Nepal

NEPAL DRP Overview 2019

RIVERS

China not to alter course of rivers flowing into Nepal China has agreed not to deliberately change or cause to change the course of any trans-boundary rivers flowing into Nepal. This comes under an Agreement on the Boundary Management System reached with Nepal during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Kathmandu in October 2019. All the major rivers including the Karnali, Kali Gandaki, Budhi Gandaki, Trishuli, Sunkoshi, Bhotekoshi, Tamakoshi and Arun originate in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China. Nepal as well as the northern part of India could be seriously affected if any dams or diversion projects are built in upper riparian Tibet. “Both sides shall, as far as possible, prevent the boundary rivers from changing their courses. Neither side shall deliberately change or cause to change the course of any boundary river,” states Article 7 (1) of the Agreement.

As per their agreement, Nepal and China shall have the right of utilizing cross-border waters without affecting the existing use and future needs, while also agreeing to take measures to protect the ecology and environment of such waters. “In case a boundary river changes its course, necessary measures shall be taken by both sides or after mutual Agreement, by either side, to restore the boundary river to its original course,” reads Article 7(3) of the Agreement.

The Nepali side last year voiced concern after the Arun River began changing its course in the Kimathanka area of Sakhuwasabha district after the Chinese side started constructing an embankment along the river on its side of the border without informing Nepal in advance. Locals in Kimathanka village had felt threatened that the construction work could inundate their entire village during the rainy season. (24 Jan. 2020) https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/china-not-to-alter-course-of-rivers-flowing-into-nepal/

A journey down the Karnali: Living in fear of floods Ramesh Bhushal’s Journey along the KARNALI RIVER (The river is called Mapcha Khambab in Tibet) starts from a small village, VERY interestingly called HILSA on Nepal’s northern border with Tibet, the river starts about 80 km upstream from Tibet. This is the first part about floods that the river brings. The Chinese have built a hydropower dam on the river a few kilometres upstream from the border, which has increased fear among the Nepalis living next to the border.

Hilsa village along the Karnali river seen from Nepal-Tibet border in Humla. Hilsa sits on the left bank & the huge immigration office on the right bank is China [image- Nabin Baral]
Hilsa village along the Karnali river seen from Nepal-Tibet border in Humla. Hilsa sits on the left bank & the huge immigration office on the right bank is China [image- Nabin Baral]

– Apart from floods and landslides, studies warn that a mega earthquake is looming in Nepal’s western region after a big quake in central region in 2015 killed more than 10,000 people. It’s been more than 300 years since the last mega earthquake struck western Nepal. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/2019/01/07/a-journey-down-the-karnali-living-in-fear-of-floods/ (7 Jan. 2019)

Part 2 of the journey Twinkuna, in Dailekh district of western Nepal. This is the proposed site for the 900 MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project. In 2008 an Indian company, GMR received license to take it up, but a decade later the project is yet to take off. The company signed the project development agreement four years ago but has not yet managed to attract sufficient investors.

2. Women in Kapri village Bajura preparing millet for use after harvest. [image- Nabin Baral]
Women in Kapri village Bajura preparing millet for use after harvest. [image- Nabin Baral]

– Megh Ale—the team leader of our scientific expedition — believes the main stream of the Karnali should be left free flowing, “We can bring millions of tourists here” he said. The Karnali is a world class river for white water rafting. Tourism is not the only thing suffering. “It’s clear that aquatic lives have been threatened by hydropower across the country and if it continues many species will go extinct soon,” said Deep Narayan Shah, a researcher from Nepal’s Tribhuvan University’s Central Department of Environmental Science.

– The chief minister of Karnali province, Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, said there has to be greater understanding about river ecosystems and suffering of people, who are critically dependent on the river and its resources, like fish. “We may revisit the agreement done with GMR and I have told them that it won’t go ahead as agreed,” he said on the banks of Karnali River while spending a night with our scientific expedition team, who were following the river from the source in Tibet to the confluence in India. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/2019/01/08/dams-and-dreams-a-journey-down-the-karnali/ (8 Jan. 2019) The video of the river journey: https://vimeo.com/309778571

Documentary Journey Down the Mahakali  New film from NatGeo explorer T Buzz Graham about the fight to save the Mahakali, one of South Asia’s last free-flowing rivers (as far as upstream main stem of the river is concerned) and the single largest contributor of water to the Ganges river basin. The documentary has a number inaccuracies and International Rivers is in the process of correcting them.  https://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/1255/journey-down-the-mahakali-the-fight-to-save-one-of-india-s-last-free-flowing-rivers (11 July 2019)

Story of Gandaki river Interesting video on significance of Kali Gandaki river in Nepal. Leaving aside the religious aspects, the river is so beautiful and the stories that swami ji says are so interesting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwDjGgpDgB8 (26 Sept. 2019)

Kathmandu Rivers Turning Violent, Gradually Disappearing Buildings and roads have encroached on the floodplains and banks of the Valley’s rivers and every monsoon, the rivers rise to take revenge. According to the old Kathmandu building code, major rivers like the Bagmati, Bishnumati and Manohara need at least 20 metres of a free floodplain area on both sides to provide the river with unobstructed space to flow. Small streams like the Manamati, on the other hand, should have a free area of at least six metres on both sides. Likewise, the Balkhu Khola should have at least 10 metres of space on each side of the river before settlements start. However, as is evident, this code has been consistently violated and river floodplains have been widely used for settlements.

3. Kathmandu Rivers Source Kathmandu Post 0120
Kathmandu Rivers Source Kathmandu Post 0120

The new building code further states that rivulets cannot be covered and strictly prohibits encroachment of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and canals and says structures can only be built 30 metres away from the river area. This too gets violated. “There is no government body that works to protect the river; the ones that exist only manage water for irrigation and other processes,” said Upadhyay. “And the laws have been violated by everybody, not just one person. When a whole community is involved, who will speak for the river?” https://kathmandupost.com/12/2020/01/11/kathmandu-s-rivers-are-becoming-violent-and-gradually-vanishing-1578668186 (11 Jan. 2020)

Special Measures Needed to Check Declining Fish Stocks in Rivers  Special measures are needed in hydro and irrigation projects of Nepal to arrest rapidly declining fish stocks in the country’s rivers, according a study by the Asian Development Bank. “Early findings of this study suggest that the fish population in Nepal’s river basins with dams are on the sharp decline” said Deepak Bahadur Singh, ADB’s senior environment officer and co-author of the study entitled ‘The Impact of Dams on Fish in the Rivers of Nepal’. The study assessed the impact of projects including the construction of dams on aquatic biodiversity, apart from assessing the operation of selected hydropower and irrigation systems with dams to divert water. https://www.nepal24hours.com/special-measures-in-need-to-check-declining-fish-stocks-in-countrys-rivers-adb-study/ (12 April 2019)

Newly-discovered lake in likely to be the world’s highest A newly-discovered lake in Nepal is likely to set a new record of being the world’s highest lake replacing Tilicho, which is situated at an altitude of 4,919 metres in the Himalayan nation and currently holding the title. The Kajin Sara lake in Manang district was discovered a few months ago by a team of mountaineers. It is located at Singarkharka area of Chame rural municipality. (10 Aug. 2019) https://www.news18.com/news/world/newly-discovered-lake-in-nepal-likely-to-become-worlds-highest-2265521.html

Five years on, under-construction bridge over Trishuli River not completed Construction of the bridge over Trishuli River, which started about five years ago, has not been completed even after the extension of deadline. The bridge will link Nuwakot district with Dhading district. Deadline for the construction work was extended to August 17, 2019, after the contractor company could not complete the work by the targeted July 14, 2017.

