने भनेकाले यो आयोजनाको बहुउद्देश्यीय पक्षलाई उपेक्षा गरेको छ। अर्थात माथि उल्लेख गरिएझैँ भारतमा सुक्खा याममा ३२ लाख हेक्टर जमिनमा सिँचाइ गर्न पानी उपलब्ध हुनेमा उक्त मूल्यअभिवृद्धि गरिएको पानीबापत नेपाललाई रकम दिनुपर्ने पाटो ओझेलमा पारेको छ। स्मरणीय छ, सन् १९८६ मा सम्पन्न सम्झौता बमोजिम सन् २०२० मा ७८ करोड घन मिटर (२४.७४ क्युमेक) पानी छिमेकी देश दक्षिण अफ्रिकालाई उपलब्ध गराएबापत लेसेथोले ६ करोड ९० लाख अमेरिकी डलर रोयल्टीस्वरूप प्राप्त गरेको हिसाबले १ क्युमेक पानीको मूल्य २७ लाख ८९ हजार अमेरिकी डलर पर्न आउँछ। तसर्थ यो नजीरको आधारमा कर्णाली चिसापानीबाट सुक्खा याममा १,७५० क्युमेक पानी भारतले प्राप्त गर्ने हुनाले वार्षिक ३ अर्ब २५ करोड ४५ लाख अमेरिकी डलर नेपाललाई तिर्नुपर्ने हो। यो रकम तिर्न नपर्ने बनाउनकै लागि भारतीयहरू यो आयोजनालाई जलविद्युत् आयोजनाको हिसाबले मात्र लिन्छन् र सुक्खायाममा भारतलाई उपलब्ध हुने मूल्यअभिवृद्धि गरिएको पानीबारे चर्चा गर्दैनन्। साथै यो आयोजना निर्माण गरे भारतको ठूलो भूभागमा बाढी नियन्त्रण हुन्छ। क्यानडा र संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाबीच सन् १९६१ मा सम्पन्न कोलम्बिया सन्धिअनुसार क्यानडामा डुबान र विस्थापन हुने गरेर कोलम्बिया नदीमा बाँध र जलाशय लगायतका भौतिक संरचना निर्माण गरेर संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकामा बाढी नियन्त्रण गरिदिए बापत संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाले क्यानडालाई सन् १९६४ मा ६० वर्षका लागि ६ करोड ४० लाख अमेरिकी डलर अग्रिम भुक्तानी गरेको थियो। त्यसकारण यो आयोजनाबाट भारतलाई हुने बाढी नियन्त्रणको लाभबापत नेपालले रकम प्राप्त नगरिकन नेपालको ठूलो भूभाग डुबानमा पारेर, स्थानीय बासिन्दा विस्थापित गरेर यो आयोजना निर्माण गर्नु निष्फल र निरर्थक छ। २०७९ माघ १६ को नागरिकमा प्रकाशित Ratna Sansar Shrestha

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Budhi Gandaki: Invest more than 3 times for 35% additional electricity!

GoN is planning to implement 1,200 MW Budhi Gandaki hydropower project that entails building a 263 meter dam for annual average electricity generation of 3,383 GWh. It is estimated to cost US $2,550 million at 2014 price. This requires temporal transfer of water: rainy season water will be stored in the reservoir behind the dam and gradually discharged at the rate of about 672 cumecs to generate electricity. According to the study report half of water discharged as such would amount to lean season augmented flow which will be windfall gain for India as Nepal is not implementing this project as a multipurpose project including to irrigate land in the Tarai districts like Bara, Chitwan, Nawal Parasi, etc. Historical background Its installed capacity was 200-300 MW according to the study conducted in 1978. Another study commissioned by the Electricity Department of GoN had fixed its installed capacity at 600 MW with a 225 meter dam in 1984, generating 2,495 GWh electricity. Estimated cost was $774 million at 1983 price. In 2012 a development board was formed under Development Board Act 2013 to implement this project at 1,200 MW installed capacity at the cost of US $2,550 million that would generate 888 GWh more than by 600 MW installed capacity with additional cost of $1,776 million. The board was dissolved in 2016 and a Chinese contractor was entrusted to implement it under EPC-F (engineering, procurement, construction and financing) contract only to withdraw it in 2017 and decide to implement it through a subsidiary of NEA. It was entrusted again to the same contractor in 2018. Once more it was withdrawn from that contractor in 2022 saying it would be implemented as a national pride project through domestic investment in the company model. India keenly interested The then Indian prime minister Chandra Shekhar, during his Nepal visit in 1990, had evinced India’s interest in this project and wished to implement it jointly. Therefore, the 1984 report recommending 600 MW installed capacity was handed over to the Indian delegation. Again in 1991 during India visit of the then Nepal’s prime minister Girija Koirala, it was agreed to form a joint team of experts to conduct field surveys to reach agreement on the parameters of the project as outlined in Nepal’s study; the field surveys to be completed by June 1992. It was also agreed to finalize modalities of financing it jointly pari passu. DPR was to be prepared such that construction could begin by 1994. However, during a meeting of water resources ministers of Nepal and India in 1996, held in Delhi, Nepal’s request to withdraw this project from the list of joint projects was accepted by the Indian side so that it could be opened for private sector investment. Even in this meeting, no discussion/negotiation was initiated by Nepali delegation with regard to India paying for the value of lean season augmented flow from this reservoir project. Officials of Nepal have taken it only as a hydropower project and no thought has ever been spared for the use of lean season augmented flow in Nepal or to sell to India. As the lean season augmented flow from this project is highly valuable for India, she was ready to finance the project jointly pari passu. But Nepal implementing it solely has created a circumstance wherein 100% of lean season augmented flow would fall in Indian lap without having to pay a cent for it (advertently or hopefully inadvertently). If anyone thinks it is a scam of grand scale, the person would not be mistaken. More than three times costly It has already been pointed out that the estimated cost of 600 MW was only $774 million while it is estimated to cost $ 2,550 for 1,200 MW; more than 3 times. It would not be out of ordinary to suspect ulterior motives behind doubling of the installed capacity, entailing cost increase by more than 3 times but increasing electricity generation by only 35%. While the cost increases by $1,776 million to double the installed capacity of this project, the estimated cost of the 750 MW West Seti reservoir project is only $ 1,200 million at 2012 price, which can generate 3,636 GWh. Ideal alternative Therefore, it would have been prudent to construct this project at 600 MW installed capacity at the cost of $774 million and also construct the West Seti project simultaneously. Total installed capacity would have been 1,350 MW and total cost of both $1,974 million