Friday, December 26, 2014

Mahakali Water to Quench Delhi’s Thirst

Indian PM Narendra Modi recently announced that Sarada River will be linked with Yamuna to revive it, for spatial transfer of water – transferring water from Mahakali to Yamuna. It is a small part of India’s ambitious river linking scheme.

Water from Nepal in Yamuna
Actually, Mahakali River, deemed to be a border river between Nepal and India, is called Sarada in India, which flows southeast and empties into Ghaghara River (called Karnali in Nepal) near Baharaich in UP. A dam will be built at Jamarani on Mahakali River, few kilometres north of Tanakpur barrage, and water diverted by a canal heading straight west to join Yamuna.

Plight of Yamuna
Kathmanduites find Bagamati foul but fish is still found. Whereas Yamuna is in worse condition, especially due to heavy extraction of water for irrigation, domestic water supply and industrial uses in neighbourhoods like Hathnikund/Tajewala, Wazirabad, Okhla, resulting in low flow and dumping of industrial effluence without treatment

Adverse impact on Mahakali/Sarada River
After diversion of water from Mahakali, the quantum of water flowing downstream will get reduced substantially and dry season flow in Ghaghara, consequently in Ganga, will also decrease which will cause water stress in UP, India. It will also adversely impact 120 MW Tanakpur hydropower plant (presently run of river), lowering dry season generation, thereby reducing valuable firm energy.
Further, Mahakali flood also will be transferred to Yamuna. Therefore, Yamuna will be fraught with doubled flood, its own and that of Mahakali.

Hence, spatial transfer of water from Mahakali to Yamuna will make no sense: no incremental flow in dry season when needed and doubled flood in monsoon, creating havoc in southern Uttarakhand, north western UP and even Delhi.

Role of Pancheshwar Project
However, after implementation of 6,480 MW Pancheshwar multipurpose hydropower project, linking Mahakali with Yamuna will add value significantly; as reservoir will transfer water from wet season to dry season, thereby contributing more water to Ghaghara and, eventually to Ganga in dry season (with commensurate reduction in flood), notwithstanding diversion from Mahakali to Yamuna. Additionally, with Pancheshwar powerhouse generating peaking power, Tanakpur, becoming a cascade project with Pancheshwar, too will start generating not only more electricity in dry season compared to now but will start to generate peaking power (high value power) and its firm power will increase substantially.

Lean season augmented flow
Positive externalities of Pancheshwar are flood control and lean season augmented flow of 582 m3/s, benefitting both Nepal and India. However, both countries will also suffer from inundation and involuntary displacement – negative externalities.

Mahakali Treaty has stipulated that two countries are entitled to equal share of water; Nepal and India each entitled to 291 m3/s of lean season augmented flow. However, as the treaty also stipulates that Nepal will “have right to supply of 4.25 m3/s in dry season”, India will be using 286.75 m3/s of Nepal’s share and the idea of linking Yamuna with Mahakali is rooted in capturing Nepal’s share of lean season augmented flow.

However, it is against the spirit of equality enshrined in Mahakali treaty for India to take Nepal’s share free of cost. What needs to be remembered is that the lean season augmented flow will be generated by Nepal too bearing negatives externalities. It is logical for India to enjoy its share of lean season augmented flow of 291 m3/s, having borne commensurate negative externalities.

For India to use 286.75 m3/s of Nepal’s share, former will have to recompense latter based on internationally accepted principle. An example is agreement between Lesotho and South Africa, under which latter pays former at the rate of $25 million/year for 18 m3/s; at which rate India will have to pay Nepal $ 398 million (equivalent to Rs 40 billion) a year.

It is not mandatory that Nepal and India, two close neighbors, apply the rate used by two African countries. Different rate or different recompense mechanism can be worked out. However, it will not be possible for India to use Nepal’s share of Mahakali water pro bono (or by giving some free electricity like from Tanakpur) or in the lines of Koshi and Gandaki barrages, built in 50s, under which Nepal ended up internalizing negative externalities with India solely enjoying positive externalities without recompense for the former and sharing the latter.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that the proposal here is NOT for India to pay for water flowing naturally; payment is for storage of water, requiring Nepal to suffer from inundation and involuntary displacement.