4. Damaged Bridge orver Trishuli River Nepal Source Himalayan Times 0819
Damaged Bridge orver Trishuli River Nepal Source Himalayan Times 0819

Himdung and Thokar Company, and Sapana and Nagarjun Construction JV had entered into the contract to build the bridge. Construction work carried out by the company owned by Nepali Congress lawmaker Bahadur Singh Lama was disrupted after a heavy storm blew away the frameset to be concreted. However, local Ramesh Dhungana said the bridge frame collapsed due to substandard materials used by the contractor and added that such irregularities were carried out with the help of political influence and power. (17 Aug. 2019) https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/five-years-on-under-construction-bridge-over-trishuli-river-not-completed/

Thirsty Kathmandu One of the most rapidly urbanising cities on the planet, the capital city of Nepal is struggling with old projects sabotaged by controversies and bad strategies as its people go thirsty. According to Kathmandu Upatyeka Khanepani Ltd, a public private entity managing Kathmandu’s water supply, water demand reached 377 MLD in 2017 while the supply was 120 MLD in wet season & 73 MLD in dry season. The mineral water business has increased massively. There is no reliable data on the figures because much of it is not regulated. Hundreds of water tankers trundle every day in the city, there are tube wells in every other house, leading to the ground water table declining and traditional stone spouts fed by springs dying out. (13 Dec. 2019) https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/2019/12/13/thirsty-kathmandu-waits-for-water-that-never-arrives/

Merchants of thirst The thriving tanker water business in Nepal. (13 Jan. 2020) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/11/business/drought-increasing-worldwide.html

SPRINGS

Delineation of spring recharge zones in mountainous catchments in Far W Nepal  This study marks the first attempt to combine environmental isotopes analysis with hydrometric and hydrogeological measurements to identify dominant recharge zones for springs in two mountainous catchments—Banlek and Shikarpur—in Far-Western Nepal. In total, 422 water samples collected from rainfall, springs and streams between March 2016 and March 2017 were analyzed for their isotopic composition (δ18O and δD). Isotopic composition of rainwater shows seasonality, suggesting that different sources of water vapor cause rains in monsoon and in dry season. Rainfall responses of individual springs were used to identify connections to unconfined and deeper groundwater strata. Altitudinal isotopic gradients suggest mean recharge elevation of 2,600–2,700 masl for springs in Shikarpur, which lies beyond the surface-water catchment, and a recharge elevation of 1,000–1,100 masl for Banlek, which partially extends beyond the surface-water catchment. The demarcated recharge zones will be used by govt agencies to implement recharge interventions to increase the resiliency & reliability of springs. (25 May 2019) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10040-019-01973-6

Springs are rapidly drying Despite their importance, the springs across Nepal are drying and disappearing, causing distress to people and geographical regions, and forcing some villages to relocate entirely. Experts believe haphazard road development, increasing population, and erratic rainfall patterns influenced by climate change are adding stress to groundwater reserves, causing springs to dry—a phenomenon that could destabilise the country, even the entire Himalayan region. Yet, springs are insufficiently mapped and hardly researched, and there are few efforts to understand and address the issue. According to an individual study carried out in 2016, 150 water sources vanished in Sindhupalchok after the 2015 earthquakes.

– Across the mid-hills, there are approximately 60 climatological observatories maintained by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology that collect information on localised rainfall patterns. This information is used to get a preliminary understanding of spring systems, but these systems are very complex; just the sheer number of springs–estimates say there are around five to seven springs per square kilometre across the mid-hills–is overwhelming.

– Upadhya says there’s a simpler solution: “You have to pepper these hills with ponds. The ponds will collect the water that would otherwise flush down hills as runoff and over a duration of time refill the groundwater reserves”. https://kathmandupost.com/37/2019/11/29/once-gushing-with-water-nepal-s-springs-are-rapidly-drying-up (29 Nov. 2019)

Local storages help farmers Govt-backed storage ponds are helping farmers face up to unpredictable rainfall linked to climate change. http://news.trust.org/item/20190709144232-zgfv5/ (9 July 2019)

Farmers face up climate risks in South Asia How are small-scale farmers mitigating the growing risks of climate change? Report on India and Nepal. (23 Jan. 2020) https://www.scidev.net/global/agriculture/feature/farmers-face-up-to-climate-risks-in-south-asia.html

MINING RIVERS

7 point declaration issued to stop illegal extraction of RBM from Karnali River A declaration was issued in Chisapani of Kailali district on March 26, 2019 to stop illegal mining of riverbed materials and to develop the wildlife-friendly environment. Issuing the declaration, the Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists during the round table conference expressed its commitment to scientifically manage the extraction of pebbles, sand and gravel. http://www.hakahakionline.com/en/8496/seven-point-declaration-issued-to-stop-illegal-extraction-of-riverbed-materials-from-karnali-river/  (28 March 2019)

Protester shot dead after boy dies in mining pit  Death of a boy in sand mining pit has been reported from Nepal. On June 29 a 12-year-old boy was drowned to death in a sand mining pit when he had gone for a dip in the river in Saralahi district. Following the incident there was huge uproar and local protesters blocked the highway on June 30 demanding that the government stop rampant sand mining of rivers. Complicating the situation further, the police opened fire on protesters in which a 26 year old man reportedly died. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/nepal-protester-shot-dead-after-boy-dies-in-mining-pit-119070100637_1.html (1 July 2019)

Use of heavy equipment for extraction in Dhading rivers banned A meeting between local representatives and the District Monitoring and Coordination Committee (DMCC) has decided to stop the use of heavy equipment for extraction of sand and other items from rivers in Dhading district. According to Chairman of DMCC, Nepal, the use of heavy equipment for extraction has been banned but people are allowed to extract materials with a shovel during the day time. Law prevents the use of heavy vehicles for digging out sand, stones and other items from rivers for three months–Aasar to Bhadra. However, with the beginning of monsoon, heavy equipments’ have been used for the extraction from Belkhu, Dariyal, Malekhu, Mahesh, Kolpu, Trishul and Budiganga rivers in the district of late. https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/use-of-heavy-equipment-for-extraction-in-dhading-rivers-banned/ (31 July 2019)

Sand mafia flouts the laws

5. Sand Mining from Riverbeds
Sand Mining from Riverbeds

A study of mining in the Mahakali and Teesta rivers reveals how, at different scales, gaps are exploited despite the existence of environmental policies. (4 Oct. 2019) https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/2019/10/04/sand-mafia-flouts-the-laws-in-india-and-nepal/

Youth crushed to death by tipper for protesting illegal mining When 24-year-old Dilip Kumar Mahato of Sripur in Dhanusha’s Mithila Municipality protested illegal sand mining from Aurahi river near his house, the sand miners first threatened him, then tried to bribe him. When Dilip did not back down, they killed him in early hours on January 10, 2020 under the wheels of the truck. Following the incident, locals obstructed the East-West Highway protesting Dilip’s murder. (https://kathmandupost.com/province-no-2/2020/01/10/youth-crushed-to-death-by-tipper-for-protesting-illegal-extraction-of-riverbed-materials-in-dhanusa)

EARTHQUAKES

Nepal earthquake: Waiting for the complete rupture In April 2015, Nepal — and especially the region around the capital city, Kathmandu — was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 destroyed entire villages, with a death toll of some 9,000. However, the country may still face the threat of much stronger earthquakes with a magnitude of 8 or more. This is the conclusion reached by a group of earth scientists from ETH Zurich based on a new model of the collision zone between the Indian and Eurasian Plates in the vicinity of the Himalayas.

