Sunkosi- Terai Project has been identified based on the detailed UNDP-FAO supported prefeasibility study as well as other subsequent studies to be the lifeline project for the whole country to combat against the widening gap between the rapidly growing demand and sluggish increase in production of the food grains. It has also been recognized as the most important project for the overall development of the entire Eastern Terai to the west of the Kosi.
Shockingly, it is no other but our own government instead of supporting the cause of the greater use of our water resources in our own country, is itself now going to ruin the potential of the Sunkosi River to irrigate the vast area of the Eastern Terai by allowing a private foreign company to implement the Dudhkosi Storage Hydropower Project that would be discharging a substantial proportion of the Sunkosi River flow far further downstream to a point out of the reach of the UNDP-FAO proposed Sunkosi-Terai Project tunnel intake. The irrigation area would thus be substantially reduced as a result of such extremely harmful government decision.
Revision of Treaty
Nepal had succeeded in 1966 to perform the herculean task to secure revision of the Kosi River Treaty signed several years earlier with India to open the door to full scale irrigation development in the Eastern Terai. Now, according to the revised Treaty India has fully recognized Nepal’s absolute right to implement the Sunkosi Project allowing to withdraw the entire flow of the Sunkosi River needed to irrigate the greater part of the Eastern Terai. The relevant text of the Kosi Treaty has been presented hereinafter:
“ Use of Water and Power- HMG shall have every 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 ( India) shall have the right to regulate all the balance of supplies in the Kosi River at the barrage site thus available from time to time and generate power in the Eastern Canal”
Everybody even slightly knowledgeable about our country’s water resources might have been stunned by the news published in the daily newspaper “Kantipur” on Shrawan 26, 2068 that our government is going to decide to invite an American company to implement the Dudhkosi Storage Project. Implementation of the Dudhkosi storage project would not only considerably limit the capacity of the proposed Sun-Kosi Project to irrigate the vast area of Nepal's Eastern Terai but at the same time would also preclude the viability of the Kosi High Dam Project considered indispensable for the safety of millions living in Nepal and India. It should be further explained that the viable Kosi Dam Project and the Lower Arun Project considered to be handed over to a foreign private company for implementation are also mutually exclusive. The Dudhkosi hydropower as well as the Lower Arun hydropower would be completely submerged into the Kosi reservoir if and when the Kosi dam project would be implemented.
Tamar Storage and Downstream Benefits
At present our government is interested to grant a private foreign company to build the Tamar Storage Project. We should bear in mind the dire consequences of such decision. The studies of the Kosi and its tributaries conducted since the time of the British rule in India help to come to the conclusion that our country as a whole in general and the local people in particular would certainly stand to gain even more from the large downstream benefits accruing as a result of flood control, irrigation and power generated by other hydropower stations built on the lower reaches of the river in future rather than the benefit accruing solely from the electricity generation of the Tamar Storage Project.
Disastrous Future Plans
It is a good sign that very recently the government is trying to show that it is hard on those who are responsible for the financial losses of the NEA. However, such simple actions alone would not be sufficient to pull through our water resources sector from the present extremely precarious situation. Apart from the bizarre case of wrong planning adversely affecting the Kosi and its tributaries projects, as described above, our government’s decisions to select the following other three storage projects also would be totally wrong and at the same time could be even disastrous.
West Seti Project- At present certain sector of the media and various local INGOs & NGOs are striking a chord with the government to implement the West Seti Project that will have a very cheap type of 195 meters high cfrd dam going to be the highest in the world among this type of dams built so far. Our government is totally ignoring the fact that in a recent article published in the INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF WATER POWER AND DAM CONSTRUCTION even the Chairman of the Seismic Aspect Committee of the ICOLD ( International Commission of Large Dams) Dr. Martin Wieland has clearly explained that this type of dam would be vulnerable in high seismic region like ours. Risk of building such dam in the seismic region has been pointed out in the World Bank supported Karnali (Chisapani) Project feasibility study report also.
Andhi Khola Storage Project - It has been clearly explained in the UNDP supported Gandak basin master plan study that this project was not favoured for implementation because the flooded valley is very large in area. The valley is intensively cultivated and also densely populated. Even in 1970s the population to be displaced was 22,000.
Upper Seti Storage Project - Two high dams had been considered for the development of the Upper Seti. The upstream Upper Seti Project would have a very large storage reservoir. The densely populated Madi Khola valley would be submerged. According to 1970s reporting about 18000 people would be displaced. The reservoir would flood 10 km stretch of the Pokhara-Kathmandu highway and also the Madi Khola bridge. The reconstructed highway would be 38 km long. This project was not favoured because of these environmental problems.
The downstream Upper Seti Project will only then be feasible if and when the upstream Upper Seti Storage Project would be implemented.
It is hoped that the government, parliamentary committees and also the civil society will not turn deaf ears to above described highly sensitive high dams related technical and environmental issues. Needles to say that the wrong decision on above described matters could be extremely disastrous for the whole country .