Existing Consumptive Use
Nepal’s hydrocrats have opined that, as equal share of water is subject to proviso of “without prejudice to prior existing consumptive use”, India cannot be expected to recompense Nepal for the use of water “belonging to Nepal” since India’s “prior existing consumptive use” is 326 m3/s. In their opinion Nepal is entitled to only half of 256 m3/s (128 m3/s) after deducting 326 m3/s from 582 m3/s. It is natural for Indian patriots to opine as such, but it isn’t befitting those claiming to be “patriots” of Nepal.

The proviso clause is applicable for the currently obtaining situation when Mahakali is fraught with drought for more than 6 months and flood in monsoon, but not applicable for lean season augmented flow generated by suffering inundation and displacement. Huge opportunity cost is suffered due to inundation of cultivable land, forest, etc. and displacement of populace who have to be resettled. Land in Nepal gets used twice: in inundation and resettlement.

Nepal Needs no Additional water
Hydrocrats in Nepal and many Indians opine that Nepal doesn’t need 286.75 m3/s, which India plans to use, in addition to India’s half share, and a neighboring country shouldn’t make fuss about such things. It is but natural for Indians to say this. But Nepal’s hydrocrats parroting it is unbecoming. If India is to use Nepal’s share of water free of cost, then why should Nepal suffer from inundation and displacement. Best will be to tailor the dam height to generate just 8.5 m3/s lean season augmented flow and Nepal and India can share 4.25 m3/s each.

Alternative Approach
Sarada barrage was built by British India under 1920 treaty after compensating Nepal with 4,000 acres land inundated by the barrage. It can be replicated in Pancheshwar: India to compensate Nepal’s inundated land with land in India (then no recompense will be expected).

Potential and Challenge
There is potential of benefit for southern area of Uttarakhand, western UP and Delhi from temporal transfer of water after completion of Pancheshwar. However, spatial transfer will amount to extension of drought and flood.

There is a challenge too. In order for Nepal to agree to “give” her share of lean season augmented flow to India after construction of Pancheshwar reservoir, India will have to agree to share opportunity cost of negative externalities that Nepal bears and share benefit of positive externalities with Nepal that India will enjoy.

Published in Spotlight of 26th December, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

दिल्लीको तिर्खा मेट्न महाकालीको पानी

भारतीय प्रधानमन्त्री नरेन्द्र मोदीले हालै शारदा नदीलाई यमुना नदीमा जोड्ने घोषणा गरेका छन् । यो भारतको महत्वाकांक्षी नदी जडान आयोजनाको एउटा सानो खण्ड हो र यसो गर्दा भारतको यमुना नदीले पुनर्जीवन पाउंछ भने भारतको राजधानी दिल्ली लगायतका जनताको पानीको संकट टर्छ, तिर्खा मेट्न समेत ।

नेपालको पानी यमुनामा
वास्तवमा नेपाल भारत सीमामा अवस्थित महाकाली नदी नैं भारत प्रवेश गरेपछि शारदा नदी कहलिन्छ, जुन दक्षिण पूर्व बग्दै बहराइच नजिकै घाघरा नदीमा मिसिन्छ (नेपालको कर्णालीलाई नैं भारतमा घाघरा नामले चिनिन्छ) । टनकपुर बाँध भन्दा केहि माथि जमरानीमा अर्को बाँध निर्माण गरेर दक्षिण पूर्वतिर बगेको महाकाली नदीलाई सोझै नहरबाट पश्चिम तिर यमुना नदीमा जोड्ने प्रस्ताव हो ।

यमुना नदीको दुरावस्था
विशेष गरेर नेपालको राजधानी काठमाडौंमा बग्ने बागमती ढलमती भै सकेकोछ, तर पनि यदाकदा माछा मारेको समाचार प्रसारित हुनेगरेकोले त्यति खराब अवस्था छैन, जति यमुनाको नदी छ । बिभिन्न उद्योगहरुबाट निसृत हुने अति प्रदुषक तरल पदार्थले यमुना नदी भरिएकोछ र पानीको बहाव कम हुनाले बगाउने अवस्था पनि छैन, वर्षातमा बाढी आएको अवस्थामा बाहेक । तर पनि हथ्नीकुण्ड, वजिराबाद, दिल्लीको ओख्ला आदि स्थानहरुमा यहि नदीको पानी केहि प्रशोधन पश्चात बितरण गरिन्छ, जसले गर्दा पनि नदीमा पानीको परिमाण अत्यन्त कम छ ।

