The Gandak River Treaty signed between Nepal and India in 1959 had totally curtailed our country’s right to use freely the water of rivers in Gandak basin within our territory except in three months of the monsoon season when all Gandak trib

Sept. 13, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 07 No.-07 Sept. 13 -2013 (Bhadra 28, 2070)

At  present  our public is completely misled about the Kosi Treaty.  Similarly our people are mislead about the vast opportunity for the  development of our country within relatively a  short period if  we succeeded in  taking right decisions  on implementation of the projects in Kosi basin.

The Gandak River Treaty signed between Nepal and India in 1959  had  totally curtailed our country’s  right  to use freely the water of  rivers in Gandak basin  within our territory  except  in three months of the monsoon season when  all Gandak tributaries are in full spate.  There was a widespread condemnation of that  Treaty within  Nepal.   Few years  later our  country  started  serious negotiations with India to  revise the Gandak and Kosi treaties.   

The 1966 Revision of Kosi Treaty

Unfortunately very few know about the  revision  of  Gandak  and Kosi  treaties.   The  Gandak Treaty was revised in 1964.  After this revision the restriction imposed on use of Gandak water in Nepalese territory  has been considerably relaxed.   Next,   our then government succeeded in  securing   the revision  of the Kosi Treaty.  The 1966 revised  Kosi Treaty is  a landmark treaty  entitling Nepal absolute  right to use  the entire water of the Kosi   in whatever way  Nepal pleases.   Thus, India has without any reservation recognized  Nepal’s  absolute  right to use the entire water of the Kosi and its tributaries.  Surprisingly,  there is still a hangover of the bad feeling among most of Nepalese from  the 1959 Gandak Treaty biased  against  Nepal’s  legitimate right.  Still,  people  suspect foul-play in  Kosi  Treaty.

Indian Recognition of Nepal’s Absolute Right

The Clause 4 of the revised Kosi Treaty guarantees  Nepal’s absolute right to use the entire water of the Kosi:  

Clause4 - 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 to generate power in the Eastern Canal.

Thus the revised treaty allows Nepal to draw for irrigation or any other purposes  the entire flow of the Kosi even to the extent of drying up the river and virtually to cut off totally the  water supply  to the existing Kosi barrage and also  to any other barrages to be built in India in future.  It should be remembered that Nepal would  have  to use  for irrigation  in Eastern Terai  the  entire  dry season flow of  the Kosi, which is about 300 cumecs,  if multipurpose storage dams  are not built to augment the dry  season  discharge.

Doctrine of Absolute Right

India had been pursuing the doctrine of absolute right to water of the upstream country since the independence from the British Empire.  India’s claim on Jangipur barrage and the West Bari Canal drawing water from the Sutlez river for irrigation in Pakistan on the grounds that India is upper riparian country had  triggered the Indus river dispute.  The dispute had been  referred  to UN Security Council. Similarly,  India had denounced  the Barcelona Convention in order to construct the Farakka barrage  for diverting  the Ganges, which is a navigable river, from flowing into then East Pakistan.  India’s had then been following water right policy favourable  to  both our countries, which must have had bearing on the 1966 amendment of the Kosi Treaty.

Change from 99 Years to 199 Years

The validity of the revised Kosi Treaty has been amended to 199 years from the previous 99 years.    It is quite obvious  that  this  amendment serves solely  Nepal’s  interest.   The amended  Kosi  Treaty   would  allow  our country enough time   even  if our  country  would have  to follow time-consuming path to implement  on our own  various projects in the Kosi basin to utilize the entire dry season flow of the Kosi for irrigation exclusively in  Nepal  in   the event  the governments of  Nepal and India failed  to reach an  agreement on development of  very large multipurpose projects benefiting both Nepal and India.  Strangely some of our water experts  still  consider that it was a mistake to amend the treaty to 199 years.   They even  blame King Mahendra  for the  amendment  of  the validity of the treaty to  199  years.   They  allege that  the  validity of the treaty was amended under Indian pressure.

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