only, resulting in a saving of $576 million. Further, total electricity generation from this option would be 6,131 GWh, which is 2,748 GWh more than that 1,200 MW Budhi Gandaki alone can generate. In this backdrop, it is not clear why the installed capacity of Budhi Gandaki was doubled at more than 3 times cost just to generate merely 35% additional electricity. Inundation in Nepal This project, if built at 1,200 MW installed capacity, would inundate 63 square kilometer land including appurtenant involuntary displacement of populace there, while 600 MW would have inundated only 49.8 square kilometer. In other words, doubling installed capacity would result in more inundation while costing more than 3 times and resulting in very low incremental benefit for Nepal. It should not be lost sight of the fact that inundation entails opportunity cost for Nepal in terms of forest product, agricultural produce etc. that Nepal would be deprived of till the project is in operation. Nepal to implement on her own In early 1990s this project was agreed to be implemented jointly by Nepal and India. However, in 1996 Nepal decided to go it alone in order to have it implemented by the private sector. After doubling its installed capacity, Nepal decided to implement it on its own. India has not proffered any reaction to this decision. In the context of the Brahmaputra River, which originates in China, flows through India to Bangladeshi and joins the Bay of Bengal, former is an upper riparian country and latter a lower riparian. Whenever China decides to build any project on this river India protests vociferously. But India has been deafeningly silent with regard to Nepal going ahead to build this project without Indian involvement. The main reason behind palpable deafening silence on the part of India is that she stands to receive 100% lean season augmented flow from it without having to invest a cent. India likes Nepal to commit such blunders time and again. Irrigation in India Since Nepal has no plan to use lean season augmented flow emanating from this project, the same would flow down to India, where 1.8 million hectares of agricultural land in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states would be irrigated. This project would herald intensive farming there, affording 4/5 harvests in a year. As the extant dam on Gandak barrage is merely for spatial transfer of Gandak River water and, therefore, water for irrigation in India is available only in the rainy season. However, as the dam of this project makes temporal transfer of water, irrigation in dry season will become possible. Therefore, this project is of paramount importance to India; specially since 8 former prime ministers and current prime minister are elected from Uttar Pradesh in India. Value of lean season augmented flow It has been mentioned above that this project would produce 336 cumecs lean season augmented flow, which Nepal has no plan to put to consumptive use since this project is not designed as a multipurpose project. The value of the augmented flow can be monetized on the basis of precedent set by Lesotho and South Africa. As South Africa had paid Lesotho at the rate of $2.79 million/cumecs in 2020, India would owe $390.5 million for the lean season augmented flow from 1,200 MW Budhi Gandaki project to Nepal. In other words, from the value of this lean season augmented flow of 6.5 years, Nepal should be able to cover the cost of implementing this project. Then India would be required to pay $390.5 million each year after 6.5 years of its operation till the project is in existence. But no such arrangement has been made yet. Because, although plans were made to implement this project by Nepal on its own since 1996, not even one discussion/negotiation has been held with India with regard to lean season flow from this project that India stands to benefit from. If electricity generated by this project is to be sold at 5 US cents, the sales proceeds would amount to only $124.75 million, while value of lean season augmented flow from it is $390.5 million as pointed above. Therefore, the value of lean season augmented flow is more than three times of the proceeds from sale of electricity generated by the 1,200 MW project. It should not be lost sight of the fact that sales proceed is not net profit at all (operational expenses, royalties, interest on debt financing, etc. would have to be deducted), while the value of lean season augmented flow would be pure net profit for Nepal, if Nepal was to demand payment from India for it that will fall in her lap. It is well known that there is no alternative for fresh water for uses like drinking, cooking food, irrigation etc. However, there are many sources to generate electricity: fossil fuel, which is neither clean nor renewable, traditional sources like firewood, cow dung, etc. which are neither clean nor renewable and sun, wind, water, etc. which are both clean and renewable. Therefore, it is detrimental to Nepal’s national interest to build this project to generate electricity worth $124.75 million, while neglecting to collect $390.5 from India for lean season augmented flow. The proponents of this project could have worked in Nepal’s interest by arranging to receive payment for lean season augmented flow for 6.5 years in advance to implement this project and also to receive money for the same for the period this project is in operation after 6.5 years of operation. But they did no such thing, sadly. Flood control Flood in Sapta Gandaki River causes huge destruction in Indian Bihar state almost each rainy season. In 2017 $32 million was distributed to flood victims and in 2019 $27 million. The flooding there is an annual phenomenon and one of the main causes is overflowing in Budhi Gandaki River. Such floods cause costly destruction of life and property there, which requires rehabilitation and resettlement at enormous cost. After construction of a dam on Budhi Gandaki River flood would be controlled by a magnitude. That means there would be huge savings in terms of lives and property saved and avoided rehabilitation and resettlement costs. In other words, this project with 1,200 