Wednesday, March 24, 2010

RE: My article in Spotlight on Upper karnali

March 25, 2010

Mr Kul Chandra Gautam
Former Assistant Secretary General, UN

Dear Kul Chandrajee

I highly appreciate your reverting back to me and, more importantly, for the encouraging words. This is what keeps me going on with my “crusade”; some people have described, what I am doing, as a crusade and I like this description. It, actually, is tuning out like one for a number of reasons:
  • People have very superficial understanding of the water resource sector (I am sure many would protest in disagreement with me, though).
  • People mix up between water resource sector and hydropower sub sector. Generation of electricity, most of the time, from a particular site may not be the best use of water resource at that particular site. There is many an example of unfortunate “abuse” of such sites (upper Karnali stands out like a sore thumb), as economic benefit to Nepal’s macro economy would have been a lot higher from the alternative or comprehensive use of water resource of a specific site. Meaning an optimal decision can only be reached by making comprehensive option assessment of exploitation of each site and Nepal’s best interest may be served by not putting up a hydropower plant at that particular site. An interesting example from this perspective is Middle Bhote Koshi project, 80 MW. I am told that if this project is built, the water sports based tourism (like rafting, bungee jumping, etc.) on this river will be wrecked and the benefits accruing to Nepal’s macro economy and the local populace will be lost for ever which is relatively higher than from electricity generation (I have yet to make an in-depth analysis of this project from this perspective). I have mentioned this in a couple of programs and I could see that it was difficult for many to understand. However, I am sure that you will definitely understand this. In my considered opinion, GoN should study this aspect prior to granting licenses for hydropower projects. But this is yet to dawn on the hydrocrats of Nepal.
  • People are ill-informed. No construction activity is taking place in this particular project, but people, including Ajit Narayanjee, have jumped to the conclusion that UCPNM is obstructing the construction activity. From the perspective of timing, this is the best time to raise questions related optimal decision, which is not designed to disallow GMR from making investment. Majority of the people are yet to understand that.
  • I am not too sure of UCPNM’s intentions, though. There are some indications that what they are doing now could be designed from the perspective of political expediency. If true, that will not only be unfortunate for the sector and this country but it will also be unfortunate for that party itself. Because all the people are no fools and all of them couldn’t be fooled for all the time; to use an old cliché.
  • People don’t seem to have clear idea about how to benefit from the sector and its sub sectors. Although it’s an export oriented project, I have discovered that even my friends and family are belaboring under the misconception that commissioning of this project will alleviate energy crisis in Nepal!
  • People don’t realize that the question in their mind is self contradictory until someone like me points out. Ajit Narayajnee seems to think that implementation of this project amounts to “us using it meaningfully” (emphasis mine). Except for 36 MW power (which will generate only about 12 MW power during dry season, at the time when we need most), this project will use the water of Karnali river at this stretch for India “meaningfully.” What I am advocating is the meaningful use of this water for Nepal and Nepali people; including optimal exploitation of it. But very few seem to appreciate it and you are one of the few exceptions. They equate my questioning the project as opposition of the project and the investors. They couldn’t have been more wrong from both perspectives.
  • They seem to think that Nepal should allow export of power to the country from where the investors hail from. We have had investors from Norway and US and weren’t required to export power to those countries. Similarly, there is talk of investment coming from Qatar and I am sure that power won’t be evacuated to that country. Therefore, there is nothing against GMR in my “crusade”, nor am I against export of electricity per se (I recommend export of energy, not power). What is in the best interest of Nepal is tapping our water resources, not just to mitigate our energy crisis (first domestic consumption) but also to use it for drinking water and sanitation (to ensure no deaths due to lack of safe water), irrigation, navigation, recreation, improvement of watershed, industrial use of water, etc.
  • People wonder about Nepal’s ability to implement such projects, forgetting the ground reality within and without Nepal. It’s true that Nepal hasn’t built any project from “wire to water” completely on its own. However, I doubt if even developed countries bother to do so, irrespective of whether they are capable or otherwise. We have our resource, we are in a position to exploit the resource and utilize it. With proper vision, policy and strategy in place, we should be able to attract investment and source for necessary men and material nationally and internationally (maximizing use of domestic input as well) and get such projects built in our interest. Specifically, Nepal can benefit by industrializing and generating employment within the country by using production of such hydropower projects and exporting remaining energy. For the purpose, Nepal should allow capable investors to build such projects at shortest possible time and buy all power at “best” price and after selling as much as possible domestically at affordable prices, she (not the project developer) should export the remaining energy at the going rate (we are currently importing at INR 6.70 from India) not at rock bottom price like all these export oriented projects are proposing to do. Nepal should aim to export energy following “value for energy” concept; higher tariff during peak (from demand perspective) hours and peak season and lower during off peak hours and off peak season.

With best regards,

Sincerely,

Ratna Sansar Shrestha

From: Kul Gautam [mailto:kulgautam@hotmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 7:49
To: ratna sansar shrestha
Subject: RE: My article in Spotlight on Upper karnali

dear ratna sansarji,

my hats off to you - i admire how thoroughly and logically you make your case - a case that also happens to be always in nepal's best interest.

it is clear that you put your heart and soul into studying and analysing these issues with great rigour - a rare quality among nepali commentators and activists.

i am in awe with your intellectual and analytical capacity - and above all, your integrityin calling a spade a spade without trying to be politically "correct" in these turbulent and partisan times.

keep up the good work and keep enlightening us. i am confident that sooner or later your views will be heard.

kul g

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Kul Chandra Gautamwww.kulgautam.orge

-mail: kulgautam@hotmail.com

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From: rsansar@mos.com.np

To: rsansar@mos.com.np

Subject: FW: FW: My article in Spotlight on Upper karnali

Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2010 07:00:40 +0545

Dear Ajit Narayanjee

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