महाकाली/शारदा नदीमा दुष्प्रभाव
यसरी पानी फर्काएर यमुनामा लगेपछि महाकाली÷शारदा नदीमा बग्ने पानी ठूलो परिमाणले घट्छ र तत्काल प्रत्यक्ष प्रभाव जडित क्षमता १ सय २० मेगावाट रहेको टनकपुर जलबिद्युत आयोजनामा पर्नेछ, सुक्खायाममा हाल उत्पादन भै राखेको परिमाण भन्दा घटेर । साथै घाघरा हुंदै गंगा नदीमा सुक्खायाममा थपिने पानीको परिमाण पनि तात्विकरुपमा घट्नेछ ।

यसका साथै महाकाली/शारदा नदीमा वर्षातमा बाढी आउंदा दिल्ली शहर समेत बाढीको चपेटामा पर्नेछ । स्मरणिय छ, वर्षातमा यमुना नदीमा पनि बाढी आउनेगर्छ र महाकाली/शारदा नदीमा आएको बाढी पनि यमुनामा थपिंदा बाढीको विभिषिका ठूलै हुनेछ । समग्रमा सुक्खायाममा महाकाली÷शारदा नदीमा पनि धेरै पानीको बहाव नहुने हुनाले महाकालीको पानी यमुनामा थपिएपनि यमुना किनारका बासिन्दाले तात्विकरुपमा धेरै पानी नपाउने र वर्षातमा दोहरो बाढीको समस्या हुने हुनाले महाकाली नदीलाई यमुना नदीसंग जोड्नुको विशेष सार्थकता हुन्न ।

पञ्चेश्वर आयोजनाको भूमिका
तर महाकाली सन्धीमा उल्लिखित ६ हजार ४ सय ८० मेगावाटको जलाशययुक्त पञ्चेश्वर आयोजना निर्माण गरिएमा भने परिदृष्यमा ठूलो परिवर्तन आउनेछ । पञ्चेश्वरबाट उत्पादन हुने बिजुलीको अलावा टनकपुर आयोजनाले पनि सुक्खायाममा पूर्ण क्षमतामा उत्पादन गर्न सक्नेछ, अहिले सुक्खायाममा जडित क्षमता भन्दा कम उत्पादन भैरहेकोमा । त्यस्तै घाघरामा हाल महाकालीबाट सुक्खायाममा थपिने पानी भन्दा बढी परिमाणमा पानी घाघरामा थपिने छ र यमुनामा पानी लैजांदा पनि तात्विकरुपमा घाघरा र गंगा नदीलाई पानीको परिमाणको हिसाबले केहि फरक पर्दैन, बरु यी नदीमा पनि सुक्खायाममा थप नियन्त्रित पानी उपलब्ध हुन्छ ।

थप/नियन्त्रित पानी
ज्ञात भए अनुसार पञ्चेश्वरमा जलाशय निर्माण गरिएमा ५ सय ८२ क्युमेक (घन मिटर प्रति सेकेन्ड) थप पानी सुक्खायामामा नियन्त्रितरुपमा उपलब्ध हुनेछ, नेपाल तथा भारतीय तल्लो तटीय इलाकाहरुमा । साथै तल्लो तटीय इलाकाहरु वर्षातमा बाढी नियन्त्रणबाट पनि लाभान्वित हुनेछन् । यी लाभ प्राप्त गर्न डुबान तथा बिस्थापनको दुष्प्रभाव पनि दुवै देशका माथिल्लो तटीय इलाकाहरुले व्यहोर्न पर्नेछ ।

