Planned meeting of Pancheshwar Dev Authority put offA meeting of the governing council of the Pancheshwar Development Authority, scheduled to be held in Kathmandu this week, has been put off at India’s request
A meeting of the governing council of the Pancheshwar Development Authority, scheduled to be held in Kathmandu this week, has been put off at India’s request, raising suspicions given the current downturn in relations between the two neighbours.
The Indian side had communicated to Nepal that it would not be able to participate in the conference planned to take place from January 7-9 due to “some other urgent proceedings in India”. A 13-member delegation led by Ministry of Water Resource Secretary Shashi Shekhar was slated to arrive in Kathmandu on Wednesday to participate in the meeting.
“We were informed on Monday evening. As per the unofficial message, some urgent proceedings at the Water Resource Ministry have forced the Indian side to put off the meeting for the time being,” said Mahendra Bahadur Gurung, chief executive officer of the Pancheshwar Development Authority. “However, there is no need to worry much. We will be rescheduling the meeting soon.” According to Gurung, they expect the conference to be held in the last week of January.
Gurung added that there was no reflection of the presently strained ties between Nepal and India on the project. “We are in constant touch with the Indian side, and there is no such indication,” Gurung said.
The authority had been formed with the aim of expediting the construction of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project. Situated on the banks of the Mahakali River on the Nepal-India border, the project is expected to generate 6,720 MW of electricity. It will also irrigate 93,000 hectares of land in Nepal and 1.6 million hectares in India.
Energy Secretary Suman Prasad Sharma co-chairs the governing council of the Pancheshwar Development Authority with his Indian counterpart.
The governing council meeting scheduled to be held in Kathmandu this week was expected to discuss a number of issues including the authority’s institutional arrangement, its budget for the upcoming fiscal year and the status of Wapcos Limited, an Indian company assigned to upgrade the data for the integration of the two detailed project reports (DPRs) of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project prepared separately by Nepal and India.
Even though the DPR integration was expected to be completed within six months, Wapcos has been already given two extensions. The upgradation and integration of the data is one of the most crucial components of the DPR as Nepal and India had prepared two different DPRs separately more than one and a half decades ago.
The need to verify the data has become crucial as several aspects, including the geology and construction techniques, have changed since then. Subjects like the project cost, geological aspect, techniques to be used and the project’s commissioning date can also be analyzed after the data is upgraded and integrated.
Wapcos started work in April and was supposed to finish it by October 2014. When it missed the deadline, it was given an extra two months till December. The company has not been able to complete the designated task and wants another deadline extension.
The decision to give the contract to Wapcos was based on the first meeting held in Kathmandu in September 2013. The meeting had also endorsed the statute of the Pancheshwar Development Authority opening the way for the project’s commencement.
According to Gurung, Wapcos has been taking longer than expected to complete the task as there are several adjustments that need to be done. “The company has been working professionally and sincerely. Since the DPR will provide an outlook of the project, we are waiting for the final outcome,” Gurung said.
The Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, which had been in limbo for the last two decades, regained momentum after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in August 2014. Addressing the Nepali Parliament, Modi had declared that the project would begin within a year.