Nepali Ignorant of Its Water Resources Potential: Cause of Present Energy crisis

The  implementation   of  a large storage type hydro project solely to meet  our  own  demand for power  can  not be  justified   prior   to reaching   an agreement 

Nov. 11, 2012, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 06 No.-10 Nov. 09-2012 (Kartik 24, 2069)

Nepal’s  planners,  policy makers   and  intelligentsia are terribly mistaken to  consider that the benefit to accrue from our major water resources storage projects is  mostly   electricity generation,  whereas  the irrigation benefit could  be ignored.  They seemed  to be completely  unaware  of  the vast studies of our water resources projects  carried out  in  the  past.   The  past detailed feasibility studies have clearly  established that the irrigation benefit to accrue  to our country from  large storage type projects not  only  would  be comparable  but  it  could  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 the grant assistance  of then West German Government  in 1980 the annual benefit to accrue  from hydropower generation is only   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.

Economic Significance of Water Export

Our country in recent years is  kept in complete ignorance of  the vast opportunities to  produce abundant electricity far more than what we would be able to consume in foreseeable near future  at  relatively small capital investment  or even almost free of cost, just like the way the Canada did in implementation of the Columbia hydropower projects,  or  the Kingdom of Lesotho has also done in implementation of the Lesotho Highland projects.   The  Kingdom of Lesotho,   despite being one of the most backward countries  of the Africa  in socio-political awareness,  has  succeeded in building  hydropower project free of cost, along with  receiving  in perpetuity  annual royalty by using the proceeds of  the sale of the regulated water supplied to the South Africa.

Market for Water Export

Except for the Sun-Kosi, Kankai and Bhalubang (West Rapti) storage projects, the  irrigation  potential of all  other  big  storage projects, like the Karnali, Kosi, West Seti Projects,  are too  large   to be exploited wholly within our own country.  Thus  the possibility of water export  must be explored to maximize benefits accruing to our country from such large storage type projects.


There is a  ready market for export of  water to India.   According to  the current international practices the  amount  due to the water exporting country  is  paid  in terms of a certain reasonable percentage of  benefits accruing to the water importing country.  This type of benefit  is called  the downstream benefit. At present Canada is receiving 50% of  the net downstream  benefit from the USA. Similarly the Kingdom of Lesotho is receiving 56% of the net downstream benefit  from the South Africa.

India Ready to Buy

Nepal’s long years of persistent efforts to recover its share of downstream benefits has  already produced  concrete  results.  Few years back the  Bajpai Government had  constituted a high level commission  to  recommend  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 extremely vital  for bolstering the   economy  of  our country  and also to provide our people   cheap electricity in abundance.  Needless  to explain that the implementation of any of  the storage projects like the West Seti or the  Budhi-Gandaki  project  without reaching an agreement with  India about the sale of regulated water would   deprive for  ever our country  the opportunity to  obtain in perpetuity huge sums in annual revenues. 

Sun-Kosi Project to take Priority

The  implementation   of  a large storage type hydro project solely to meet  our  own  demand for power  can  not be  justified   prior   to reaching   an agreement  to recover a certain reasonable percentage of downstream benefits accruing to India if the irrigation potential of such project  is too large to be fully exploited within our own country.   However, Government could  now  select a   project  such as the Sun-Kosi diversion storage project or the West Rapti (Bhalubang) storage project, which are  comparable to the West Seti Project in size, to meet our  demands  for power in near future.   In addition to power, those two projects  would have provided    enormously large irrigation and flood control benefits within Nepal  itself.

Suicidal Decision

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 related private as well as public institutions  have raised their voice 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 Birjung 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, together with  high sediment flow of the Sapta-Kosi River.

In Conclusion

By now Nepal would have been able to accelerate industrial development across the  whole  country primarily  based on  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, which are based on detailed  feasibility studies.    It is a great misfortunate  that our recent governments instead of capitalizing upon the comparative advantages of our water resources projects  are going ahead  to kill  even those  most attractive  water resources  projects that could play great role in   our country’s  quick economic development in general and in providing  abundant cheap electricity in particular.  There is an acute urgency  that the  full attention of the entire  civil  society,  INGOs  and government  organizations  be drawn  to  save our water resources from being devastated.                                                                                                          








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