MW installed capacity would result in flood control in the Indian state of Bihar. According to the Columbia Treaty signed between Canada and USA, the latter had paid $64 million in advance for 60 years in 1964 to the former. Further discussion has already started with regard to arrangement from 2024 onwards. However, unfortunately, proponents of this project have not even thought of sharing flood control benefits with India as no discussion/negotiation has been initiated to share the flood control benefit that is about to accrue to India. Optimized at 1,200 MW Nepal was in the midst of an energy crisis when the installed capacity of this project was doubled to 1,200 MW by way of optimization. However, as mentioned above doubling of installed capacity did not result in doubled electricity generation. Only 3,383 GWh would be generated by 1,200 MW, while 600 MW would have generated 2,495 GWh, an increase by only 888 GWh; incremental electricity generation is only 35%. Optimization should mean maximizing the benefits to Nepal at least cost. On the contrary the cost increases by more than 3 times while electricity generation increases by 35% only. Another way of optimizing from Nepal’s perspective at 1,200 MW installed capacity could be done realizing monetized value of flood control benefit to India as well as lean season augmented flow that India stands to receive. Decision makers seem to have failed to realize that doubling installed capacity does not result in doubled electricity generation. Therefore, the decision to double the installed capacity was not made in Nepal’s interest. It is not difficult to find out in whose interest this decision was made. Because, India benefits from flood control and lean season augmented flow from this project free of cost and without even having to invest in the construction of the project. Because no plan has ever been made to design this project as a multipurpose project including to use lean season augmented flow for consumptive use in Nepal; alternative no discussion or negotiation has been initiated with India for flood control benefit and lean season augmented flow that it stands to receive by default. Conclusion Chandra Shamsher had been careful to obtain land from India in lieu of land used for Sharada barrage. However, he committed blunder by first treating Mahakali River as a border river and then agreeing to allow India to use 47% of dry season flow of this river that belonged to Nepal, for an indefinite period. This afforded India an opportunity to lay claim to prior existing consumptive use in the Mahakali Treaty and 50% share of water from Mahakali River to Nepal turned out to be 1.5% of the total. Further, any water that belongs to Nepal but that she is unable to use would belong to India free of cost. The extent to which Nepal got a raw deal in Koshi and Gandak treaties signed by Matrika and BP, respectively, requires no mention. Sharada, Koshi and Gandak barrages were built with Indian investment and India hogged all the benefits may not sound unnatural for some. But in the case of Budhi Gandaki, Nepal is planning to provide 336 cumecs of lean season augmented flow from it and flood control benefit gratis to India without even signing an MoU, agreement or treaty. From this perspective it becomes clear that it is not a case of India cheating Nepal, rather it is a shameful case of Nepal allowing India to cheat herself at her own initiative. Its classic case of reverse colonialism; India not having directly done anything in this respect, nor making any financial investment or even persuading/coercing to sign MoU, agreement or treaty. Contrasted with Sharada, Koshi and Gandak barrages, where India can be said to have colonized Nepal’s natural resources, in the case of this project Nepal is consciously allowing India to colonize Nepal’s natural resources. As has been pointed out above, the value of lean season augmented flow that is to be availed to India is worth $390.5 million/year while electricity generated by it is worth only $124.75 million/year. Moreover, doubling the installed capacity costing more than thrice with incremental electricity generation of only 35% is another serious blunder. Instead this project should be implemented at 600 MW along with 750 West Seti at the total cost of $1,974 million for both, resulting in a saving of $576 million. (N.B.: The US dollar values mentioned here are at prices of different years and adjustment must be made to levelize them. Besides, such adjustments may result in deviation by a few million dollars, not exceeding $10 million.) Moreover, total installed capacity of the two would be 1,350 MW and it would generate 6,131 GWh, resulting in incremental generation of 2,748 GWh. However, unfortunately, the West Seti project has already been handed over to India. Implementing this project would result in flooding of 63 square kilometers in Nepal, while India will benefit by flood control in Bihar. But no arrangement has been made to receive recompense from India. Installed capacity of this project was doubled by way of optimization. But optimization should mean least cost increase to maximize the benefits. Contrarily, the cost increases by more than 3 times while incremental electricity generation is only 35%. While India capitalizes on the benefits from flood control and lean season augmented flow. This project is an extreme example of reverse colonization of Nepal’s water resources. Without even signing an MoU, agreement or treaty with India, without any financial involvement of India, India is going to be afforded benefits from flood control and lean season augmented flow and this is not only anti national but it amounts to outright sedition. Publisehd in Peoples' Reivew of November 24, 2022 Ratna Sansar Shrestha

Friday, November 18, 2022

बुढी गण्डकीः लागत तेब्बरभन्दा बढी, थपिने बिजुली आधाभन्दा कम