“In the 2015 quake, there was only a partial rupture of the major Himalayan fault separating the two continental plates. The frontal, near-surface section of the rupture zone, where the Indian Plate subducts beneath the Eurasian Plate, did not slip and remains under stress,” explains Dal Zilio, lead author of the study, which was recently published in the journal Nature Communications. Normally, a major earthquake releases almost all the stress that has built up in the vicinity of the focus as a result of displacement of the plates. “Our model shows that, although the Gorkha earthquake reduced the stress level in part of the rupture zone, tension actually increased in the frontal section close to the foot of the Himalayas. The apparent paradox is that ‘medium-sized’ earthquakes such as Gorkha can create the conditions for an even larger earthquake,” says Dal Zilio.

Tremors of the magnitude of the Gorkha earthquake release stress only in the deeper subsections of the fault system over lengths of 100 kms. In turn, new and even greater stress builds up in the near-surface sections of the rupture zone. According to the simulations performed by Dal Zilio and his colleagues, two or three further Gorkha quakes would be needed to build up sufficient stress for an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.1 or more. In a quake of this kind, the rupture zone breaks over the entire depth range, extending up to the Earth’s surface and laterally — along the Himalayan arc — for hundreds of kilometres. This ultimately leads to a complete stress release in this segment of the fault system, which extends to some 2,000 kilometres in total.

Historical data shows that mega events of this kind have also occurred in the past. For example, the Assam earthquake in 1950 had a magnitude of 8.6, with the rupture zone breaking over a length of several hundred kilometres and across the entire depth range. In 1505, a giant earthquake struck with sufficient power to produce an approximately 800-kms rupture on the major Himalayan fault. “The new model reveals that powerful earthquakes in the Himalayas have not just one form but at least two, and that their cycles partially overlap,” says Edi Kissling, Professor of Seismology and Geodynamics. Super earthquakes might occur with a periodicity of 400 to 600 years, whereas “medium-sized” quakes such as Gorkha have a recurrence time of up to a few hundred years. As the cycles overlap, the researchers expect powerful and dangerous earthquakes to occur at irregular intervals. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190116115518.htm (16 Jan. 2019)

Impending earthquake in the Himalayas Led by UC Riverside, a team of researchers has determined a new geometric model for the fault that will allow officials to better prepare for future shakers. The team’s work is detailed in a paper published in Nature Geoscience. “This is the most high-resolution model of this fault structure to date,” said Abhijit Ghosh, a UCR associate professor of geophysics. “With this knowledge we can better explain why the quake happened the way it happened, and better estimate the stress points along the fault that may act as birthplaces for future large damaging earthquakes.”

The team found that the Himalayan Thrust, which runs more than 1,000 kms from Pakistan to Myanmar, is built in a shape known as a duplex in the area where the magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred in 2015. “It consists of two horizontal planes connected by a complex structure bounded by many not-quite-horizontal faults,” Ghosh explained.

The team concluded the fault is still accumulating stress, and that the 2015 event may have increased the likelihood of another big earthquake nearby. Accumulated stress from the Nepalese earthquake may be adding stress to parts of the underlying fault that haven’t ruptured yet. “The moral of this story is if you live anywhere near a fault, get your earthquake kit ready,” Ghosh said. https://phys.org/news/2019-11-earthquake-people.html (12 Nov. 2019)

https://twitter.com/rapiduplift/status/1198807478734950400

Earthquake near India-Nepal border An earthquake magnitude 5.0 on the Richter scale struck Nepal’s Khaptad National Park on Nov. 19 evening. According to initial information, the epicentre of the earthquake was near the India-Nepal border. United States Geological Survey in its assessment, said that the epicentre of the earthquake was located just 1.3 km below ground. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/earthquake-tremors-delhi-ncr-north-india-1620590-2019-11-19

Earlier this month, a 4.5-magnitude earthquake shook western Nepal at 3:51 am on Nov. 1, the country’s seismological department said. https://www.news18.com/news/world/4-5-magnitude-earthquake-hits-western-nepal-no-casualties-reported-2370069.html (1 Nov. 2019)

DISASTERS

Water, disasters and people Most of the GLOFs recorded in Nepal have occurred in the Koshi basin. Eight of 22 GLOFs reported in the basin between 1935 and 2016 were recorded in Nepal; the remaining 14 were recorded in China. At present, 42 glacial lakes in the Koshi basin—18 in Nepal and 24 in China—are identified as potentially dangerous.

– There have been about 6,872 landslides recorded in the basin from 1992 to 2015. The relatively recent Jure landslide, which happened in Sindhupalchok in 2014, resulted in 156 casualties, displacement of 436 people and damage of 165 houses. The estimated economic loss was more than 130 million rupees.

– Then there are floods, which happen almost on an annual basis. Between 1954 and 2014, Nepal experienced 41 flood events, which killed almost 6,500 people, and cost the nation billions in economic losses. https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/water-disasters-and-people/ (28 Sept. 2018)

Landslide dam on Burhiganga

6. Landslide blocks Burhiganga River Source Dave Petley 0719
Landslide blocks Burhiganga River Source Dave Petley 0719

There is risk of landslides blocking the path of the Burhiganga river at Dwari in Bajura district in Nepal this monsoon. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2019/07/09/budhiganga-river-landslide/ (9 July 2019)

The tyranny of dozer road building “Dozer road building usually comes along with a near-total absence of proper drainage, haphazard destruction of wide swathes of vegetation, and reckless downhill soil dumping in Nepal.

This is a human and environmental disaster underway in plain sight. The current upward trend in dozer road building across the country indicates the steady, if not exponential, growth of this disaster.” https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2019/09/03/dozer-roads/ (3 Sept. 2019)

FLOODS

Floods show why India, Nepal need to improve information sharing The delay of sharing weather-related information between India and Nepal is alarming because every time Nepal has received heavy rains, Bihar has recorded flash floods. “In the recent past, this happened in 2008, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017,” says Narayan Gyawali of Lutheran World Relief (LWR) foundation, a non-profit that runs a community-based project in India and Nepal on early flood warning systems. The two countries have a circuitous communication channel that means the information is either critically delayed or unclear, and of little use to most riverbank communities in down-stream Bihar. This is when the Nepal government has a dedicated Water and Energy Commission Secretariat for trans-boundary water issues, established way back in 1981. Both the countries have also constituted a Joint Committee on Inundation and Flood Management. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/communication-gap-bihar-floods-show-why-india-nepal-need-to-get-their-act-together-65961 (13 Aug. 2019)

90 families trapped in Koshi flood At least 90 families (300 people)  in Gobargadha of Saptari district of Nepal have been trapped/ encircled by the Koshi River after India diverted its water to the western side on May 24, 2019, it is alleged. The Indian side released water from a 17 km long pilot channel built along the western side of the river/ Gobargadha village, despite protests by the locals. Hanumannagar Kankalini Municipality Mayor Sailesh Kumar Sah said, “Locals should have been informed prior to releasing water. But the Indians released it without any notice”.

7. Koshi Floods Nepal Myrepublica 0519
Koshi Floods Nepal Myrepublica 0519

– Koshi water overflowing the channel has swept away half a dozen boats including two emergency boats belonging to the municipality, firewood, timber and livestock, according to locals. “The Indian side should have worked within the territory mentioned in the Koshi accord but they have built the channel three kilometers west of the land they leased through the Koshi accord, which is against international practice,” Sah said. The local government has claimed that the District Administration Office, the Home Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office were informed five months ago about the construction of the pilot channel by the Indians. After 2008, while repairing the damaged embankment, India tried to divert the Koshi flow more toward the western side adjoining Saptari district.

