Thursday, February 25, 2010

Your article on Karnali project in "Yo Sata"

February 24, 2010

Mr Radheshyam Adhikari
Member, Constituent Assembly

Dear Radheshyamjee

Thank you very much for intimating me about publication of your article in “Yo Sata”. I have following comments to make with respect to your article.

UCPNM is critical of this project
In your article you have stated that it’s beyond your comprehension as to why UCPNM is critical of this project. First of all, in my considered opinion, you are giving undue “credit” to that particular political party for the criticism of that project. I have put the word credit in quotes (I am sure that, you will not agree with me) because critical appraisal of this project (any water resource project, for that matter) is worth a lot more than meets the eye. I commend them (contrasted to your condemnation) for being able to see through the façade of the project and establish that this project isn’t in the national interest of Nepal (it’s definitely in Indian national interest, though) which I have been able to prove beyond any “reasonable” doubt in my article (abridged version) published in Gorkhapatra on which you have commented in your email to me and my paper with in-depth analysis on the very subject (already uploaded in my website ( I urge you to peruse the paper before criticizing those critical of the project.

And UCPNM alone doesn’t deserve to be credited wholly and solely for being critical of it because they became critical of this project just recently, whereas critical appraisal of this project was done by many more since last two years including by yours truly. Even a case was filed in the Supreme Court and case is still under active consideration of the judiciary. However, it’s true that the activities of UCPNM now has raised the profile of criticism of this project to a rather higher plane and have succeeded to do so more vocally. But the likes of this scribe have been pointing out the deficiencies in the way this project is structured and packaged since January 2008.

Criticism of the Project
Your admission of not being able to understand is “understandable” as you don’t seem to have in-depth perspective of this project. As you have reverted back to me after having read my article on this project in Gorkhapatra, I trust you are now more informed, to an extent, about the deficiencies in the way this project is structured and packaged and why each nationalistic Nepali who strongly feels for the motherland with the heart in the right place should be critical of the way this project is structured and packaged. My paper on this project, prepared for presentation in a workshop organized by Nepal Engineering Infrastructure Development Society on 12th February will be able to make you understand why even you should join forces with me in criticizing this project. I encourage you to visit my website and peruse it in order to be more and properly informed. It is very important for a person like you to be correctly informed about these matters.

In my considered opinion, every citizen of Nepal, including yourself, should be critical of the way it’s structured and packaged for following reasons:

  • The project site is an invaluable/rare gift of nature to our motherland with no parallel and implementation of the project with installed capacity of 300 MW is mutually exclusive of storage project of 4,180 MW. To do so is high treason against our motherland.
  • From 300 MW Nepal will earn only Rs 36 crore each year from Royalties, while from 4,180 MW Nepal could have earned Rs 4.84 billion; a difference of 1344% (yes, over one thousand three hundred percent; not some small amount)!
  • The value of free energy from 300 MW is only Rs 46 crore while the value of free energy from 4180 MW is Rs 4 billion; a difference of over 10 times.
  • If this project is to be optimized at its correct installed capacity of 4180 with storage facility, it could have generated regulated flow of about 500 m3s with a potential to irrigate 1.5 million hectares of land. By using the rate agreed between Lesotho and South Africa and making the water available to India (instead of using it for irrigation purposes in Nepal), Nepal is in a position to earn Rs 52 billion annually.
  • By under-sizing this project Nepal stands to lose Rs 60 billion each year. In order to understand the magnitude of this amount I urge you to take a look at this year’s Nepal’s budget in which Nepal’s total revenue is Rs 176 billion and the amount Nepal stands to lose due to under-sizing of this project is more than one-third of this amount. I am really amazed that people in Nepal are prepared to forgo such a huge amount; tantamount to committing high treason.