बुढी गण्डकी नदीमा २ सय ६३ मिटर अग्लो बाँध निर्माण गरेर १२ सय मेगावाट जडित क्षमताको जलाशययुक्त जलविद्युत आयोजना बनाउने भनिएको छ, जसबाट वार्षिक औसत ३ अर्ब ३८ करोड ३० लाख युनिट बिजुली उत्पादन हुन्छ। यसको लागत सन् २०१४ को मूल्यमा २ अर्ब ५५ करोड अमेरिकी डलर लाग्ने अनुमान छ। उक्त जलाशयमा वर्षायामको पानी सञ्चित भएर ६ सय ७२ क्युमेक पानी नियन्त्रित बहाव हुने छ, जसको ५० प्रतिशत तल्लो तटीय इलाकामा जनवरीदेखि मे महिनासम्मको पानी बहावमा थपिन्छ। अर्थात् सुक्खायाममा यस आयोजनाबाट ३ सय ३६ क्युमेक पानी थप/नियन्त्रित बहाव हुन्छ। उक्त जलाशय ४५ किलोमिटर लम्बाइको हुनेछ तथा यसले ६३ वर्ग किलोमिटर जमिन डुबानमा पर्छ, जसमध्ये १५ सय हेक्टर सामुदायिक वन हो। साथै नदी किनारका ४४ श्मशान घाट, ७४ धार्मिक स्थल, २९ वटा ऐतिहासिक÷सांस्कृतिक स्थलहरू आदि डुबानमा पर्छन्। सन् १९७८ मा गराइएको अध्ययनअनुसार यसको जडित क्षमता २००–३०० मेगावाट हुने अनुमान थियो। सन् १९८२–१९८४ मा विद्युत विभागले गराएको अध्ययनबाट २२५ मिटर उचाइको बाँध निर्माण गरे जलाशययुक्त ६०० मेगावाट जडित क्षमताको आयोजना बन्ने देखिएको थियो। त्यसबाट वार्षिक औसत २ अर्ब ४९ करोड ५० लाख युनिट बिजुली उत्पादन हुन्छ। उक्त जलाशयमा ३ अर्ब ३२ करोड घनमिटर पानी सञ्चय हुन्थ्यो र त्यसमा ४९.८ वर्ग किलोमिटर भूमि डुबानमा पर्छ। त्यहाँबाट ४३० क्युमेक पानी नियन्त्रित रूपमा निसृत हुन्थ्यो र लागत १९८३ को मूल्यमा ७७ करोड ४० लाख अमेरिकी डलर पर्ने अनुमान थियो। सन् २०१२ डिसेम्बर महिनामा यो आयोजनाको जडित क्षमता १,२०० मेगावाट रहने गरेर कार्यान्वयन गर्न विकास समिति ऐनअन्तर्गत बुढी गण्डकी जलविद्युत आयोजना विकास समिति गठन गरियो। तर सन् २०१६ मा सो समिति भंग गरेर उक्त आयोजनाका लागि कोष जुटाउने तथा सम्पूर्ण निर्माण सम्पन्न गर्ने गरेर एक चिनियाँ ठेकेदारलाई जिम्मा लगाइयो। तर सन् २०१७ मा यो आयोजना स्वदेशी लगानीमा कम्पनी मोडेलमा निर्माण गरिने निर्णय गरेर कम्पनी स्थापना गरिँदै छ। भारतको अभिरुचि तत्कालीन भारतीय प्रधानमन्त्री चन्द्रशेखरले सन् १९९० मा नेपाल भ्रमण गर्दा यो आयोजना भारतले संयुक्त रूपमा कार्यान्वयन गर्ने अभिरुचि देखाएकाले नेपालका तत्कालीन जलस्रोत सचिव भुवनेशकुमार प्रधानले उक्त आयोजनाको जडित क्षमता ६०० मेगावाट सिफारिस गरिएका अध्ययन प्रतिवेदनहरू तत्कालीन भारतीय जलसंसाधन सचिव एमजी पाध्येलाई हस्तान्तरण गरेका थिए। सन् १९९१ डिसेम्बरमा नेपालका तत्कालीन प्रधानमन्त्री गिरिजाप्रसाद कोइरालाको भारत भ्रमणका क्रममा भएका विभिन्न समझदारीहरूमध्ये यो आयोजनाको सम्बन्धमा नेपाल सरकारले पूरा गरेको प्रारम्भिक सम्भाव्यता अध्ययन अनुरूप काम गर्नका लागि नेपाल र भारत सरकारको संयुक्त विज्ञ टोलीले स्थलगत सर्वेक्षण गरेर एउटा सम्झौतामा पुगिने छ र जुन सन् १९९२ मा पूरा गरिने छ भनिएको थियो। र, आयोजना समानुपातिक लगानीको प्रारूप टुङ्ग्याएर सन् १९९४ मा निर्माण सुरु गर्ने समझदारी भएको थियो। नेपालभित्र यो आयोजनाबाट निसृत हुने नियन्त्रित पानी सिँचाइलगायतका लागि प्रयोग गर्ने कुनै अवधारणा नभएको परिपे्रक्ष्यमा उक्त सम्पूर्ण पानी भारतको उत्तर प्रदेश र विहारमा साढे १८ लाख हेक्टर जमिन सिँचाइ गरिने छ भनिन्छ। यो आयोजना निर्माण सम्पन्न भएपछि भारतको उत्तर प्रदेश र विहारमा सघन खेती सम्भव हुन्छ एवम् एक वर्षमा ४/५ बालीसम्म लाग्दछ। गण्डक नदीको पानीको बहाव परिवर्तन गर्ने विद्यमान गण्डक बाँधबाट निसृत हुने पानीबाट भारतले वर्षायाममा मात्र सिँचाइ गर्न सक्छ। त्यसैले थप/नियन्त्रित पानीको हिसाबले भारतलाई यो आयोजना धेरै महत्व राख्छ। स्मरणीय छ, भारतका ८ पूर्वप्रधानमन्त्रीहरू र वर्तमान प्रधानमन्त्री पनि उत्तर प्रदेशबाट निर्वाचित हुन्। दोब्बर जडित क्षमता बाँधको उचाइ २२५ मिटरबाट बढाई २६३ मिटर बनाएर यसको जडित क्षमता १२ सय मेगावाट निर्धारण गरेर निर्माण गर्ने सिफारिस गरिँदा देश चरम ऊर्जा संकटमा थियो र आयोजना स्थलको अधिकतम दोहन गर्ने उद्देश्यले यसको जडित क्षमता दोब्बर पारिएको हुनुपर्छ। तर जडित क्षमता ६ सय मेगावाट हुँदा २ अर्ब ४९ करोड ५० लाख युनिट बिजुली उत्पादन हुने अनुमान थियो भने बाँधको उचाइ ३८ मिटर थपेर जडित क्षमता दोब्बर (१२ सय मेगावाट) पार्दा जलविद्युत उत्पादन भने ३ अर्ब ३८ करोड ३० लाख युनिट मात्र हुन्छ, ८८ करोड ८० लाख युनिट मात्र थपिन्छ। अर्थात् जडित क्षमता दोब्बर पारिँदा पनि विद्युत उत्पादन ३५ प्रतिशतले मात्र थपिन्छ। जडित क्षमता दोब्बर भएअनुरूप विद्युत उत्पादन पनि दोब्बर नहुने रहेछ। यसले गर्दा जडित क्षमता दोब्बर पार्नुमा नेपालको हितलाई ध्यानमा राखिएको देखिन्न। कसको हितमा जडित क्षमता दोब्बर पारियो भन्ने कुराको अन्वेषण गर्न पदैन किनभने यो आयोजनाबाट निसृत हुने थप/नियन्त्रित पानी नेपालमा उपभोग्य उपयोगमा लगाउने सोच, योजना बनाइएको छैन। लागत तेब्बरभन्दा बढी ६ सय मेगावाट जडित क्षमताको लागत ७७ करोड ४० लाख अमेरिकी डलर अनुमान गरिएको थियो भने १२ सय मेगावाटको लागत २ अर्ब ५५ करोड अमेरिकी डलर लाग्ने कुरा माथि उल्लेख गरियो। जडित क्षमता दोब्बर पार्दा लागत भने तेब्बरभन्दा बढी हुने तर विद्युत उत्पादन भने ३५ प्रतिशतले मात्र वृद्धि हुने हुनाले यसको जडित क्षमता दोब्बर पार्ने उद्देश्य नै शंकास्पद छ। अर्थात् ६ सय मेगावाटबाट बढाएर १२ सय मेगावाट बनाउँदा थप १ अर्ब ७७ करोड ६० लाख अमेरिकी डलर लागत पर्छ। स्मरणीय छ, १ अर्ब २० करोड अमेरिकी डलर (सन् २०१२ को मूल्यमा) लागतमा ७५० मेगावाट जडित क्षमताको जलाशययुक्त पश्चिम सेती आयोजना नै निर्माण गर्न सकिन्छ, जसबाट वार्षिक औसत ३ अर्ब ६३ करोड ६० लाख युनिट विद्युत उत्पादन हुन्छ। यसरी हेर्दा ६०० मेगावाट जडित क्षमताको बुढी गण्डकी आयोजना ७७ करोड ४० लाख अमेरिकी डलर लागतमै निर्माण गरेर १ अर्ब २० करोड अमेरिकी डलर लागतमा पश्चिम सेती आयोजना पनि निर्माण गर्दा दुवै आयोजनाको जम्मा जडित क्षमता १,३५० मेगावाटको लागत १ अर्ब ९७ करोड ४० लाख अमेरिकी डलर मात्र हुन्छ र बुढी गण्डकी १,२०० मेगावाट क्षमतामा बनाउँदा लाग्ने लागत २ अर्ब ५५ करोड अमेरिकी डलरमध्ये ५७ करोड ६० लाख अमेरिकी डलर बचत हुन्छ। बिजुली पनि १,२०० मेगावाटको बुढी गण्डकी आयोजनाबाट ३ अर्ब ३८ करोड ३० लाख युनिट मात्र उत्पादन हुनेमा ६०० मेगावाटको बुढी गण्डकी र ७५० मेगावाटको पश्चिम सेती दुवै निर्माण गरे यी दुई आयोजनाबाट जम्मा ६ अर्ब १३ करोड १० लाख युनिट विद्युत उत्पादन हुन्छ। अर्थात् २ अर्ब ५५ करोड अमेरिकी डलर लागतमा एउटा जलाशययुक्त १,२०० मेगावाट जडित क्षमताको यो आयोजना निर्माण गर्दाभन्दा १ अर्ब ९७ करोड ४० लाख लागतमा ६०० मेगावाट जडित क्षमताको बुढी गण्डकी र ७५० मेगावाट जडित क्षमताको पश्चिम सेती दुवै निर्माण गर्दा २ अर्ब ७४ करोड ८० लाख युनिट बिजुली बढी उत्पादन हुन्छ। यस्तोमा बुढी गण्डकी आयोजनाको जडित क्षमता १,२०० मेगावाट पुर्‍याएर लागत तेब्बरभन्दा बढी लाग्ने तर विद्युत उत्पादन भने ३५ प्रतिशत मात्र थप हुने गरेर किन निर्माण गर्नुपर्‍यो भन्ने कुरा प्रस्ट छैन। नेपालमा डुबान यो आयोजनाको जलाशयले गर्दा ६३ वर्ग किलोमिटर जमिन डुबानमा पर्ने तथ्य माथि उल्लेख गरियो। साथै ६०० मेगावाट मात्र जडित क्षमता बनाइएमा जलाशयले ४९.