– “Indian strategy has posed a threat of displacement to half a dozen settlements on the Nepal side and increased the risk to the western embankment,” said Ghanashyam Jha, who has been advocating for Koshi victims. “India has been taking the benefit as our government remains mum on this issue.” India invested over INR 1.5 billion after 2010 to save the Indian settlement on the eastern side of the river. The Koshi flood on the Saptari side inundated nearly 1,000 houses for nearly three weeks in the last monsoon. (26 May 2019) https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/90-families-trapped-as-india-diverts-koshi-flow/

Death toll from rain-induced floods and landslide reaches 30 Eighteen people have gone missing, 12 have been injured and 133 people have been rescued across the country.  http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2019-07-13/death-toll-from-rain-induced-floods-and-landslide-reaches-28.html (13 July 2019)

Rain-fed rivers have also started to erode embankments putting nearby settlements at high risk of flooding. At least 10 person sustained injuries and 16 others went missing in various landslide and flood incidents in the country since July 12, while a total of 50 persons were rescued. Deaths were reported from various districts, including Lalitpur, Kavre, Kotang, Bhojpur and Makanpur. https://www.news18.com/news/world/death-toll-rises-to-28-and-over-16-still-missing-as-heavy-rains-lash-nepal-2228583.html (13 July 2019)

67 dead in Nepal floods NYT reports on Nepal floods: 67 dead, 30 missing in Nepal. It says: “Mr. Gupta, the mayor of Gaur, said his more immediate concern was preventing a local hydropower dam from overflowing the banks of its reservoir. Preparations are underway to release water from the reservoir to avert a crisis, he added.” But NYT fails to mention the name of the dam. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/15/world/asia/rains-nepal-india-flooding.html July 15, 2019)

BBC on Indo Nepal River Politics in floods India and Nepal share an open border that stretches for nearly 1,800 km. More than 6,000 rivers and rivulets flow down to northern India from Nepal and they contribute around 70% of the flow of the Ganges river during the dry season. Nepal blames dyke-like structures along the border that it says block the floodwaters from flowing south into India. During an investigation in eastern Nepal two years ago, the BBC saw structures on the Indian side that appeared to do just this. Gaur, the headquarters of Rautahat district in southern Nepal, remained inundated for three days last week and officials feared clashes. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48986799 July 16, 2019)

HIGH TIME INDIAN MEDIA AND POLITICIANS STOP MAKING STATEMENTS ABOUT NEPAL RELEASING WATER TO FLOOD INDIA Every monsoon, many Indian politicians talk about Nepal releasing water to flood India and many media stories uncritically report such statements, this is just one example. The fact is Nepal does not have too many storage dams and a few barrages on India Nepal shared rivers are mostly operated by Indian officials. So such stories are mostly incorrect. (http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/jul/16/deluge-in-bihar-worsens-as-nepal-releases-over-15-lakh-cusecs-of-water-2004418.html July 16 2019)

NYT on role of India in Indo Nepal border area floods  2019 floods played out differently on the Indian side. Embankments blocked swollen upstream rivers from emptying south, leaving Nepal to deal with two or three times more flooding than India in some areas, according to local officials. Now, India has become a chief target of anger and bitterness in Nepal as border communities take stock of losses from the floods. In recent decades, India has tried to protect low-lying areas by building hilly buffers stretching hundreds of miles along a porous border. During the rainy season, Nepal’s Himalaya-fed rivers can overflow and rush toward India with enough force to wipe out entire villages.

– Nepali officials say they have little control over many of these projects and that India — its bigger and richer neighbor — has been constructing them unilaterally for years, violating international guidelines on transboundary water sharing. The embankments are built largely near Indian border towns or in the buffer zone between the countries. In an interview, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Nepal’s foreign minister, said officials from India and Nepal released a joint report in August concluding that inundation, which affects both countries, was linked to India’s embankments and inadequate drains.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/29/world/asia/nepal-india-flood-dam.html (30 Sept. 2019)

HYDROPOWER DEVELOPMENT IN NEPAL

Who will buy hydropower?  With the falling costs of renewables and (retarding) dam building in South Asia, Nepal’s plans to develop hydropower for export look increasingly precarious. (Hydropower is also costly compared to other sources.) It is increasingly clear international investors (& Private sector) are not interested in investing in large hydropower in Nepal (or anywhere) because domestic electricity demand is not high, and the future for regional power and regulatory mechanisms are still unclear. Therefore, Nepal should instead focus on diversifying its energy mix by combining peak run-off-river and a medium sized storage hydropower, grid interconnection with renewables, upgrading the transmission and distribution system and reducing its energy loss. https://www.eco-business.com/opinion/who-will-buy-nepals-hydropower/ (9 April 2019)

Locals obstruct construction of Upper Mailung HEP The ongoing construction work of 14.3 MW Upper Mailung Hydroelectricity Project at Uttargaya Rural Municipality-1, Rasuwa has been stopped. Putting forward a three-point demand, locals affected by the project have obstructed the construction. They have demanded appropriate compensation for the lands used by the project, action against the local representatives who allowed inconsiderate operation of excavators and employment of locals by dismissing the current contract. https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/locals-obstruct-construction-of-upper-mailung-hydroelectricity-project/ (12 Jan. 2020)

Upper Dordi HEP: 4 killed in flash floods identified People were washed away at under construction 25 MW Upper Dordi Hydropower project. Local authorities on July 25 identified the 4 persons who were killed in Dordi flash floods. Of the total 11 people swept away by the flash floods, 4 were dead and 1 had returned to hydropower project alive whereas 6 people working at the Project are still missing, said hydropower project operator Rajendra Wasti.

The project operator said Binod Tamang of Dordi Rural Municipality, Dev Bahadur Koli of Kanchanpur, Karna Budha of Dadeldhura, Surendra Chaudhary of Saptari, Gyanendra Chaudhary of Bara and Diwas Katawal of Khotang are missing. They had gone to Lamjung to work on the Upper Dordi Hydropower Project as manual laborers. Eight workers were injured in the flash floods. https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/four-killed-in-dordi-flash-floods-identified/ (26 July 2019)

11 Nepalese, 6 Chinese workers get trapped in HEP tunnel, rescued All 17 workers, including six Chinese, got trapped inside a tunnel of an under-construction hydropower project in Nepal following a landslide on June 20, 2019 have been rescued, officials said on June 21. The incident happened at the Rasuwagadhi Hydropower Project in Rasuwa district on the Nepal-China border. The workers got stuck inside the tunnel after the landslide that occurred along the path leading to the surge tank of the project at around 8:30 pm (local time) on June 20. The entrance of the 4.18-km-long tunnel got blocked, trapping the workers inside, the police said. The Rasuwagadhi hydropower project is the largest among the four projects that are currently being developed by the subsidiaries of Chilime Hydropower Company, a private power developer in Nepal. The China International Water and Electric Corporation is the contractor for the civil work of the project, which is likely to become operational by Feb 2020. https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/11-nepalese-6-chinese-workers-get-trapped-in-hydropower-project-tunnel-in-nepal-rescued-officials/1559623 (21 June 2019)

Four laborers trapped in Bajhang hydro tunnel found dead Four laborers who had gone missing after being trapped in an under-construction tunnel of the 65 MW Kalanga Hydropower Project at Bungal of Bajhang district have been found dead. (4 Nov. 2019) https://english.khabarhub.com/2019/04/52944/

Kabeli A Hydropower Project work halted USD 102 M, 37.6 MW Kabeli Hydropower project work has come to a stop since two months due to quality concerns by Chinese contractor. The World Bank’s International Finance Corp and Singaporean Infra Asia have also invested in the project. https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/kabeli-a-hydropower-project-work-halted/ (26 Feb.2019)

