For purposes ranging from drinking to irrigation and hydro-power production, Nepal needs water in different spheres of life. A planning and regulatory authority for integrated and sustainable use of water will be a good thing to have. The Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) can be just that.
WECS, at the moment, however, looks like a toothless agency having no mandatory authority in the process of implementation of water related issues.
The Commission was established in 1975 by the Government of Nepal with a cabinet decision as an apex body to work for the promotion and development of water resources and energy sector of Nepal in a sustainable, integrated and optimal manner from a holistic perspective both in natural state and in balancing the competing demands on various aspects of water utilization and energy consumptions.
“A permanent secretariat of WEC was established in 1981 in the form of Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS). The objectives and mandates of WECS have been envisaged as to include primarily the responsibilities like to formulate necessary policies, strategies and planning of projects with long term vision, conducting study, research, survey and analysis on various aspects of water resources and energy development in keeping with the priorities and targets Government of Nepal, to enact the necessary laws pertaining to the development of water resources and energy, to establish coordination among national and sectoral policies relating to water resources and energy sector, to render opinion, advice and recommendations on bilateral and multilateral issues relating to water resources and energy, to act as a documentation center for all regional water resources and energy related researches and studies etc,” said Shyam Prasad Mainali, secretary of WECS.
Water Resources Strategy and National Water Plan have mandated WECS as Central Regulatory Body and have imparted the authority to provide techno-economic clearance for various major water related projects including multipurpose projects/projects with inter-basin transfer/trans-boundary implications. However, this authority is yet to be supported by legal instruments for effective implementation.
“Formally, WECS is recognized as an apex body to deal with water related issues but it has not been given any legal rights to execute the decision. Having such a pool of experts and institutional capability, WECS is now just recommendatory agency having no legal rights,” said Shishir Koirala, divisional engineer of WECS. “Our experiences have shown that without defining WECS role by law with mandatory rights, I don’t think we will be able to make our visible presence.”
WECS has been playing advisory role in the whole decision making related to water resources. The institution has already conducted numbers of studies on water related areas but they are yet to become of much use. WECS has well established documentation center with over 5000 books, research/study reports and many technical journals. This documentation centre has developed itself into a leading reference library in the field of water and energy sector in Nepal.
Former executive secretary and currently secretary to Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation Kishore Thapa holds similar views. “As the country is going into a federal structure from a unitary state, the role of WECS will be much more important,” said Thapa. “WECS can play a vital role in the water and energy sector of Nepal. WECS’s expertise on river basin planning management, modeling of water use and allocation and multipurpose project is important.”
“As long as WECS is not made mandatory institution giving certain legal authority, I don’t think we can make any differences. In the coming days, when Nepal has to face many challenges in the context of utilization of water in integrated manner, a stronger and more powerful organization like WECS will be needed,” said Koirala.
WECS was entrusted as the coordinator of the task force to formulate Twenty Year Hydro-electricity Development Plan. During the study, it was found that if we honestly work hard, the country can generate 1815 MW of electricity by the year 2014 out of which 1645MW will be available for domestic consumption and the rest for export. The next five years will be crucial for the energy sector of the country.
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“WECS with its expertise on water and energy can play and is playing a pivotal role in the water and energy sector of Nepal. It can provide technical support on resettlement and rehabilitation programs in hydro-electric projects, water optimization in river basins and resolution of the conflict between different competing uses of water. No other institution in the country can provide a holistic overview of the water sector of Nepal than WECS. On the energy side, WECS is developing its capability in strategic planning of the energy sector, energy efficiency, demand side management and optimization of different sources of energy,” said secretary Mainali.