Sun-Kosi Diversion Storage Project is the most important project for irrigation in Eastern Terai. This project is the only best hope for resolving the worsening food grains shortage problems of Nepal.

April 18, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 07 No. -20 April 18- 2014 (Baishakh 5, 2071)

At present  our government appears to be preparing to implement the Buri Gandaki storage project to resolve our power shortage problem in near future  totally ignoring the vast downstream  benefit accruing from the use of regulated water, which would be  on a par with the power benefit.  Obviously, such decision  would  be detrimental to our national interest.

In selection of storage type hydropower projects  in near future our first priority  should undoubtedly be the implementation of  the Sun-Kosi diversion storage project ( dam site at Kurule), which is a project long since recommended by  FAO/UNDP study.  Apart from generation of abundant cheap  firm energy, the proposed Sun-Kosi  project would be providing sufficient regulated water  to irrigate year round vast area of lands between Parsa district  and  the  Kosi river.  The Sun-Kosi storage project is also expected to play a vital role in controlling to a considerable extent the Kosi floods, thus saving the life and property of innumerable people living in Sunsari, Morang and Saptari districts. Unfortunately there is almost a complete lack  of awareness how important this project is to people in Eastern Terai.

Recovery of Irrigation Benefit

Irrigation benefit to accrue from our storage projects can not be considered  subsidiary to  power benefit. In some cases irrigation benefit  can far exceed the power benefit. According to detailed feasibility study of the Kankai storage dam project carried out by GTZ of then West German Government in 1980 the  annual net  power benefit was  US $ 7.244 million , whereas the annual net irrigation benefit was found to be as high as US $ 31.486 million.

Our country does not need regulated water from the Buri Gandaki storage project  for irrigation in Nepalese territory. Nepal must hold negotiations with India to reach agreement on recovery of downstream benefit before taking any decision  on implementation of the  Buri Gandaki storage project.  This type of arrangement to recover downstream benefit has been made between Canada and the USA. Canada recovers 50% of the net downstream benefit accruing to the USA from the use of regulated flow released from the storage dams after power generation in Canada.   Even the Africa’s most backward  landlocked country  the Kingdom of Lesotho surrounded on all sides by South Africa is receiving 56% of the net benefit accruing to South Africa from the use of regulated water flowing  from the storage dams built in Lesotho.  

Some years back the  Bajpee government of India had constituted a high level  commission  to recommend Indian government about the royalty to be paid  to Nepal for regulated flows to be made available to India.  Unfortunately our policy makers are not yet seen taking any interest on this extremely vital issue for our country.

Why the Sun-Kosi Project before Kosi Project

Sun-Kosi Diversion Storage Project is the most important project for irrigation in Eastern Terai. This project is the only best hope for resolving  the worsening food grains shortage problems of Nepal. It is truly a life line project for our country. Nepal under no circumstances  can sacrifice this project.

During the first official visit of our then prime-minister G.P. Koirala to Jndia it was agreed to conduct detailed feasibility study of mega Kosi high dam project.  On our insistence it was decided later on to include the detailed feasibility study of Sun-Kosi storage project and also the Kosi Canal Waterway Project for the following reasons.

Sun-Kosi storage dam project, if built first,  does not preclude later on the construction of the Kosi storage project. But the Kosi storage dam project, if built first, would  preclude for ever the construction  of the Sun-Kosi Diversion storage project.

The proposed Kosi storage reservoir would not be sufficiently large to fully regulate the Kosi high floods. There will be significantly big releases  of clear water during high floods from the Kosi storage reservoir, which would result to severe erosion of coarse materials just downstream of the dam where the bed slope of the Kosi river is quite steep. The eroded bed material would  be deposited on river bed further downstream in India where the bed slope is mild   resulting to acute problem of flooding in surrounding areas. This type of problem will not arise after the construction of only the Sun-Kosi storage project. Nonetheless, the Sun-Kosi storage dam alone  would be  solving  to a considerable extent the Kosi flood problems for quite a long period.  In view of the urgency to find quick  solution to Kosi flood problem the best way is indeed the implementation of the Sun-Kosi storage dam project. Needless to explain that the implementation of giant Kosi dam project, which would be world’s one of the biggest project,  would take a very long  time thus people would be denied protection against the deluge for a very long time.

Boulder Dam of the USA

A serious degradation phenomenon was observed in Boulder dam of the USA. Clear water flowing from the Boulder reservoir caused severe degradation  of  river bed  downstream of the dam. Within six months of the closure of the river diversion gates in 1935 the bed was lowered by from 2 to 6 feet  over a distance of 13 miles.  By 1947 the river bed  in the 77 mile canyon reach had been lowered between 6 and 14 feet.  Owing to the exposure of rock  ledges the river bed became stable.  However,  at Needles,  about 130 kilometers away downstream,  the river bed rose by 6 meters necessating the  construction of  very expensive  flood  control structures.

Nepal’s Absolute Right

The Clause 4 of the revised Kosi Treaty signed in 1966  guarantees Nepal’s absolute right to use the entire water of the Sun-Kosi and 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.

Foreign Assistance

In the past we could not get foreign financial assistance from various donor agencies like the World Bank, ADB and others  needed to implement  multipurpose storage projects because we did not have water sharing agreement with India.  It is obvious that there would not be this type of hurdle in implementation of the Sun-Kosi storage project under the financial assistance of various international agencies.

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