Protest by people affected by Kaligandaki ‘A’ Hydropower The people affected by the Kaligandaki ‘A’ Hydropower at Beltari area in Syangja district have demonstrated by putting forth various demands. They have blocked the road leading to the project powerhouse. Their demands include: they should be provided electricity generated from the project rather than others. Irrigation facility and concrete road from Beltari Chowk to Irikhola are other demands. They also accused the concerned authority of cutting facilities provided to them by the Nepal Electricity Authority. http://therisingnepal.org.np/news/28583 (27 Jan. 2019)

Opaque deal The Tamakoshi III project has a potential of generating 650 MW of electricity, but an agreement signed between the developers — two Chinese companies and a Nepali company – has reduced that capacity to just 200 MW, to cost USD 500 million, To be completed in 4.5 years. The joint venture agreement was signed between China’s YEIG International, Shanghai Investigation, Design and Research Institute, and Nepal’s TBI Holdings in Kathmandu on July 25, 2019. In 2007, the government awarded the survey license to a Norwegian company, Statkraft. The company had carried out the feasibility study and also the environmental impact study. It was to invest US$ 1.5 billion in the 650 MW project, but the company withdrew from the agreement in 2015, stating there was no guaranteed market for the electricity that would be generated.  https://thehimalayantimes.com/opinion/editorial-opaque-deal/ (29 July 2019)

China to build 679 MW Lower Arun hydel Chinese state-owned company, Power China, has announced during the Nepal Investment Summit on March 30, 2019 that it will construct the 679 MW Lower Arun hydropower project in Nepal. The company will also build the 102 MW capacity Upper Trishuli II hydropower project. It has already built the 50 MW Upper Marshyangdi hydropower project. The Indian govt had proposed to construct the Lower Arun hydropower project in Feb but at a reduced capacity of 400 MW. (31 March 2019) https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/power-china-to-build-679mw-lower-arun-hydel/

PM inaugurates 60 MW Trishuli 3A HEP PM KP Sharma Oli on Nov 18, 2019 inaugurated a China-funded 60MW Upper Trishuli 3A Hydropower Project which had started producing electricity recently. Developed by Nepal Electricity Authority, and constructed by China Gezhouba Group Company, it is located at the border of Rasuwa and Nuwakot districts in the central region. The project will run in full capacity for eight months in a year and it will produce 45MW in the remaining four months. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-11/18/c_138564821.htm (18 Nov. 2019)

828 MW Uttar Ganga hydro project The Uttar Ganga Power Company, a subsidiary of Nepal Electricity Authority, has invited expression of interest for consulting services to prepare detailed engineering design and bidding documents for the 828 MW Uttar Ganga Storage Hydroelectric Project in Baglung. The Rs130 billion project has been revived after seven years. It involved collecting water from the Uttar Ganga stream of Dhorpatan and other surrounding streams. The project involves building a 200 m high dam and 1.1 km long diversion tunnel. A reliable source said that conflict between former Energy Minister Janardan Sharma, then leader of Maoist (Centre) and former Finance Minister and CPN-UML leader Bishnu Poudel had halted the project. While Sharma wanted diversion of water to the Bheri River, Poudel wanted diversion to the Gandaki basin. “A consensus has been reached to divert water to Gandaki basin that was proposed by Nepal Electricity Authority”. (18 April 2019) https://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2019-04-18/828-mw-uttar-ganga-hydro-project-revived-after-7-years.html

Budhi Gandaki project plans The government is planning to complete the compensation distribution for those affected by the 1,200 MW Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project in the next fiscal year. The Ministry of Energy has asked the Finance Ministry to allocate Rs 18 billion of the next budget for compensation payments for people affected by the $2.5 billion project. The storage-type project is located in Gorkha and Dhading districts. The budget ceiling for the Energy Ministry set by the National Planning Commission for the next fiscal year is Rs 88.45 billion. The government has already spent around Rs 20 billion to acquire land from 27 settlements. Now the Finance Ministry has also advised Energy Ministry to go for a competitive bidding by reducing the cost of the project. Chinese have found the project difficult to develop. Why is Nepal govt pushing such a project? http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2019-05-26/budhi-gandaki-project-plans-to-complete-compensation-distribution-by-next-fiscal-year.html (26 May 2019)

AIIB approves USD 90 M for U Trishuli-1 HEP The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)’s Board of Directors has approved a loan of up to 90 million US dollars for the 216 MW Upper Trishuli-1 hydropower project in Nepal, its first project in the country, to be developed under BOOT model. The AIIB has also provided Nepal with 900,000 US dollars for the proposed Tamakoshi V Hydroelectric Project and one million dollars for the proposed Power Distribution System Upgrade and Expansion Project from its Project Preparation Special Fund which provides grants to support the preparation of projects in eligible AIIB member countries. https://www.indiablooms.com/world-details/SA/20340/aiib-approves-first-investment-in-nepal.html (10 June 2019)

ADB signs USD 60 m deal to fund 216 MW HEP on Trishuli river. (2 Nov. 2019) https://aninews.in/news/business/adb-signs-60-million-private-sector-deal-to-build-hydropower-plant-in-nepal20191102122452/

Dudhkoshi Storage HEP 1,150 households will be affected by the 600 + 35 MW (two power houses) Dudhkoshi Storage Hydroelectric Project in Okhaldhunga and Khotang districts. Storage will spread across 17 kms in Dudhkoshi, eight kms in Rawa Khola and 5.5 kms in Thotne Khola. An Italy-Japan joint venture has been carrying out Detailed Project Report, including engineering designing, social and environmental impacts, to be completed by Dec 2019. A 200-m tall dam will be built at Lamidanda’s Rabhuwabazaar. The water from the dam will be dropped to Dhitung through 13.30 km long headrace tunnel. (8 Sept. 2019) https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/dudhkoshi-storage-hydroelectric-project-to-affect-1150-households/

Austria interested in Dudhkoshi HEP Austria has expressed interest in assisting Nepal technically and financially to build the Dudhkoshi Storage HEP and 100 MW Tamakoshi V, said Energy Ministry officials. The Energy Mechanism meeting was held in Kathmandu on Oct 21, 2019, five months after the energy ministers of the two countries signed an accord on technological assistance in hydroelectric infrastructure in Vienna in May. The total cost of the project has been estimated at $1.523 billion excluding taxes and other financial costs.

– The updated feasibility study recommends building a main underground powerhouse near the Sunkoshi River with four units generating 150 MW each and a 35 MW unit near the toe of the dam. It will produce 3,443 MU per year. The snowmelt-fed Dudhkoshi River originates in the foothills of Everest, allowing the plant to perform efficiently even in the dry season. The report shows that 162 households will be severely impacted while 1,150 households will be partially affected. https://kathmandupost.com/money/2019/10/22/austria-interested-in-investing-in-dudh-koshi-hydro-project-say-officials (22 Oct. 2019)

Investment Board, Power China Sign MoU On Tamor Hydel Power Investment Board Nepal and the Chinese company Power China have signed a memorandum of understanding for implementation of reservoir based 756 MW Tamor Hydroelectric Project. DPR yet to be prepared. https://risingnepaldaily.com/nation/investment-board-power-china-sign-mou-on-tamor-hydel-power (19 Jan. 2020)