महाकाली सन्धीमा दुबै देशको पानी माथि आधा आधा हक लाग्ने प्रावधान हुनाले २ सय ९१क्युमेक पानीमा नेपालको हक लाग्छ भने भारतको पनि त्यत्तिकै परिमाणमा हक लाग्छ । तर उक्त सन्धीमा नेपालले ४.२५ क्युमेक मात्र पाउने व्यवस्था भएकोले नेपालको हक लाग्ने २ सय ८६.७५ क्युमेक पानी भारतले उपभोग गर्ने सम्भावना छ । वास्तवमा यहि पानीलाई नैं दृष्टिगत गरेर महाकालीको पानी यमुनामा लैजाने सोच भएको हुनुपर्छ ।

तर नेपालले पनि डुबान र बिस्थापनको दुष्प्रभाव व्यहोरेर उत्पादन गरिने थप÷नियन्त्रित पानी भारतले निशुल्क पाउने कुरा स्वीकार्य छैन (भारतले आफ्नो भागको डुबान र बिस्थापन भोगे बापत २ सय ९१ क्युमेक पानी पाउंछ नैं) । यस सम्बन्धमा लेसोथो र दक्षिण अफ्रिका बीच सम्पन्न सन्धीलाई नजीरको रुपमा लिन सकिन्छ, जसमा १८ क्युमेक पानीको लागि दक्षिण अफ्रिकाले लेसोथोलाई वार्षिक २ करोड ५० लाख डलर भुक्तानि गर्दछ । यहि नैं दर प्रयोग गर्ने हो भने भारतले नेपालको हक लाग्ने २ सय ८६.७५ क्युमेक पानी प्राप्त गरे बापत वार्षिक ३९ करोड ८३ लाख डलर (बिद्यमान दरमा झण्डै वार्षिक ४० अर्ब रुपैया) नेपाललाई भुक्तानि गर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ ।

हुन त नेपाल र भारतले अफ्रिकि मुलुकहरुले निर्धारण गरेको दर नैं प्रयोग गर्नुपर्छ भन्ने छैन र दुइ घनिष्ठ छिमेकीहरु मिलेर अरु कुनै दर पनि निर्धारण गर्न सक्नेछन् । तर नेपालको हकलाग्ने पानी भारतले निशुल्क उपभोग गर्न मिल्दैन । साथै यो पनि स्मरणिय छ कि, नेपालले प्राप्त गर्ने यो रकम बगेको पानी बापत होइन । नेपालको भूभाग डुबान तथा स्थानिय बासिन्दा बिस्थापन व्यहोर्ने गरेर पानी भण्डारण गरेबापतको हो ।

पानीको बिद्यमान उपभोग्य उपयोग
तर कतिपय नेपालका जलश्रोतबिज्ञहरुले महाकाली सन्धीमा पानीको बिद्यमान उपभोग्य उपयोगमा प्रतिकूल प्रभाव नपर्ने गरेर दुइ देशहरुको पानीमा आधा हक लाग्ने उल्लेख गरेकोेले भारतले बिद्यमान अवस्थामा ३ सय २६ क्युमेक पानी उपभोग गरिराखेकोले ५ सय ८२ क्युमेकबाट यो परिमाण कटाएर बांकी २ सय ५६ क्युमेकको आधा, अर्थात १ सय २८ क्युमेकमा मात्र नेपालको हक लाग्छ (यो भनाइ भारतीय नागरिकहरुबाट आफ्नो मुलुकको हितमा आउंदा आश्चर्यजनक हुंदैनथ्यो, तर नेपाल आमाको सन्तानले पनि यस्तो भनेको सुन्दा स्तम्भित हुने अवस्था छ) ।

त्यो पनि जलाशय नबनेको यथास्थितिको अवस्थामा यो भनाई युक्तिसंगत मान्न सकिन्छ, जब वर्षातमा बाढीले आक्रांत पार्छ र सुक्खायाममा खडेरीले । तर डुबान र बिस्थापनको लागत व्यहोरेर निर्माण गरिने जलाशयबाट उत्पादित पानीको हकमा यो कुरा लागू हुन्न । नेपालमा डुबानबाट खेतीयोग्य जमिन, वनजंगलबाट प्राप्त हुने लाभबाट नेपाल बंचित भएर तथा बिस्थापित स्थानिय बासिन्दालाई पुनर्वास गरेर सुक्खायाममा उत्पादन हुने थप÷नियन्त्रित पानीबाट नेपाललाई लाभान्वित हुनबाट बंचित पार्न मिल्दैन । हानी जति नेपाललाई र लाभ जति भारतलाई निशुल्क भन्ने जमाना अब छैन ।