८ वर्ग किलोमिटर भूमि मात्र डुबानमा पर्ने रहेछ। यसरी नेपालको बढी भूमि डुबानमा पर्ने गरेर क्षमता दोब्बर गर्दा लागत भने तेब्बरभन्दा बढी लाग्ने तर नेपाललाई लाभ भने सापेक्षरूपमा निकै कम मात्र हुने देखिन्छ। स्मरणीय छ, डुबानमा परेको जमिनबाट नेपालले प्राप्त गर्ने कृषि उपज, वन पैदावार आदिबाट यो आयोजना अस्तित्वमा रहेसम्म नेपाल वञ्चित हुन्छ। थप/नियन्त्रित पानीको मूल्य जनवरीदेखि मे महिनासम्म, सुक्खा याममा पानीको बहावमा ५० प्रतिशत, अर्थात् ३३६ क्युमेक थप÷नियन्त्रित पानी भारतले पाउने तथ्य माथि उल्लेख गरियो। यस्तो पानीको मूल्य निर्धारण अफ्रिकी देशहरू लेसोथो र दक्षिण अफ्रिकाबिच स्थापित नजिरबमोजिम गर्न सकिन्छ। सन् २०२० मा दक्षिण अफ्रिकाले लेसोथोलाई १ क्युमेक पानीको २७ लाख ८९ हजार अमेरिकी डलर तिरेको हिसाबले यो आयोजनाबाट निसृत हुने ३३६ क्युमेक थप/नियन्त्रित पानी भारतले सुख्खायाममा पाएबापत नेपाललाई वार्षिक ३९ करोड ५ लाख अमेरिकी डलर तिर्नुपर्ने हो। अर्थात् भारतले उक्त परिमाणको पानी साढे ६ वर्षसम्म प्राप्त गरेबापतको नेपाललाई तिर्नुपर्ने रकमबाट उक्त आयोजना निर्माण गर्न सकिन्छ। साथै उक्त आयोजना अस्तित्वमा रहेसम्म भारतले सो पानीबापत वार्षिक ३९ करोड ५ लाख अमेरिकी डलर नेपाललाई तिर्नुपर्नेमा भारतले उक्त आयोजनाबाट निसृत हुने थप÷नियन्त्रित पानी निःशूल्क पाउने व्यवस्था गरिँदै छ किनभने सन् २०१२ देखि नै नेपाल आफैले यो आयोजना निमार्ण गर्न विभिन्न उपक्रम गर्दै आए तापनि एकपटक पनि भारतसँग यो आयोजनाको जलाशयबाट निसृत हुने थप÷नियन्त्रित पानीको मूल्य नेपालले प्राप्त गर्ने सम्बन्धमा कुनै पहल गरेको छैन। स्मरणीय छ, १,२०० मेगावाट जडित क्षमताबाट उत्पादन हुने बिजुली ५ अमेरिकी सेन्टमा बिक्री गर्दा वार्षिक १२ करोड ४७ लाख ५० हजार अमेरिकी डलर मात्र प्राप्त हुन्छ, जुन पूरै रकम मुनाफा होइन। तर भारतलाई सुक्खायाममा यो आयोजनाबाट उपलब्ध हुने पानीको मूल्य ३९ करोड ५ लाख अमेरिकी डलर नेपालको लागि चोखै मुनाफा हो, तर नेपालले यो पानीको मूल्य लिँदै छैन । यो आयोजनाका प्रणेताहरूले देशको हित चिताउने भए भारतले माथि उल्लेख गरिएबमोजिम सुक्खा याममा पाउने थप/नियन्त्रित पानीबापत मूल्य लिने व्यवस्था मिलाउँथे र पहिलो साढे ६ वर्षसम्म भारतले पाउने थप/नियन्त्रित पानीबापतको रकम पेस्कीस्वरूप भारतबाट प्राप्त गरेर आयोजना निर्माण गरी त्यसपछि उक्त आयोजनाको अस्तित्व रहेसम्म वार्षिकरूपमा नेपालले थप/नियन्त्रित पानीको मूल्य भारतबाट लिने व्यवस्था गर्थे तर यसो गर्ने सोच नै देखिएन। बाढी नियन्त्रण भारतको विहार राज्यमा सप्तगण्डकी नदीको विभीषिकाले त्यहाँका बासिन्दा हरेक वर्षायाममा पीडित हुन्छन्। उदाहरणार्थ सन् २०१७ मा विहारका बाढी पीडितहरूलाई ३ करोड २० लाख अमेरिकी डलर र सन् २०१९ मा २ करोड ७० लाख अमेरिकी डलर वितरण गरिएको थियो। भारतको विहार राज्यमा बाढी आउने कारणहरूमध्ये प्रमुख कारण बुढी गण्डकी नदीमा आउने बाढी पनि हो। लगभग हरेक वर्ष त्यहाँ बाढी आउँछ र बाढीले हुने जिउधन नोक्सान, पूर्वाधार संरचनामा हुने क्षति र पुनःस्थापना तथा पुनर्निमाणमा धेरै ठूलो रकम खर्च हुन्छ। तर नेपालले यो आयोजना निर्माण गरे भारतको विहारमा हुने बाढीबाट हुने क्षति र पुनःस्थापना तथा पुनर्निमाणमा हुने खर्चको ठूलो रकम बचत हुन्छ। अर्थात् केही हदसम्म भारतको विहार राज्यमा बाढी नियन्त्रण गर्न यो आयोजनाको महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका रहन्छ। तर दुर्भाग्यवश भारतले यसरी बाढी नियन्त्रणबाट पाउने लाभबापत पनि कुनै रकम लिने सोच बनाइएको छैन। स्मरणीय छ, क्यानडा र संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाबीच सम्पन्न कोलम्बिया सन्धिअनुसार क्यानडामा भौतिक संरचना निर्माण गरेर संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकामा बाढी नियन्त्रण भएबापत संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाले क्यानडालाई सन् १९६४ मा ६० वर्षका लागि ६ करोड ४० लाख अमेरिकी डलर अग्रीम भुक्तानी गरेको थियो। तर यो आयोजना बनाएर भारतको विहार राज्यमा बाढी नियन्त्रण हुने भए तापनि कुनै रकम प्राप्त गर्ने सोच बनाएको देखिन्न। नेपाल आफैले बनाउने सन् १९९० को दशकसम्म नेपाल र भारतले यो आयोजना संयुक्तरूपमा बनाउने भनिएकोमा यसको जडित क्षमता दोब्बर पारेर अब यो आयोजना नेपाल आफैले बनाउने भनिएको छ र भारतले यसप्रति कुनै प्र्रतिक्रिया जनाएको छैन। यो नदीसमेतको सन्दर्भमा भारतका लागि नेपाल माथिल्लो तटीय देश हो भने भारत तल्लो तटीय देश हो। यस्तै चीनमा उत्पत्ति हुने ब्रह्मपुत्र नदी भारत प्रवेश गरेर बंगलादेश पुगी बंगालको खाडीमा समाहित हुने हुनाले यस नदीको सन्दर्भमा चीन माथिल्लो तटीय देश हो भने भारत तल्लो तटीय देश। चीनले ब्रह्मपुत्र नदीमा कुनै आयोजना निर्माण गरेमा वा गर्न खोजेमा भारतले विरोध गर्छ। स्पष्टतः यसको कारण हो, नेपालले १०० प्रतिशत लगानी गरेर यसबाट सुक्खा याममा उत्पादन हुने थप/नियन्त्रित पानीबाट १०० प्रतिशत सिँचाइको सुविधा भारतले पाउने व्यवस्था र नेपालमा डुबान र विस्थापन गरेर भारतमा बाढी नियन्त्रण। त्यसैले भारतले मौनता साँधेको हुनुपर्छ। नेपालले यस्ता गल्तीहरू बारम्बार दोहो¥याइ रहोस् भन्ने भारतले चाहना राख्नु अस्वाभाविक होइन। उपसंहार नेपालको केही जमिनमा शारदा बाँध निर्माण गरिएकोमा चन्द्रशमशेरले जमिन नै सट्टाभर्ना लिए तर महाकाली नदीलाई सीमा नदी मानेको अवस्थामा पनि सुक्खा याममा नेपालको हक लाग्ने ४७ प्रतिशत नियन्त्रित पानी भारतले अनन्त कालसम्म निःशुल्क पाउने सहमति गरेर राष्ट्रघातको प्रारम्भ गरेका थिए, जुन महाकाली सन्धिमा भारतले विद्यमान उपभोग्य उपयोगको दाबी गर्ने आधार बन्यो। अनि मातृका र विश्वेश्वरले गरेका क्रमशः कोशी र गण्डक सम्झौताहरूबाट नेपाल ठगिएको पुनरावृत्ति गर्न पर्दैन। कोशी र गण्डक बाँधहरू भारतको खर्चमा निर्माण गरिए तथा लाभ सबै भारतले एकलौटि पा¥यो वा नेपाललाई नगन्य लाभ दियो। अनि महाकाली सन्धिअनुसार नेपालले ३ प्रतिशत पानीको आधामा हक कायम गरिएकोमा नेपालले खपत गर्न नसकेको नियन्त्रित पानी भारतले उपयोग गरेमा कुनै मूल्य नतिर्ने सर्त स्वीकार गरेर नेपाल थप ठगिने वातावरण तयार भयो। तर यो आयोजनाको सम्बन्धमा भने भारतसँग कुनै पनि समझदारी, सम्झौता, सन्धि नगरीकन नेपालमा डुबान र विस्थापन हुने गरेर निर्माण गरिने जलाशयबाट निसृत हुने ३३६ क्युमेक थप÷नियन्त्रित पानी भारतलाई निःशुल्क उपलब्ध गराउन लागेबाट भारतले नेपाललाई ठगेको नभएर नेपालले हामीलाई ठगे पनि हुन्छ भनिएको अवस्था छ। यो परिमाणको पानी नेपालमा नै उपभोग्य उपयोगमा लगाउने कुनै सोच, योजना बनाइएको छैन। स्मरणीय छ, भारत यो आयोजनामा समानुपातिक रूपमा लगानी गर्न तयार थियो। फेरि जडित क्षमता दोब्बर बनाउँदा लागत तेब्बरभन्दा बढी लाग्ने तर विद्युत उत्पादन भने ३५ प्रतिशत मात्र बढ्ने गरेर यो आयोजना निर्माण गर्न उद्यत हुनु आश्चर्यजनक छ। बरु यो आयोजनाको क्षमता ६०० मेगावाटमा सीमित गरेर ७५० मेगावाटको पश्चिम सेती आयोजनासमेत दुवै जम्मा १ अर्ब ९७ करोड ४० लाख अमेरिकी डलर लागतमा बनाइएमा ५७ करोड ६० लाख अमेरिकी डलर बचत हुन्छ भने विद्युत उत्पादन जम्मा ६ अर्ब १३ करोड १० लाख युनिट हुन्छ। (यहाँ उल्लिखित लागत विभिन्न समयावधिको मूल्यमा हुनाले त्यसलाई समायोजन गरिनुपर्छ। साथै यसरी समायोजन गर्दा केही लाख वा बढीमा १ करोड अमेरिकी डलरसम्म मात्र फरक पर्छ।)। १,२०० मेगावाटको यो आयोजनाबाट उत्पादन हुने भनिएको ३ अर्ब ३८ करोड ३० लाख युनिट बिजुलीभन्दा २ अर्ब ७४ करोड ८० लाख युनिट बढी बिजुली ६०० मेगावाटको बुढी गण्डकी र ७५० मेगावाटको पश्चिम सेती एकै साथ बनाए उत्पादन हुने थियो र यी आयोजनाहरूको निर्माण देशको हितमा भएको ठहर्ने थियो तर पश्चिम सेती आयोजना नै भारतलाई सुम्पिइसकेको अवस्था छ। यो आयोजना निर्माण गरिए भारतको विहार राज्यमा बाढी नियन्त्रण हुन्छ भने नेपालमा ६३ वर्ग किलोमिटर जमिन डुबानमा पर्छ। तर भारत यसरी लाभान्वित भएबापत कुनै रकम प्राप्त गर्ने उद्देश्य नराखेर पनि नेपालको हित सुनिश्चित गर्न असफल भएको छ। यो आयोजना नेपालको जलस्रोतको औपनिवेशिक दोहनको चरम स्वरूप हो। भारतसँग सहमति, समझदारी, सम्झौता वा सन्धि गरेर भारतको खर्चमा वा भारतले पनि केही लगानी गरेर पूर्वाधार संरचना निर्माण गरेर होइन कि बिना कुनै सहमति, समझदारी, सम्झौता वा सन्धि नेपाल आफैले सम्पूर्ण खर्च बेहोरी आयोजना निर्माण गरेर भारतलाई बाढी नियन्त्रणको लाभ निःशुल्क उपलब्ध गराउनु र नेपालको अधिकारको थप÷नियन्त्रित पानी निःशुल्क भारतलाई सुम्पेर यो आयोजना निर्माण गर्नु ठुलो राष्ट्रघात हो। २०७९ मार्ग ३ गते नागरिकमा प्रकाशित Ratna Sansar Shrestha