Nepal-Bangladesh govts agree for joint investment in HEPs The decision was taken at the Energy Secretary level meeting between the two nations on June 21 which included the projects covered by the whitepaper issued by the previous meeting a year back. The whitepaper issued by Nepal’s Finance Ministry a year back had included 962 MW capacity holding Tamor reservoir, 800 MW Dudhkoshi project which has a reservoir, 725 MW Upper Arun, 450 MW Kimathanka Arun, 679 MW Lower Arun, Sunkoshi-II 1,110 MW, Sunkoshi-III 536 MW, Tamakoshi-V 101 MW, Khimti Shiwalaya 500 MW and Kokhajor Reservoir 111 MW. The whitepaper had enlisted 20 Hydropower projects. (23 June 2019) https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/nepal-bangladesh-agree-for-joint-investment-in-hydropower-projects/69909929

Bangladesh-Nepal bilateral talks in Oct 2019  Bangladesh has expressed willingness to invest in 20 hydropower projects in Nepal during bilateral trade talks held in Kathmandu on Oct 22, 2019 in the fourth meeting of the Nepal-Bangladesh Technical Committee for promotion of trade. The Seventh Joint Steering Committee meeting on Nepal-India Cooperation which concluded last week had decided to hold a tripartite meeting within three months to materialise the issue of using Indian transmission grid for BD importing power from Nepal. https://www.thedailystar.net/world/news/bangladesh-keen-funding-20-hydropower-projects-nepal-1818160 (24 Oct. 2019)

Basin wise Hydropower Potential  The article says half of this potential is unviable. Much more is likely to be unviable. Karnali and Mahakali river basins have a catchment area of 48,811 km2 and 16,097 km2, with approximate hydropower potential of 36,180 MW (the watershed area of the Mahakali River lies in India and Nepal). Gandaki river basin has a catchment area of 36,607 km2 and approximate hydro potential of 20,650 MW. Koshi river basin has a catchment area of 57,700 km2 and hydro potential of 22,350 MW (the watershed area lies in Tibet/China and Nepal). Other river basins (i.e., southern rivers) have a catchment area of 3,070 km2 and hydro potential of 4,110 MW. (11 Jan. 2019) https://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2019/01/hydro-review-the-way-forward-for-nepal-s-hydropower-development.html

Ensure competition The govt’s bid to award licenses to build hydropower projects to both government and foreign firms by skirting competitive bidding through a new Electricity Bill is likely to discourage the Nepali private sector while endorsing direct negotiations with foreign firms. The new licensing policy plan has been provisioned in the draft of the new Electricity Bill, which was made public by the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation for discussion. The govt is awaiting feedback and suggestions on it from the stakeholders within 15 days. This will invite corruption and end transparency. If the competitive bidding process is tedious, let us streamline it. The process is as important as the end result. (24 Sept. 2019) https://thehimalayantimes.com/opinion/editorial-ensure-competition/

Projects that will be watched in 2020 Among the projects to be watched in 2020, following are the hydropower/ irrigation projects.

– Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project: If everything goes as planned, the biggest hydropower project with a capacity of 456 MW will come into operation in 2020. The construction cost is expected to swell to Rs 73 billion.

– Tanahu Hydropower Project: Located in Damauli in Tanahu district, this will be 140 MW Rs 50.5 B project with water storage is expected to be completed in five years.

– Upper Karnali Hydropower Project

– Arun-3 Hydro Electric Project:

– Budhigandaki Hydropower Project: The government has finalized its detailed project report (DPR) and has been providing compensation to the people affected by the 1200 MW project. (1 Jan. 2020)

– Upper Trishuli 1: The 216 MW hydropower project located in Rasuwa district is expected to start work in 2020. International Finance Corp of the World Bank Group, and a consortium of other international lenders, have agreed on $453 m for the project.

– Melamchi Water Supply Project: After a halt of over a year after the Italian contractor abandoned the project, Sinhydro, a Chinese construction firm, was awarded the contract to complete the remaining works by mid-July 2020.

– Sikta Irrigation Project: With estimated cost of Rs 25 billion, this will be the largest irrigation project in Nepal. Project officials say that over 60% works of the project has been completed and will be completed by 2020.

– Rani Jamara Kulariya Irrigation Project: The project going to be built with an estimated cost of Rs 27.7 billion aims to irrigate 38,300 ha. The govt targets to complete it by 2023/24.

– Bheri-Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project: 51,000 ha in Bardiya & Banke districts is to get irrigation, it will also have 48 MW hydro capacity. Tunnel boring machine was used for the first time in Nepal in this project. The 12.2-km long tunnel was completed in April. https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/20-development-projects-that-will-be-watched-in-2020/

IBN approves Rs. 85 B for 3 HEPs Investment Board Nepal (IBN) has approved Rs. 85 B for three Hydro projects: Upper Trishuli-1 (Rs 65 B), Marsyandgdibesi (Rs 11 B), and Upper Trishuli-3 ‘B’ (Rs 8 B) in a meeting held under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Dec 30, 2019. https://english.khabarhub.com/2019/30/65240/ (30 Dec. 2019)

INDO NEPAL COOPERATION RELATED TO WATER, RIVERS, POWER PROJECTS

Kala Pani border dispute In essence, the source of river Mahakali is at the heart of the dispute between the countries. Kalapani is a 35 sq km area. River Mahakali, earlier known as river Kali, flows through Kalapani, which is situated on the eastern bank of the river. Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territories — India as part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of the Darchula district. Kalapani is also a tri-junction point, where the Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan (Chinese) borders meet. The region has been manned by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police since 1962.

8. KalaPani Indo Nepal Boarded Area
KalaPani Indo Nepal Boarded Area

The 1816 Treaty of Segauli, signed between British India and Nepal, defined river Mahakali as the western border of Nepal. River Mahakali has several tributaries, all of which merge at Kalapani. India claims that the river begins in Kalapani as this is where all its tributaries merge. But Nepal claims that it begins from Lipu Lekh Pass, the origin of most of its tributaries. “Nepal has laid claim to all areas east of the Lipu Gad — the rivulet that joins the river Kali on its border, a tri-junction with India and China,” writes scholar Alok Kumar Gupta for Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. Lipu Gad is one of the major tributaries that merge into the main river at Kalapani. “The Nepalese contention is that the Lipu Gad is, in fact, the Kali river up to its source to the east of the Lipu Lekh Pass,” adds Gupta. The Indian side contends that river Mahakali begins where Lipu Gad meets the Kalapani springs.

In its effort to back its territorial claims, India has presented administrative and tax records dating back to the 1830s. According to New Delhi, these records show that since then Kalapani was part of the Pithoragarh district. India has also shown surveys of the upper reaches of river Mahakali conducted by the British Indian government during the 1870s. They presented a map from 1879, which showed Kalapani as a part of British Indian territory. Nepal has presented similar maps from 1850 and 1856, showing that river Mahakali begins in Kalapani. While the origin of the dispute goes back to the early 19th century, politically it emerged as a contentious issue between India and Nepal after the two countries signed the Treaty of Mahakali in 1996. This is when the Nepalese government was forced to take up the issue given the pressure from rising Nepali nationalism. The two countries had formed the Joint Technical Boundary Committee in 1981 to resolve the dispute. Though the committee managed to resolve a large part of the dispute, they failed to reach a final settlement. Eventually, the issue was referred to the foreign secretaries of the two countries and they have been trying to find a resolution. (11 Nov. 2019)  https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/why-kalapani-is-a-bone-of-contention-between-india-and-nepal/317926/

Indo-Nepal effort needed for Ganges Basin fish “This was the third time the summit happened, organised by the Nepal River Conservation Trust. Each edition was centred around a river. In 2017, it was the Kosi in eastern Nepal. In 2018, the Trishuli in Central Nepal. And this time, the summit was held at the banks of the Karnali river in western Nepal,” said Lockett. (2 April 2019) https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/wildlife-&-biodiversity/amp/-indo-nepal-effort-needed-to-prevent-ganges-basin-fish-from-losing-genetic-variability–63795