नेपाललाई पानी आवश्क छैन
केहि नेपालीहरु र धेरै भारतीयहरुले नेपालको हक लाग्ने २ सय ८६.७५ क्युमेक पानी नेपाललाई आवश्यक छैन र भारतसंग भुक्तानि मागेर अनावश्यक खिचोला गर्नहुन्न भन्ने गरेको सुनिन्छ । माथि उल्लेख गरे झैं भारतीयहरुले यसो भन्नु स्वाभाविकै हो भने नेपालीहरुले यो कुराको सुगा रटान गर्नु नेपालको स्वार्थ बिपरित छ । यदि भारतले नेपालको हकको पानी निशुल्क लैजाने हो भने नेपालले किन बढी डुबान र बिस्थापन भोग्ने भन्ने प्रश्न खडा हुन्छ र नेपालको आवश्यकता पूर्ति हुने हिसाबले मात्र बाँधको उचाइ रहने गरेर आयोजना निर्माण गरिनुपर्ने हुन्छ । अर्थात नेपाललाई ४.२५ क्युमेक पानी मात्र पाउने अधिकार छ भन्ने हो भने सुक्खायममा जम्मा साँढे ८ क्युमेक पानी मात्र उत्पादन हुने र नेपाल र भारतले आधा आधा पानी उपयोग गर्ने गरेर जलाशय निर्माण गर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ ।

वैकल्पिक उपाय
माथि उल्लेख गरिए झैं नेपालको आफ्नो हकलाग्ने पानी भारतले उपयोग गरेबापत भारतले भुक्तानि नदिने हो भने शारदा बाँध निर्माणार्थ सन् १९२० मा सम्पन्न सन्धी अनुसार नेपालको डुबानमा पर्ने भूभागको सोधभर्ना भारतले आफ्नो भूभागबाट दिए जस्तै पञ्चेश्वर आयोजनामा डुबानमा पर्ने नेपालको जमिनको भारतले आफ्नो भूभागबाट सोधभर्ना नेपाललाई दिनुपर्ने हुन्छ । शारदा बाँधमा नेपालको ४ हजार एकड जमिन डुबानमा परेकोमा भारतले भारतीय भूमिबाट क्षतिपूर्ति दिएको थियो ।

सम्भावना र चुनौति
निश्चय नैं पञ्चेश्वर आयोजना निर्माण सम्पन्न भएपछि महाकाली नदी यमुना नदीसंग जोड्दा भारतको उत्तराखण्डको केहि दक्षिणि भेग, उत्तरप्रदेशको पश्चिमि भेग र राजधानी दिल्लीको खानेपानी लगायतको समस्या समाधान हुन्छ । तर पञ्चेश्वर आयोजना निर्माणपूर्व महाकालीको बाढी र खडेरीमात्र दिल्ली सम्म पु¥याउने काम हुन्छ ।

यसर्थ नेपालले डुबान र बिस्थापन लगायतका दुष्प्रभाव व्यहोरेर भारतलाई थप÷नियन्त्रित पानी उपलब्ध गराउन नेपाललाई सहमत गराउन भारतले नेपालमा पर्ने दुष्प्रभावको सोधभर्ना र भारतले नेपालको हकलाग्ने पानी उपयोग गरे बापत नेपाललाई भुक्तानि दिन भारत सहमत हनुपर्ने ठूलो चुनौति उपस्थित छ, जसको अभावमा दिल्लीका बासिन्दाले महाकालीको पानी उपभोग गर्न पाउने अवस्था छैन । बरु यथास्थितिमा महाकालीलाई यमुनासंग जोड्दा सुक्खायामको तिर्खा मेटिंदैन भने वर्षातमा बाढीको दोहरो (यमुनाको बाढीमा महाकालीको बाढी थप्दा हुने) विभिषिकाको चपेटामा भारतको राजधानी दिल्ली समेत पर्नेछ ।

