Dr. Shastra Dutta Pant
Water Resource Analyst, Nepal
Nepal has many fold relations with India. The open border system, the presence of BSF (Border Security Forces), its influences upon Nepali politics and economy and mainly on Political Parties has created a critical situation for its survival and smooth economic growth. Nepal is now in more dangerous zone politically and economically because of its vast water resources.
Indian Eagle Eyes on Nepal’s Water:
India has its eagle eyes upon the water reserves of Nepal. India is in great shortage of electricity and fresh water. As mentioned in the 12th periodic five year plan the electricity demand has increased by 9 percent annually. Over 400 million people of India have no access of electricity. There is shortage of electricity facility to 56 percent households of India i.e. 7 Crore 80 Lakh families. The per person annual electricity consumption in India is 600 units. It is one fourth of the average consumption of the people of world. India cannot achieve its 10 per cent economic growth- goal without having sufficient electricity. Presently the installed capacity of electricity of India is 132,000 MW. This is just one fourth of the installed capacity of China. China already has 622000 installed capacities. India had added
54 000 MW electricity in the foregone three periodic plan periods and is expecting to add 78577 MW. India is going to install atomic power plant to meet its growing demand of electricity. Only 26 percent of the installed capacity of power is hydroelectricity. India produces electricity 66 percent by the thermal/gas, 3 % by atomic, 5 % by other renewable things. India is in need of inter-country transmission lines of 400 KV. A concept of SAARC transmission line is raised by India. It is good for all countries of this region mainly good for India.
India is the third great economy country in Asia which is facing the shortage of 73 Arab and 5 crore units of electricity.
Nationalism vs. Individualism:
A strong nationalistic flavor between the years 1963- 1990 Nepal stopped selling water rights and water resources to aliens and started constructing itself. Among them the most important projects were the Karnali, the Arun-3, and the Kankai high dam producing over 2000 MW and would have completed by 1985. It is the Nepali parties mainly NC and CPN-UML and their water pundits (then banned and in underground shelter) performed the protest activities in favor of India. Because of that Nepal is in a critical load shedding state almost in dark and the electricity tariff is more expensive than it had to be. Everyone should realize that all the major rivers such as the Koshi, the Gandaki and the Mahakali were sold through damaging agreements instead of harnessing it. Same projects after hurdling of 3 decades at present those parties when they are in government have handed over the projects to India owned companies. Along with the end of the “Panchayati democracy,” a new trend got underway entailing Nepal to surrender rivers to private sectors. India after the Mahakali agreement opposition experience, with hot and bitter criticism, has come into Nepal wearing a different type of dressing. Now the multi- party government in the name of export oriented projects has handed over those projects one after another to India and Indian companies putting Nepal in dark; closing Nepali industries so that Indian duplicate cheap goods may easily penetrate into Nepal’s market. Examples of this new trend manifests in West Seti, Upper Karnali and Arun Ill projects. The BIPPA agreement 2011 further seals them.
National interest penetrates Alien interest:
Without spelling it out explicitly, Nepal’s right to water in these rivers have been ceded. In terms of downstream benefit in the case of reservoir projects is relatively easy to understand than the runoff river projects. The political party leaders refuse to understand the value of stored water. They only know that water flowing in rivers, for which no one will be willing to pay a price. For them, as GP Koirala several times expressed, is no more than ‘waste water”. Without adding spatial or temporal value to it, let us say ‘a waste’ but the West Seti project; for example, augments the dry season flow in the downstream areas in India is calculated by 90 m3/s, which is equivalent to 7.77 billion liters per day. In order to understand the value of such water one needs to know the expenses of Melamchi drinking water project of Rs 30 billion to bring 170 million liters per day into Kathmandu valley. Had West Seti project been conceptualized as a multipurpose project? Is not there any downstream benefit to India? Besides benefiting from flood control benefits during summer and to smooth irrigation during winter (dry season) how can India receive such stored water free of cost? The genuine question is why Nepal should inundate over 4,000 hectares of its land to build the reservoir? And as a result of Laxmanpur barrage why 30,000 people of Banke district have to be displaced over just to provide additional water to India during dry season free of cost ? Politicos and bureaucrats sermonize that Nepal is free to use such water while it flows within Nepal.
But without a multipurpose project being conceptualized for Nepal to use such water, India, after using the augmented flow during one season, will start asserting the principle of “existing prior consumptive use” and Nepal will lose the right over such bodies of water permanently. This principle has already been used in structuring Mahakali Treaty to the disadvantage of Nepal. This is one way of gifting precious fresh water produced by storing it in Nepal to India.
All Nepalis need to understand the history of Ethiopia, Africa. Ethiopia and Nepal are alike, both mountainous and rich in water resources. There are 70 ethnic groups in Ethiopia in which Aroma consist of 40 percent Amhara 25%, Tigre 12%, Guhare 4% whereas in Nepal none of the ethnic group consists more than 18 percent. There are 70 languages and over 200 dialects in Ethiopia. Because of ethnic and linguistic violence Ethiopia was divided into two nations. Eritrea became independent in 1992. The story of Ethiopian water is directly related with its politics. So is in Nepal. The anti-king group of Ethiopia used to stay in Sudan and Kenya to revolt against the kingship as Nepali groups in India. The King Helesilashi was removed in 1974. Since then the nation’s economics, security and law & order situation has been badly ruined. The domestic war is going on. The reasons behind it are the ‘Inclusiveness’ and the ‘federalism’. The present rulers during conflicts resided in alien countries and were fed by them. They had internal understanding regarding the use of fresh water. The Ethiopian water is now being used by the neighboring nations Sudan, Kenya and Somalia and Ethiopian farmers and general public are restricted to use it. They cannot build dams and power projects. They cannot irrigate their land and they cannot conduct project even for the drinking purposes. Because of the treaties, understandings the case in the UNO is also not heard. They cannot appeal in the International Court of Justice as well. Ethiopians have no right even to control soil erosion and protection of environments.