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Electricity export is NOT passport to prosperity

Most leaders, bureaucrats, intellectuals, media, etc. are belaboring under the mistaken impression that Nepal can become prosperous by exporting electricity. Some genuinely believe so based on superficial information available/fed to them and some others are led to believe by those that wish to see Nepal languish in its current state or further deteriorate. This narrative was first constructed by the Nepali Congress government formed under the premiership of Girija Koirala in May 1991. In their considered opinion, as Nepal cannot consume her abundant hydropower potential, Nepal can attain prosperity by exporting hydropower. The then-US ambassador to Nepal in the late 90s coined the phrase “passport to prosperity.” State of electricity consumption Last year per capita consumption of electricity in Nepal was less than 300 kWh. The same was 1,200 kWh in India and 2,830 kWh in Bhutan. Most Nepalis believe that Bhutan has become prosperous by exporting electricity. Actually, her consumption of electricity is more than 9 times that of Nepal. In reality, an increase in electricity consumption by a country leads to her prosperity. Leaders of Nepal are busy selling the dream of metamorphosing Nepal into Singapore, where per capita electricity consumption was 8,900 kWh in 2020. Roughly Nepal can attain the Indian economic level if we are to consume electricity generated by 9,000 MW installed capacity. Similarly, installed capacity in Nepal will have to be in the order of 20,000 and 65,000 MW respectively in order to reach the economic levels of Bhutan and Singapore. It should not be forgotten that with the increase in population, the need for electricity too will increase in a commensurate manner. However, according to Dr Hari Man Shrestha, Nepal’s economically feasible hydropower potential is 43,000 MW only; the theoretical potential is 83,000 MW. Against this backdrop, it is sheer nonsense to say that Nepal needs to export electricity as she cannot consume it. The problem lies in the lack of industrial-level transmission and distribution infrastructure designed to maximize electricity consumption. Because electricity is a commodity (electron) that cannot be carried in bags, pots or pans or filled up in cylinders for consumption. Nepal would become prosperous only if transmission and distribution infrastructure is constructed in tandem with electricity generation to use in various economic sectors like agriculture, industry, transportation, tourism, etc. According to a study report commissioned by USAID, each kWh of electricity used in Nepal would result in value addition in Nepal’s economy by US 86 cents/kWh (Rs 113 at the current rate of exchange) while Nepal exports electricity at less than US 10 cents. Generation/consumption policy: Consumption of petroleum products and coal in Nepal is not in her interest as she does not produce even a single drop of petroleum product and produces very poor-quality coal. While there is potential for the generation of abundant hydropower. For the wholesome and balanced development of the country, there should be a plan to ensure that electricity is consumed in the area where it is generated. The only electricity that could not be consumed in that area should be “exported” to adjoining areas and then adjoining municipalities, districts, provinces and so forth. Electricity should not be exported by depriving people of the area where it is generated in the first place and people of adjoining municipalities, districts, provinces and country; and export to other countries must be the last recourse. Contrarily at the moment, electricity is generally not used in the area, municipality district or province where it is generated; rather it is “exported” outside where it is generated, depriving the people of the area where it is generated including adjoining municipality, district, province and finally the country on the plea that it is surplus electricity or it was being spoiled. The root cause of the problem is that robust transmission and distribution infrastructure is not available where it is generated and even in adjoining areas. Therefore, transmission and distribution infrastructure must be put in place in tandem with the construction of powerhouses. Electricity export to reduce trade/payment deficit: Most intellectuals opine that trade and payment deficits can be reduced by exporting electricity. This is baseless; sheer fiction. Let’s examine the case of 900 MW Arun 3, being constructed by SJVN Ltd from India. It is expected to generate 3,460 GWh/year and after providing 758 GWh electricity to Nepal free of cost according to section 11.16.1 (21.9%), SJVN will export the remaining 2,702 GWh. If exported at Rs 5/kWh, the value of export will be Rs 13.51 billion and most people have been jumping to conclusion that Nepal’s balance of trade/payment deficit would be reduced by this very amount. Let’s examine it from a practical business perspective. As the developer is from India and electricity gets exported to India, the payment will also be made in India; meaning the aforesaid amount will not ever enter Nepal. Therefore, Nepal’s balance of trade/payment will not be impacted by this amount at all. Because routing this payment through Nepal would entail unnecessary bank charges for SJVN and can even result in a delay in repatriating the money to India. Therefore, superficially (on paper) only export and payment data will increase by this amount; it will be merely paper transactions. However, export tax and royalty to be paid by SJVN will flow into Nepal. According