२०७१ पौष २ गतेको अन्नपूर्ण पोष्टमा प्रकाशित
Ratna Sansar Shrestha

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cooperation in Water Resources in SAARC: Potential and Challenges

As water from Nepal’s all rivers flow into Ganga in India and eventually into Bay of Bengal via Bangladesh, where she is known as Padma, Nepal is directly connected with these two SAARC member countries from the perspective of water resources. However, electricity generated from rivers of Nepal can be traded with remaining SAARC member countries, including with China.

Nepal’s contribution in River Ganga/Padma
Nepal’s rivers are important both to India and Bangladesh, which contribute 40% of annual average flow and 70% in dry season. Maybe for this very reason Nepal is renown as “rich” in water. However, only 25% of the population has access to tapped-water, who receive water for couple of hours once every 10-12 days. For the remaining people, Nepal being called rich in water is an insult. India and Bangladesh also face similar problem.
Actually Nepal isn’t rich in water; rather the countries on Ganga basin are mired in the vicious cycle of flood and drought. The rivers are flooded every monsoon (about 4 months) which causes loss of life, infrastructure and property costing hundreds of billion and hundreds of billion will be required for rehabilitation and resettlement. The region suffers drought like situation rest of the year.
During monsoon itself, there are areas where water scarcity rages due to monsoon failure. Similarly, people also suffer from, heavy monsoon or untimely (early/delayed) monsoon. In this backdrop, it is but natural for the people of this region to be “starved” of clean/potable water.
Bangladesh faces additional problems with receding flow in Padma: it has become difficult for inland navigation due to collection of sand and agricultural land is becoming uncultivable by invasion of saline water from Bay of Bengal.
Moreover, all SAARC member countries are “in the same boat” with respect to severe shortage of hydropower. Both India and Bangladesh are eager to import from Nepal, but Nepal herself is suffering from electricity crisis and hoping to import from India.

Reservoir to Mitigate
Various water related problems of Nepal, Bangladesh and India can be solved by building multipurpose projects like Koshi High Dam (3,300 MW), Sun Koshi High Dam (1,300 MW), Budhi Gandaki (1,200 MW), Upper Karnali (4,180 MW), Chisapani Karnali (10,800 MW) in Nepal and Pancheshwar (6,480 MW) at Nepal India border, etc. which will also generate high quality peaking power.

Flood Control
Flood control in downstream reaches in Nepal, India and Bangladesh is one of the most important positive externality of building reservoir projects in Nepal, due to which these countries will neither suffer damage of life, property and infrastructure and nor will have to spend on resettlement and rehabilitation.

Lean Season Augmented Flow
Another positive externality that accrues from reservoir project is lean season augmented flow; water stored in such reservoirs would be released during dry season for electricity generation, which will augment the flow in the respective rivers during dry season. Run of river (RoR) projects generate full capacity electricity during wet season and less than one-third of the installed capacity in the dry season, such that substantial part of the energy generated gets spilled for lack of commensurate demand during wet season while lower generation in dry season results in energy crisis. Whereas reservoir projects generate peaking power which is an important positive externality, requiring to spill no energy. Besides, peaking power fetches substantially higher tariff compared to from RoR, leading to energy security.
Countries on Ganga River basin are suffering from lack of clean/potable water for drinking and sanitation, resulting in sickness and absenteeism from work, entailing costly medical treatment; even untimely deaths. Ground water is used in most of the plains of these countries where high arsenic content is playing havoc with health. According to medical practitioners, country’s cost of medical treatment can be halved by the use of clean/potable water. Reservoirs will provide adequate amount of clean/potable water, helping attain water security. Besides, according to a study based on satellite data and published online in Nature today “the heartland of last century's Green Revolution lost 109 cubic kilometres of water from its Indus River plain aquifer between August 2002 and October 2008.” Constant flow of about same quantum of water in the rivers will improve watershed of the river basin and underground aquifers will also get recharged.
This region is dependent on monsoon rain for cultivation and, therefore, only one crop gets planted every year mostly (in some places groundwater is pumped up to cultivate in dry season, which is financially and economically costly). Lean season augmented flow will provide irrigation facility and multiple cropping (3 to 4 crops/year) will become possible, leading to food security and also help fishery and animal husbandry, thereby making nutritious food available cost effectively.
Inland navigation is almost nonexistent in Nepal due to flood and drought syndrome and lack of large water bodies; except in the reservoir of Kali Gandaki A project. But inland navigation becomes possible in both the reservoir and also in the downstream reaches including in India and Bangladesh such that steamers from Nepal can travel all the way through to Bay of Bengal and even into high seas – another positive externality. What is important is the fact that cost of fuel of water transportation is cheaper by more than 80% compared to surface transportation.

