Irrigation Benefit Of Power Projects

Except for Sun Kosi, Kankai and Bhalubang (West Rapti) storage projects, the  irrigation potential of other very large storage projects, like the Karnali, Kosi, West Seti Projects,  are too  great   to be exploited wholly wit

Sept. 30, 2012, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 06 No.-08 Sept. 28-2012 (Ashoj 12, 2069)

Recently the government, perhaps in ignorance, took decisions on the implementation of major water resource projects with far reaching, adverse, consequences. The civil society show its concern and step in to prevent the plundering of the water resources.

The people have been kept  in complete ignorance of the vast opportunities to produce abundant electricity, far more than what we would be able to consume in the foreseeable future with a relatively small capital investment or even almost free of cost, just like the way Canada did in the implementation of the Columbia hydropower projects. Even the Kingdom of Lesotho has done a similar work in the implementation of the Lesotho Highland projects.

Studies: By now Nepal would have been able to accelerate its industrial development across the country, primarily based on extremely cheap  electricity produced by taking the comparative  advantage  of  the vast hydropower potential  of our water resources,  if we had truly abided by the recommendations of the World Bank, FAO/UNDP, JAICA, GTZ etc. The recommendations were based on detailed  feasibility studies carried out with enormous investments. But it is a great misfortune that our recent governments, instead of capitalizing on the comparative advantages of our water resources, are going ahead  to kill  even the most important and sensitive projects that are crucial for our country’s  quick economic development. There is an acute urgency  that the full attention of the entire  civil  community,  social and government  organizations  be drawn  to  avert  the dire consequences  of  the government’s mishandlings  in order to  save our water resources from being devastated.

Nepal’s planners and policy makers are mistaken to consider that the benefit to accrue from our major water resources storage projects is mostly electricity generation and  the irrigation benefit could  be ignored.  They seemed to be completely ignorant  about the vast studies of our water resources projects  carried out  in  the  past.  The  detailed feasibility studies have clearly  established that the irrigation benefit to accrue actually to our country from  large storage type projects would not  just be comparable  but  it would  even be far exceeding  the power benefit. Let us take the case of the Kankai Storage Dam Project.  According to the detailed feasibility study carried out under then West German Government assistance in 1980 the annual benefit to accrue  from hydropower generation is only about  US $ 7.24  million  whereas the annual irrigation benefit was found to  be  US $ 31.46  million. The actual net irrigation benefit to accrue  from other large multipurpose projects like the West Seti Project, Karnali(Chisapani) Project etc too are comparable to their power benefit.

Except for Sun Kosi, Kankai and Bhalubang (West Rapti) storage projects, the  irrigation potential of other very large storage projects, like the Karnali, Kosi, West Seti Projects,  are too  great   to be exploited wholly within our own country. Fortunately there is a good market for export of water to India. There is already an international practice to recover the value of exported water in terms of certain percentage on share of the benefits accruing to the water importing country.  This type of benefit is called  the downstream benefit.

Nepal’s long years of persistent efforts to recover its share of downstream benefits has  already produced  concrete  results.  A few years back the Atal Bihari Bajpayee Government had constituted a high level commission to  recommend  to the Indian Government  suitable ways   to  pay royalty to Nepal for  regulated water flowing across  the border into  India.  Unfortunately our recent governments  are deliberately  shutting their eyes to this issue which is extremely vital  for the swift  economic  upturn of  our country  and also to provide people of our country very cheap electricity in abundance.

Sun Kosi: The  necessity   of  a large storage type project to meet  our  own  growing demand for power,  as said in some quarters,  cannot be the justification to implement  these  projects  without making proper arrangements to recover a certain percentage on downstream benefits accruing to India if the irrigation potential of such projects  is too large to be fully exploited within our own country.  There are other good alternatives.  The government could now select a far more preferable project  such as the Sun-Kosi diversion storage project or the West Rapti (Bhalubang) project, which are  comparable to the West Seti Project in size, to meet our future demands  for power. In addition to power, those two projects  would have provided    enormously large irrigation and flood control benefits within Nepal  itself. 

Apart  from irrigating about 300,000 hectares of Eastern Terai, the Sun-Kosi project would have  greatly  helped to minimize  the  risks   to  life and property of tens of thousands of people living in Sunsari and Morang districts.  Similarly the West Rapti project would have provided year round irrigation over vast areas extending from the Gandak river to the further corner  of Banke district. 

Terai Politics. It is quite shocking that, very recently, the Ministry of Water Resources has decided to implement the Dudh-Kosi Storage Project that would considerably limit the area of the lands to be irrigated by the Sun-Kosi Project in Nepal.   Unfortunately none of our water resources institutions, neither private nor public, raised their voices against  this  government decision.   Even  our main political parties and  also  the Terai  based  political parties, claiming to represent the interest of the Terai, are not at all seen to worry  over such dreadful decision to ruin the irrigation prospect of  the Eastern Terai.   Apart from generation of cheap electricity  and irrigation of  almost the whole of Eastern Terai from Birgunj to Sapta-Kosi,  the  Sun-Kosi Project  could be helping to save the life and properties of tens of thousands of people living in Sunsari, Morang and  Saptari districts by controlling the maximum discharge and the high sediment flow of the Sapta-Kosi River.

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