Blockade and Embargo
In your article you have referred to the blockade and embargo imposed on Nepal, for no rhyme and reason, during 1988-90 by India. It’s not clear as to why you had to refer to it. I don’t want to believe that you have referred to it to imply that if UCPNM continues to oppose this project, India will be justified in imposing embargo and blockade again. Conversely, I am advocating self reliance just to ensure that Nepal will be able to survive if India is to resort to something irrational as such again. There are things for which Nepal won’t be able to be self reliant. But electricity, thankfully, isn’t one of them. Nature has bestowed enough potential for Nepal to be self reliant and we should endeavor to do so by having hydropower projects implemented for domestic consumption, not export. Please remember that exporting electricity to India doesn’t mitigate load shedding problem in Nepal.

Aggravation of load shedding problem in Nepal
You have opined that failure to get this project built will result in aggravation of load shedding problem in Nepal, wrongly. As this project is dedicated for export of power to India, there is no relationship between implementation of this project and mitigating of load shedding problem of Nepal. Meaning, implementation of this project will not reduce the magnitude of load shedding in Nepal at all. On the contrary, if it’s to be built as we have conceptualized (at its optimum capacity), Nepal would not only be able to survive another round of blockade/embargo from the perspective of energy, if India is to impose foolishly again, but also industrialize this country and generate employment in Nepal such that those having gone to foreign countries for employment will be able to have dignified employment in their motherland itself. Looks like you aren’t aware that India treats electricity also as a “strategic” commodity. Last Baisakh India refused to “give” 30 MW to Nepal and immediately following it Prachanda government collapsed. Therefore, it’s time we too treated electricity prudently, if not strategically.

Arun III project and current load shedding
In making sweeping comment you have ascribed current load shedding to cancellation of Arun III. In my considered opinion, this looks like a comment made with rather with superficial knowledge. I do hope that’s not true. In my in-depth analysis of this issue, it comes out very clearly that if Nepal had taken up this project at that time, the magnitude of current load shedding would have been much more severe. NEA’s losses, that has already crossed Rs 12 billion mark now, would have been much more heavier if Arun III project was implemented. If you have time you can peruse it by following the link below:

Indian security force in Nepal
Both in your email below and in your article you have said that “India could force our authorities to concede in the area of security. They could ask their security personnel stationed in the said project to protect their citizens (sic) investment interest.” I hope you aren’t implying that if India is to demand as such, it will be justified and Nepal should be wiling to concede in view of UCPNM obstruction of the project. This will merely amount to using UCPNM as an excuse to do so. Because without any provision as such in, much condemned, Koshi and Gandak treaties, Indian security force is stationed in the barrages of Koshi and Gandak projects. You may not be aware that Karnali Chisapani project, 10,800 MW, was shelved by the then royal government of Nepal just for this reason. Please refer to “India-Nepal Relations – Challenges Ahead” by Jagat Mehta, former secretary of ministry of foreign affairs of India. In view of this, although monarchy got eliminated from Nepal as it deserved, but at least from this respect the then monarchy must be commended. Similarly king Mahendra should be appreciated for succeeding to evict Indian military check posts and mission in June 1969. You seem to be implying that opposition to this project can invite Indian security force in Nepal while I am of the opinion that this project shouldn’t be made export oriented for that very reason. Conversely, it should be built as an export oriented project only upon receipt of commitment from India that no foreign security force will be stationed in Nepal, in writing.

Besides, we should first aim to become self reliant and export energy, not power, in case we have surplus. However, from the above, it won’t be prudent for people to jump to conclusion that I am against exporting electricity to India. I am against exporting it while keeping more than 75% of Nepal’s population in the dark. But it is logical to export energy, not power that isn’t consumed in Nepal. Since you have been frequently writing articles on hydropower, I trust that you are familiar with the distinction between power and energy.

Political Overtone
You have thanked me for the article published in Gorkhapatra, except for the “political overtone” that you seem to have detected. I am not a politician and nor do I have any plan to be one, ever. Nor is there any “political overtone” in my paper. I wonder how and why did you jump to that conclusion. After re-reading my own article, I can categorically tell you that I have used the word political in the context only in one place to rebut the statement issued by GMR. In that context I had simply pointed out the errors committed by the politicians since 1950 which are historical facts; not political overtone on my part. I had made objective comments with philosophic detachment. I don’t have any political motivation as I am an apolitical person.