International Trade of Power
Hydropower is both clean and renewable and it can also be produced and switched off at a moment’s notice, which isn’t possible in the case of energy generated from other sources including nuclear. Therefore, peaking power is valuable even from the perspective of energy mix.
In this context, Nepal can export hydropower to meet peak load in the neighbouring countries and import energy generated from other sources when cheap energy is available. From this perspective, it is an achievement that SAARC Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation was signed during 18th SAARC Summit on 27th November 2014 in Kathmandu. In the absence of such an agreement monopsony situation obtained in the power market between Nepal and India, latter being the single importer of electricity and former “captive” supplier. This agreement will free Nepal from the compulsion of exporting electricity solely to India. However, the age old cliché of “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” can go through litmus test if India would actually allow Nepal to export electricity to, for example, Bangladesh, through Indian transmission network.

Potential and Challenge
As discussed above, there are potentials aplenty for these three countries to benefit from multidimensional uses of water. But extraordinary challenges exist and the countries need to face these concertedly.
Koshi and Gandaki treaties were signed and Koshi and Gandai projects were built in Bhimnagar and Bhaisalotan respectively in 1950s. During that time moon was promised to people of Nepal but nothing materialized in last 5 decades. Nepal suffers from inundation and involuntary displacement (the negative externalities) due to these projects, while India is reaping benefit from flood control and of irrigation (the positive externalities) solely. It will not be possible to replicate this modality anymore.
Proper economic assessment of benefits from flood control and multidimensional uses of lean season augmented flow like water security, food security, navigation, watershed improvement and cost of negative externalities of submergence and involuntary displacement will have to be made and the country suffering from negative externalities will have to be recompensed by the countries benefitting from positive externalities. These countries can emulate Columbia Treaty between Canada and US or Treaty on Lesotho Highlands Waters Project between Lesotho and South Africa.

Sapta Koshi High Dam
For example if high dam is built on Koshi river, 13 billion cubic meter water can be stored but will inundate 196 square kilometer of Nepal’s cultivable land and forest, thereby submerging one airport, some road, 19 bridges and also displacement of about 100,000 people. This project can generate 3,300 MW power and will control flood in both India and Bangladesh and will provide water to irrigate 1 million hectares of land there.
It is estimated to cost $2 billion and will require $500 million equity, which can be contributed by these three countries and $1.5 billion debt. The electricity generated can be traded in SAARC region at international commercial rate and the equity holders can share dividend in proportion to their equity investment.
By using the formula enshrined in Lesotho treaty, India and Bangladesh will have to recompense GoN by $300 million/year for the positive externalities that will accrue to these countries and negative externalities that Nepal will suffer. However, the rate and amount of recompense can be fixed by negotiation and there is no need to exactly copy the practices of other countries. Moreover, as Nepal would be helping generate/provide lean season augmented flow to both India and Bangladesh, it will be a pre-condition for building these projects to afford inland navigation to landlocked Nepal with access to open sea.

Guarantee of Cooperation
Currently, India is showing inclination to build projects in Nepal in the lines of Koshi and Gandaki projects, neither providing recompense for negative externalities to Nepal, nor sharing positive externalities with Nepal, but giving some “free” electricity. However, this modus operandi isn’t acceptable to Nepali people anymore. Recompense has to be provided for negative externalities and sharing positive externalities based on internationally accepted principles is sine qua non.

Published in People’s Review of 4th December, 2014.