Banjaraha locals want Indian embankment on Lalbakaiya River removed Locals of Banjaraha at Ishnath Municipality on Aug. 4, 2019 demanded that the embankment constructed in the Lalbakaiya River be removed as they did want inundation and flooding in Rautahat. Locals had demanded removal of the embankment when a government team led by CDO Kiran Thapa and security forces visited Banjaraha. Locals complained that they had been facing the problem of inundation and flooding ever since India constructed a tall embankment on the river eight years ago. Flood in Lalbakaiya River on July 11 and 12 had inundated Banjaraha village and around 500 bigha land in the village is still under water. (4 Aug. 2019) https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/banjaraha-locals-want-indian-dam-in-lalbakaiya-river-removed/

Sedimentation in the Kosi Thought provoking piece on Kosi on the eleven year anniversary of the Kosi disaster of Aug 18, 2008. This is indeed striking: “The study quoted above states that the total mass of sediments accumulated in the Koshi channel over the last 64 years, since the construction of the embankments, may be 408 million cubic metres on the Chatara-Birpur stretch. On the stretch between Birpur and Baltara, it is a staggering 1.08 billion cubic metres. As a consequence, the riverbed is significantly raised, making the river ‘superelevated’. In some places, such as Kusaha, the riverbed has ended up being 2-3 metres higher than the adjoining floodplain! This ‘superelevation’ causes instability in the river, leading to breaches of the embankments and extensive flooding. It is striking that, since the construction of the embankments, most floods in the Koshi basin have occurred because of breaches in the embankments rather than overbank flooding.”

And: “It was found that most of these hotspots coincide with points where the embankment was breached recently. This clearly demonstrates the risks posed by the superelevated river to the people living under a false sense of security provided by the embankments.” One would have loved to see the article mention what was the situation of sediment dynamics before building of embankments and will we ultimately explore that option too? (16 Aug. 2019) https://kathmandupost.com/columns/2019/08/16/sedimentation-in-the-koshi-can-be-a-huge-problem

Power export plans in doubt as India reviews options This highlights that Nepal is finding it difficult to push hydropower projects for export of power to India as India is power surplus. (20 Sept. 2019) https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Nepal-power-export-plans-in-doubt-as-India-reviews-options

India agrees to sell additional 100 MW power  India had agreed to sell 50-100 MW more electricity to Nepal during the Nepal-India energy secretary-level  joint working group talks, in Pokhara held on Jan 23, 2019. Nepal is currently importing 521 MW power from India out of its peak demand of 1105 MW. (24 Jan. 2019) https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/india-agrees-to-sell-additional-100-mw-power/

 Nepal imports more power from India, but proportion declines Although Nepal’s power import from India grew by around 9 % compared to the previous year, the market share of electricity sold by India was limited to 37.2 % of the total demand compared to 46 % during the previous year. Nepal imported 2.58 billion units of electricity from India during 2017/18, when the total consumption was 5.56 BU. But in 2018/19, when total demand soared to 6.38 BU, Nepal imported only 230 MU more from India. NEA is also trying to reach an agreement with Indian authorities to pariticpate in India’s Power Exchage Market. Once the Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur 400 KVA transmission line is completed in December, it line can be used by Nepal and India to export/import up to 1,000 MW. https://english.onlinekhabar.com/nepal-imports-more-power-from-india-but-india-produced-electricitys-market-share-declines.html (15 Aug. 2019)

India-to-work-as-transit-hub-for-Nepal’s-power-export India has said it would allow Nepal to use its power transmission backbone to export electricity to countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar, in a major boost to foreign investors who express concerns about lack of access to foreign markets for energy produced. Sanoj Kumar Jha, secretary of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission told the Nepal Investment Summit in Kathmandu on March 29,2019. https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/india-to-work-as-transit-hub-for-nepals-power-export-to-third-countries/ (30 March 2019)

Lower Arun Hydro Project Indian Power Minister has proposed to Nepal that India can develop the 400 MW Lower Arun hydropower project in Nepal on the same conditions as the development of 900 MW Arun III project is now being developed by SJVN. Nepal is yet to decide. https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/india-proposes-to-construct-lower-arun-hydro-project/ (12 Feb. 2019) This project went to China in March 2019 for an enhanced capacity of 679 MW.

This report provides details of the outcome of the India Nepal meeting on sharing water resources and power. https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2019/02/09/nepal-india-water-resources-meet-trust-deficit/ (9 Feb. 2019)

ARUN 3 HYDROPOWER PROJECT

Blasts News of 1-3 blasts at USD 1.5 B Arun III Hydropower project under construction in Sankhuwasabha district in eastern Nepal by India’s SJVN. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/blasts-in-india-assisted-hydropower-project-site-in-nepal/67909912, https://www.devdiscourse.com/article/international/374711-nepal-hydropower-site-blasts-workers-scared-to-continue (9 Feb. 2019)

Indian Cabinet approves Rs 1,236 cr investment for Arun-3 The CCEA (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs) of India chaired by PM on Feb 28, 2019 approved Rs 1,236.13 crore investment proposal for transmission component in Nepal portion of Arun-3 Hydro Electric Project by Sutlej Jal Vikas Nigam (SJVN). The Cabinet in its meeting held in Feb, 2017 had approved the investment proposal for generation component of Arun-3 HEP (900 MW) in Nepal for an estimated cost of Rs 5,723.72 crore at May 2015 Price level. PM Modi and his Nepalese counterpart Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli jointly laid its foundation stone on 11 May 2018. (1 March 2019) https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/cabinet-approves-rs-1236-cr-investment-for-arun-3-hydro-project/68211448

SJVN to invest 7,000 crore SJVN is investing about ₹7,000 crore in power generation and transmission in Nepal. The amount, which is equivalent to 11,200 crore Nepalese rupees, is the highest ever invested so far in Nepal by any company in the world, SJVN CMD said. A joint venture of the Central and the Himachal Pradesh govt, SJVN is investing ₹5,724 crore in power generation and ₹1,236 crore in power transmission. (28 Sept. 2019) https://www.livemint.com/politics/policy/sjvn-to-invest-rs-7-000-crore-in-commissioning-nepal-s-bhakra-dam-11569677728348.html

Arun III to ink financial closure in Feb 2020 The report says 30% work on the SJVN’s 900 MW Arun III project has been completed, the financial closure is likely to be signed in Feb 2020 and project expected to be completed in 2023. (31 Dec. 2019) https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/arun-iii-to-ink-financial-closure-in-february/

Lost Arun III

Ram Sharan Mahat former finance minister is wrongly blaming global activism for halt, delay of Arun III hydro project. Govt must help communities take informed, free, fair decision by conducting EIA, SIA, public hearing before pushing such projects which impact the people, environment, river ecosystem immensely. (19 Dec. 2019) https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/how-nepal-lost-arun-iii/

UPPER KARNALI HEP

Trilateral PPA Nepal’s Minister of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Barsha Man Pun said the govt expected a trilateral Power Purchase Agreement between Nepal, India and Bangladesh on the Upper Karnali Hydropower Project during the investment summit slated for March 29 and 30 for export of 500 MW from the project to Bangladesh.

“The Indian side told me the draft PPA to be signed between GMR and Bangladesh govt was in the final stage and that they were ready to sign a trilateral agreement, including Nepal,” he said. Pun said he also floated an alternative proposal in Delhi that if GMR was not able to develop the project, Nepal govt would build it by allocating shares in the project to GMR equivalent to its investment so far. “Haryana govt has agreed in principle to buy 300 MW electricity from GMR,” Pun said. GMR has been holding the project since 2006 when it won the contract through global biding. As per the contract agreement, Nepal Electricity Authority will get 108MW energy for free and 27 per cent equity share.