to section 9.3 of PDA between GoN and SJVN, the latter is required to pay export tax at the rate of 0.005%, amounting to Rs 676,000/year. Similarly, section 11.26 requires SJVN to pay royalties to Nepal, which is Rs 1,295 million/year for the first 15 years and Rs 2,888 million/year from the sixteenth year onwards. Total export tax and royalty equals only 9.6% of export value in the first 15 years and 21% from the sixteenth year onwards and, therefore, Nepal’s balance of payment will be impacted by this amount only. Electricity for value addition in the economy: Nepal could not be fully industrialized for a lack of electricity and even industries already in operation are suffering for the same reason. Due to this, there is rampant unemployment and youth from Nepal are forced to migrate for employment and become exploited there. The focus should not only be on the generation of electricity but should also be on building transmission and distribution infrastructure such that industries could be set up in the nook and cranny of the country, which will help generate employment by a magnitude all over the country. This will have a multiplier effect in terms of increased production, import substitution, increased export and ultimately balance of trade and payment would be impacted positively. Even the surplus energy of the wet season could be used in seasonal industries like the processing of tea, herbs etc. Nepal does not produce a single drop of petroleum product and, therefore, if all modes of surface transportation are to be electrified, the trade and payment deficit could be reduced by magnitude. Nepal imported petroleum products in 2020/21 for Rs 320 billion, of which Rs 15 billion was for aviation fuel. Meaning the electrification of all modes of surface transport could have saved Rs 305 billion. Besides, due to the reduction in the import and use of petroleum products the level of pollution in the country would diminish significantly resulting in better public health. Therefore, using electricity in all sectors of the economy would result in value addition in Nepal’s economy in accordance with the finding of the USAID study. Using electricity just for lighting, watching television etc. does not result in significant value addition to the economy. Export of surplus electricity: In September it was reported that electricity had become the seventh largest export item in the country with exports of Rs 7.19 billion to India as Nepal had a surplus. The definition of the term “surplus” is debatable in Nepal’s context. The only electricity that is left after meeting Nepal’s demand to saturation level can be deemed to be surplus. That is very far from reality. According to last year’s annual report of NEA, out of 753 local levels, 476 local levels are substantially electrified and 242 local levels are partially electrified so far, while 35 local levels are yet to be electrified. According to the same report, 92.41% of the population has access to electricity but most of them use it for purposes like lighting, watching television etc. only. Very little electricity is required to operate the cottage industry of which few are in existence. But cottage industries do not generate employment on the required scale and value addition in the economy would be minuscule. Only 1.36% of customers of NEA, unfortunately, are industries and 92,71% are domestic consumers, which indicates that there is an extremely low level of industrialization in Nepal resulting in a lack of employment, very little production and heavy dependence on imports. Access to industrial levels of electricity is available only in big cities and some areas in Tarai. Even in Tarai electricity is not easily available. Hongshi Cement in Nawalparasi district was producing cement by using diesel-generated power entirely until recently when 30 MW of electricity was supplied to it and that industry needs an additional 50 MW. Some industries need 270 MW. Similarly, according to an informal study, there are diesel pumps used for irrigation that equals 700 MW. Hence, electricity consumption in the country will increase substantially only when at least an 11 kV distribution line becomes available in all 753 local levels. Therefore, without putting transmission and distribution infrastructure in place at all local levels including setting up energy-intensive industries, electrification of all modes of surface transportation as well as displacing firewood and LPG from kitchens, electricity consumption in the country will not increase by a magnitude. And without fulfilling this condition precedent it is foolish to say that there is surplus electricity in Nepal and also to contend that there is no alternative but to export. Besides, Nepal has been exporting her “surplus” off-season electricity to India at the average rate of US 9 cents/kWh while Nepal had to import at US 30 cents/kWh in the last dry season. Therefore, on the whole, the export-import business of electricity can end up being a loss-making venture not only for NEA but also for the country’s economy that is deprived of value addition in the economy by US 86 cents/kWh for each unit of electricity exported. Indian perspective: When most Nepali leaders, bureaucrats, intellectuals, media etc. are daydreaming about Nepal becoming prosperous by exporting electricity, India is not too enthused to import electricity from Nepal. In November 2021 India agreed to import electricity from 24 MW Trishuli and 15 MW Devighat powerhouses, which were built with an Indian grant. India showed her unwillingness when NEA proposed to export 786 MW of electricity from its own powerhouses and that of the private sector. The reason behind Indian unwillingness is the letter exchanged along with the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Nepal and India. The fifth point of the letter stipulates that “if the government of Nepal should decide to seek foreign assistance in regard to the development of the natural resources of, or any industrial project in Nepal, the government of Nepal shall give first preference to the government or the nationals of India, as the case may be, provided that the