Monday, January 12, 2009

An Enlightening Discussion on Hydropower

December 31, 2008
Mr. Bishwa Kanta Mainali
Senior Advocate
Supreme Court, Nepal
Dear Bishwa Kantajee

Thanks a lot for joining in. I am highly appreciative of the fact that you are following the debate through. In my experience of working in the water resource sector for about 2 decades, I have come to realize that people like you and me - educated but who aren't water resource experts or economists - don't take any interest about the sector. They rely too much on water resource experts (self proclaimed and otherwise) and economists in Nepal and outside and accept whatever is being told, without pausing to think (forget questioning the conventional "wisdom").

You have known me for more than 3 decades. I too am not an expert on water resource. Legally speaking (pun unintended), I am a brother practitioner of yours (younger brother) and I have, for some mysterious reason/s, stumbled into this sector (or got dragged into it) without any relevant academic background as such (my being a management professional and a chartered accountant does not equip me to face the innumerable water resource experts within and without Nepal). I was initiated on hydropower by my mother (who isn't an educated person) who had very patiently explained to me, when I was of about 10 years, how the light is created from water. I still remember that she drew an analogy between the dynamo of my father's cycle that throws light in front of the cycle and explained that as the cycle's wheel turns the dynamo, the water also turns bigger version of the dynamo in Sundarijal hydropower plant in creating the light (electricity). This was my basic and first training on hydropower/water resource.

I agree with you that for lack of similar discussions many a myths have been created and perpetuated about the water resource sector which has succeeded in short changing Nepal at every turn from Koshi through to Mahakali treaties and west seti to Arun III agreements. Our policy makers - each generation of it, egged on by these myths, have repeated historical mistakes without learning from the - past. I am not referring to those people do these things for ulterior motives. It will not be easy to rid the country from this breed. But people like Shankarjee (who I am sure is not ill-intentioned at all) are different and the country and people like you and me depend on them.

What the policy makers need to do is keep their eyes open, do some simple math and ask their own conscience before jumping to the conclusions the other side wants Nepali policy makers to jump to. What they should NOT do is become swayed by rosy pictures painted by the dishonest or ill informed people on the both sides. This does not mean that there are only one kind of people on the other side. There are people like current water resource minister Saifuddin Soz and former water resource secretary Ramaswami Aiyar. Even former minister Suresh Prabhu has, reportedly, conceded that the upper riparian country, in his "Prabhu Commission Report," is entitled to downstream benefits. There are many renown experts in Nepal who, without being embarrassed even a bit (or for other ulterior motives), say that Nepal should not/cannot expect any downstream benefit from projects that inundates/submerges Nepal's highly fertile land in the bank of rivers. Any such logic is curtly termed kutarka (bad logic!). Unfortunately for us these people were and are occupying high positions in Nepal's governance.

The bottom-line is: I practice what I have preached above and have succeeded in gaining limited insight about the sector without being a water resource expert (whatever this term means). I urge every Nepali that loves her/his motherland to emulate you.

With best regards,
Ratna Sansar Shrestha
From: NNSD@yahoogroups।com [mailto:NNSD@yahoogroups।com] On Behalf Of ।" href="mailto:bishwakm@htp

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