– Pun said Nepal had already started exporting surplus energy to India under the energy banking system. He said the exports amounted to Rs 160 million so far this fiscal, while last year’s exports stood at Rs 70 million. “We will export energy worth billions of rupees from next year after Upper Tamakoshi project starts generating 456 MW electricity. We are not very far from becoming self-reliant in energy” He said. He said the govt was working to ensure generation of 3,000MW energy in the next three years, and complete projects generating 5,000MW in five years. The govtplans to generate 15,000MW in 10 years. (18 Feb. 2019) https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepal-india-bangladesh-trilateral-ppa-on-cards/

Bogged down in price negotiations Price of electricity to be generated from the Upper Karnali HEP sold to Bangladesh, is yet to be finalised. Investment Board Nepal, which has already extended the financial closure deadline for the Indian developer twice, has balked at extending it further despite company’s request. “The two parties are yet to finalise and sign a power purchase agreement, probably because of the ‘high rate’ proposed by the developer,” said the official. https://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2019-06-25/upper-karnali-hydropower-project-bogged-down-in-price-negotiations.html (25 June 2019)

Nepal summons GMR https://english.onlinekhabar.com/nepal-summons-gmr-for-talks-as-ambitious-upper-karnali-hydro-project-gets-stuck.html (12 Sept. 2019)

GMR finalises PPA rate of UKHEP? Bangladeshi govt and GMR, developer of the Upper Karnali Hydro Electric Project (UKHEP), have finalised the power purchase agreement rate to purchase 500 MW. The proposal for the as yet undisclosed rate of power purchase by the Bangladesh govt is now submitted to the Cabinet and will be made public after Cabinet approval.  https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/gmr-bdesh-finalise-ppa-rate-of-ukhep/ (21 Nov. 2019)

South Asian countries join forces to destroy the last free-flowing river In Nov 2019 Bangladesh and Indian Company GMR have moved closer to signing a power purchase agreement to pave the way for the Upper Karnali scheme in western Nepal and sell 500 MW to Bangladesh. According to GMR Chief Operating Officer Harbinder Monocha, a cabinet meeting of Bangladesh has allowed the company and energy authorities of Bangladesh to go ahead with an agreement on the purchase rate.

17. Free flowing Karnali River in Nepal that will be dammed for hydropower that Bangladesh to buy
Free flowing Karnali River in Nepal that will be dammed for Upper Karnali hydropower Project that Bangladesh is to buy

The project cost is estimated to hover around $1.1 billion (judging from experience it will be at least twice more expensive). The GMR plans to collect 15 per cent of investment through Nepali banks and financial institutions. “We are also in negotiations with Indian Exim Bank, Chinese Exim Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) and other multilateral lenders for the remaining financing for the project”- said GMR representative.  http://www.transrivers.org/2019/2915/ (28 Nov. 2019)

PANCHESHWAR DAM

No Pancheshwar experts group’s meeting since Nov 2017 This report from Nepal says there is yet no consensus on Pancheshwar DPR, experts group that last met in Nov 2017 and no new meeting date is finalised.  http://english.onlinekhabar.com/india-still-reluctant-to-hold-pancheshwar-experts-group-meeting.html (3 Feb. 2019)

Experts Group meets: Key differences of Pancheshwar project unresolved  At the end of two days of official expert committee members of India Nepal on Pancheshwar Project, held in Kathmandu on Feb 27-28, 2019, Prabin Aryal, spokesperson for the Nepal Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation says: “no concrete understandings have been made on different issues including the downstream benefits of the project, water sharing, consumption and price, investment, irrigation and energy production capacity of the multipurpose project.” The meeting could not finalise the DPR of the project. On Water sharing, Nepal has been asking for 50%, but India has been saying the water from Sharda that India now uses should be considered prior use right and protected. https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/key-differences-of-pancheshwar-project-unresolved/ (1 March 2019)

The extended deadline for finalisation of DPR expired in Dec 2018. (27 Feb.2019) https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/pm-oli-stresses-country-should-get-water-as-per-mahakali-treaty/ Also see: http://setopati.net/social/140773 (27 Feb. 2019)

Tenure of ‘team of experts’ extended by one year High-level officials from Nepal and India have agreed to extend the tenure of the team of experts of the Pancheshwar Project by one year, this was decided at a meeting of the Nepali and Indian officials of Pancheshwar Development Authority (PDA), the project developer, which was held in New Delhi during Nov 27-28. Finalising the DPR along with downstream benefits and further geological investigations were also discussed during the meeting. The next meeting of team of experts will be called before Jan 15, in New Delhi at a mutually convenient date. (3 Dec. 2019) https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/tenure-of-pancheshwar-team-of-experts-extended-by-one-year/

Pancheshwar dam vulnerable to earthquakes  A latest study published by a team of Indian researchers has cautioned that the project would face a serious risk from seismic activity and sediment mobilisation. The researchers also note that the project will be vulnerable to extreme weather events and shrinking glaciers in the Himalayan region. (13 June 2019) https://india.mongabay.com/2019/06/pancheshwar-dam-vulnerable-to-earthquakes-in-current-form-finds-study/

Doom for diversity Ecological concerns have always been sacrificed at the altar of development. The same will be the case of the Pancheshwar region, which is home to a variety of species writes Neeraj Mahar. Thousands of hectares of broadleaf forests, dominated by sal and flanking small hamlets, that skirt meticulously carved out terrace farms in the valley of the Mahakali River, home to the giant golden mahseer — this is the defining image of the Pancheshwar region in the trans-boundary Mahakali valley of India and Nepal.

There are other species, too, for whom the Mahakali basin is home: The incredible flora and fauna like the Indian butter tree, tigers and golden mahseer among others. Studies by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Foundation of Ecological Security (FES) have documented 227 mostly forest-dependent bird species in the Goriganga basin, upto where the submergence area extends. The basin is also renowned for its orchid diversity, harbouring more than 120 species. Mahakali River is known to be the abode for three dwindling otter species — Eurasian, smooth-coated & small-clawed. A study by Nepali scientists documented 72 fish species, including the endangered golden mahseer. River flows, the first to be destroyed by the dams, are the mainstay for freshwater fish and riverine ecosystems. (27 July 2019) https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/columnists/dam-for-nations–doom-for-diversity.html

WATERWAYS 

India agrees to allow Nepal use 3 waterways India has agreed in principle to allow Nepal to use three inland waterways, thus expanding its transit options to the sea. Nepal can even operate its own vessels on the Ganges River that runs parallel to the southern border, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies said. India has consented to grant access to the Kolkata-Kalughat, Raxaul; Kolkata-Sahebgunj, Biratnagar and Kolkata-Varanasi-Raxaul routes during the trade talks held recently in New Delhi. (3 Oct. 2019) https://kathmandupost.com/money/2019/10/03/india-agrees-to-allow-nepal-to-use-three-inland-waterways

GANDAK WATERWAYS Nepal is showing interest in Ganga Waterways development through Gandak and other options (Kosi, Karnali) to connect with Bay of Bengal. But it seems rather far fetched. (4 March 2019) https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2019/03/04/gandak-waterways-changing-rivers/

The IWAI chairman also said that technical studies were necessary to determine if the Gandak route was feasible for the transport of cargo. If the proposal is approved, cargo from Haldia and Kolkata docks can directly reach Nepal on waterways, offering immense cost advantage and convenience to the stakeholders. (7 June 2019) https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/nepal-keen-on-exploring-gandak-river-route-for-trade-says-iwai-official/story/354302.html

SANDRP (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

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