Like in Ethiopia Nepali leaders, mainly the three major parties also fought against Nepal having shelter in India. Now the fourth one is being fighting sheltering in India. Now, they are in government & power, cannot say ‘no’ anything that India proposes. Whatever they utter sometime against India is a drama to confuse the general public. Now Nepal’s water is being grabbed by India through several means by means of contracts, through agreements, through practice of uses and through the use of forces. If the situation remains as it is, Nepalis will only see water but cannot touch it. India has spoiled Nepal’s politics because of its fresh water interests. The congenial situation of ethnic violence Aadivashi, Janjati, Chuchche-buchche, Madeshbad and the demand of federalism are due to India and partly due to missionaries. The Loktantra, samabeshiprajatanra, atmanirnayako adhikar, jatiya swayattata, bhasik swayattata, bahunbad etc. (democracy inclusiveness, right to self decision, ethnic freedom, linguistic freedom, chase Aryans mainly Brahmins) are the outcome of the alien coined.
NC handed over Koshi, Gandaki and Mahakali was supported by CPN-UML as well. The MoU of 10 June 1990 is another dangerous handing over. Even Maoists are making drama and supporting India in the other ways. The BIPPA is the main gate opened by them. A communist, instead of nationalization, invites multinational companies what they frequently called samantbadi, expansionist. All these parties what so ever ideology they propagate, worked a lot in favor of India. They ruined the projects mainly, Karnali, Arun-3, Kankai high dam and the Sikta projects when Nepal was going to build itself. Because of the antinational activities of those parties Nepal is now in a critical load shedding and drinking water problems spoiling the industry sectors and day to day life of the people. There is no point that there is no chance for domestic war, issues of separatism are emerging. The parties do so just for some money to run their parties and get some scholarships for their children and kinsmen. If someone conducts a family research of the political party leaders it can be proven. It is no more different in Nepal now than that of the Eritrean Liberation Front in Ethiopia. The Georgian incidents are also similar to Nepal’s Tarai slogans and demand. The 1947 incident was repeated in Eritrea which is possible in Nepal’s Tarai. It is easy to divert people’s mind when the society is in the transitional stage, but harmful at the long run.
The myopic view:
The leaders take a myopic view of things and are ignoring what should be a supreme consideration in India’s dealings with its neighbors. The importance of the hydro power potential of Nepal is ignored. The hydro potential of Nepal is as significant to India as the oil resources of Iraq, Iran, Kenya and Saudi Arabia to America. India’s greater economic growth both in agriculture and industries depends on Nepal’s water. Like it or not, India’s policies towards Nepal must be considerably conditioned by this realization.
Neighbors grumble only:
The smaller neighbors grumble only but India exploits them and gains. Neighbors only refuse to be convinced. They do not think India alone can take a decision on natural resources of other countries.
India to these days appears active in the US$118 billion interlinking of the rivers project which was first mooted in 1982. It appears to have been inspired by China’s south-north water diversion $60 billion project. The project primarily expects to provide internal water security to the Indian people; remove water scarcity and water-induced disasters; bring into 35-37 million hectares of farmland under irrigation; generate 34 billion kilowatts of electricity; control floods in flood-prone states and enhance the country’s navigational efficiency.
A feasibility study has already been opposed by native environmentalists. They have been opposing the construction of large dams and embankments. Since, Indian constitution has made water a subject to be dealt with by individual states. However, the process of consultations is on the federal initiative. The central government is visibly slow. It seems no state government is ready to take up the project.
The project has two components; the first one includes 14 Himalayan river links coming from Nepal and Bhutan. The second component is to have 16 peninsular river links in India’s south. The Himalayan river links are the Ganges and Brahmaputra-fed component in which Nepal, the upper riparian country in the Ganges basin, is the major contributor. Similarly the lower riparian Bangladesh cannot be ignored. This ground reality does not permit India to ignore or bypass a neighbor which provides a perennial source of water from its snow-fed rivers and the uses of lower riparian nation as well. Indian diplomat Salman Haidar, former foreign secretary has admitted in an article published by The Statesman newspaper says “Nepal ... hence [is} a necessary partner in any large-scale water management plans.” Similarly, if the mighty Brahmaputra River is diverted to a west-bound canal before it reaches Bangladesh, she would face a worse scenario. The ecology of the entire area including that of the Sunderbans would be adversely affected and desertification would ensue. Bangladeshi minister for water resources, Mr. Hafiz Uddin Ahmad, after visiting Nepal says- “It is going to bring a calamity of unthinkable proportions. Water management is a question of life and death for Bangladesh; the economy of which is dependent on 54 major rivers flowing through it”. The great anxiety persists in Dhaka and Kathmandu how to play a crucial role. Tempering with the natural river systems can pose a danger to the region.
Published with permission from the author’s fresh book ‘Water Politics On Nepal’s Fresh Water’: Ed.