Some people may not deem 1950 treaty and other treaties related to water resource historical mistakes; all of which were executed during the periods of instability and transition. But in my considered opinion those are against Nepal’s national interest and therefore, bad treaties. In saying this I have not made any political overtone. You are at liberty to make socio-economic assessment/evaluation of these treaties and arrive at your own conclusions and I will not brand your conclusions as political; nor should you do so with my conclusions. However, you are welcome to dispute my conclusions empirically (based on facts and figures).

I will give you one example. Both Koshi and Gandak treaty are bad in as much as the way the extant projects on these rivers were implemented and, hence, the condemnation is well deserved. The less said about these is better. However, in both of these treaties Nepal’s interest with respect to right to water has been safeguarded very well. I hope you will notice that here I am commending the treaties, not condemning. I have come out with this comment in times and circumstances where warranted. This too is one. Article 4 of Koshi treaty stipulates that Nepal will have “right to withdraw for irrigation and for any other purpose in Nepal water from the Kosi River and from the Sun-Kosi River or within the Kosi basin from any other tributaries of the Kosi River as may be required from time to time. The Union shall have the right to regulate all the balance of supplies in the Kosi River at the barrage site”. Similar spirit is captured in article 9 of Gandak treaty. However, “trans-Valley uses of Gandak waters” is prohibited under this treaty. Meaning diversion of water into Kathmandu valley from any tributary of this river system (like from Tadi khola across Shivapuri range) is prohibited whereas, as no such restriction exists in Koshi treaty it is possible to divert water from Melamchi to Kathmandu valley. For this very reason India hasn’t raised a word of protest against Melamchi project. Therefore, Koshi treaty is relatively better than Gandak treaty from this perspective. Please note that there is no need for you to jump to the conclusion that I am being harsh on BP Koirala compared to MP Koirala. I have merely made a relative assessment/evaluation of the two treaties objectively. These treaties consists of 6/7 pages only and you can easily verify my statement in no time. I urge you not to detect political overtone where none exists. When UCPNM wanted cancellation of these treaties, I got alarmed and have alerted them from committing the mistake of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” I have also publicly criticized them for coming out with such superficial statements.

If one were to make a relative assessment of all three treaties related to water resources and Tanakpur MoU, the last is the best and Mahakali is the worst. People like this scribe had to condemn Tanakpur MoU as the then government was trying to circumvent article 126; otherwise this treaty didn’t harm Nepal as far as her right to water is concerned. For allowing India to use under 10 hectares of Nepal’s land, India agreed to give 70 GWh of electricity free of cost. Similarly I have made public my objective views as to why Mahakali treaty deserves to me condemned. I am glad that you didn’t find political overtone in my condemnation of Mahakali treaty.

Hence, I find it difficult to find your article balanced and in national interest. Whereas, in my considered opinion, my article is based on a very balanced in-depth analyses of the project and the treaties.

With best regards,


Ratna Sansar Shrestha

From: radheshyam adhikari []
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 2010 13:59
To: Ratna Sansar Shrestha
Subject: Re: Fw: My article on upper Karnali

dear ratnasansarjee

thank you for your writeup about upper karnali and providing so many information at one place.except political overtone made by you i could agree with you to take lesson for future projects so that we donot repeat mistakes. but regarding the projects which has been signed duly by the governments of the day cant be altered easily under the pressure of one political party alone. it could invite more problems to us because india could force our authorities to concede in the area of security.they could ask their security personnel stationed in the said project to protect their citizens investment interest.our views regarding to powerful neighbours should be a balanced and considered one , which unfortunately is lacking in the case of maoists.youcould see my short writeup regarding upper karnali project in last week's yo sata if you desire.
thank you again for sending your article.


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