terms offered by the government of India or Indian nationals, as the case may be, are not less favorable to Nepal than the terms offered by any foreign government or by other foreign nationals”. Since water resources too are natural resources, in the Indian view Nepal should have accorded preferential treatment to the Indian government or Indian nationals in Nepal’s hydropower development. Therefore, in their view, Nepal has breached this stipulation while implementing hydropower projects by accepting investment from third countries and allowing contractors and suppliers from those countries. Hence, India is reluctant to import electricity from hydropower plants with any kind of involvement of third-country governments or nationals thereof. However, Nepal and her nationals do not get any preferential treatment in the “development” of the natural resources of India. Therefore, this provision is fully one-sided, lacking reciprocity. Basically, India planned to establish its hegemony in Nepal’s natural resources pursuant to this letter. But since Nepal ignored this provision, India is refusing to import electricity from powerhouses developed by third-country governments or nationals. This can be confirmed by the fact that India will import electricity from 900 MW Arun 3 which is being constructed by SJVN Ltd. from India and 679 MW Lower Arun which is to be developed by the same company. Similarly, India would definitely import electricity from 750 MW West Seti and 450 MW Seti 6, for which an MoU has already been signed between the Investment Board of Nepal and NHPC Ltd. from India. The total of all these is about 2,800 MW. There is another facet of the same saga. Indian private sector company GMR was granted a license for the development of 900 MW Upper Karnali in 2008. But GMR has been running from pillar to post to sell electricity generated by this project in India in vain all this time. This indicates that India is willing to import electricity generated by only Indian government-owned powerhouses, not even the Indian private sector. Strategic commodity: Electricity is a strategic commodity for India. It has become clear from above that she will import electricity only from companies under its control and vice versa. India would rather suffer from a lack of electricity than depend on electricity that is generated by a powerhouse that is not under its control. Basically, India does not wish to be dependent on electricity from powerhouse/s that is/are not under her control. The exact opposite situation prevails in Nepal. Nepal is eager to export electricity although her need has yet to be met at the saturation level and is languishing for lack of power. While India would rather not set up industries and provide electricity to her populace unless it can import it from Nepal on own her terms. Against this backdrop, it is really strange that people in Nepal are eager to export electricity to India chasing the mirage of prosperity. India is not a friend in need: India is not a country to depend on when in trouble. Nepal suffered two massive earthquakes and innumerable aftershocks in 2015 resulting in the devastation of the country with numerous casualties, including many deaths. But India imposed a blockade on Nepal immediately after the earthquakes, from 23 September which lasted till 5 February 2016. The pretext was Indian dissatisfaction with the Constitution promulgated by Nepal’s Constituent Assembly which was elected by the sovereign people of Nepal. This proves that India is not a friend in need. Moreover, this blockade was not the first one, nor may be the last one. India imposed the first blockade on Nepal from April 1962 to October 1962 when Nepal signed an agreement with China to construct a highway to connect Kathmandu with the Chinese border at Kodari (Araniko Highway). Similarly, when the government of Nepal decided to remove Indian security posts deployed near the Chinese border, a second blockade was imposed from November 1970 to August 1971. The third blockade was imposed using the opportunity of expiry of trade and transit treaties with India from 23 March 1989 to 1 July 1990 as India was angered by Nepal importing antiaircraft guns from China. Incidentally, this blockade triggered the abolition of the Panchayat system in Nepal. Self-reliant energy security: Against this backdrop, Nepal must become self-reliant in strategic commodities like electricity in order to attain energy security. Energy security entails availing electricity to the entire population at an affordable price, not only for domestic use but also for industrialization, electrification of transportation, mechanization of agriculture etc. such that Nepal’s dependence on imported petroleum products including for cooking purposes could be eliminated. Rural households also need to be liberated from traditional sources of energy that cause indoor pollution and pose health hazards. Hence, Nepal should aim to achieve self-reliant energy security which is a strategic commodity for Nepal too. Conclusion: Nepal would not attain prosperity merely by increasing electricity generation by tapping water resources. Nepal would become prosperous only by using electricity to industrialize the country, which would generate employment and increase production resulting in the displacement of imports and an increase in export thereby resulting in value addition in the economy. Similarly, agriculture needs to be modernized by using electricity at every step including to process herbs and forest products. As the import of petroleum products is one of the main causes of trade and payment deficit, all modes of surface transportation should be electrified, which will also reduce pollution by a significant quantum. India is not a friend in need as she has imposed blockades on Nepal 4 times so far and there is no guarantee that she would not resort to it again on some other flimsy pretext. Nepal, therefore, should aim to achieve self-reliant energy security to prosper. Exporting electricity to the detriment of Nepal’s economy is like committing hara-kiri. Published in Peoples' Review of November 10, 2022 Ratna Sansar Shrestha