Will Nepal and India conclude Pancheshwar project report this time?Pancheshwar Development Authority has proposed the meeting of the team of experts for September 29 and 30.
Nepali officials have expressed hope that the meeting of the team of experts on the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project scheduled for later this month will finalise the detailed project report (DPR) of the project.
The fourth meeting of the team of experts held in late July had instructed India's state-owned Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS) Ltd to revise the DPR in line with the understanding reached in the fourth and earlier meetings.
WAPCOS recently submitted a draft DPR to both sides. Pancheshwar is a 6,480 MW project to be developed jointly by Nepal and India.
“As the chief executive officer of the authority, I have suggested scheduling the meeting of the team of experts for September 29 and 30,” Madhu Prasad Bhetuwal, the chief executive officer of the Pancheshwar Development Authority, told the Post. “Actual date will be determined through mutual understanding.”
He said that WAPCOS has submitted the revised draft of the DPR which has sought to address the concerns of both sides. “So, there is room for reaching consensus in the fifth meeting of the team of experts,” Bhetuwal said.
Earlier, in 2016, WAPCOS had submitted a draft of DPR by consolidating separate DPRs prepared by both sides, but there was disagreement over the content.
Particularly, the two sides disagreed on the extent of benefit each country would get from the multipurpose project to be developed on the bordering Mahakali River. The 6,480MW project which also aims to irrigate swathes of farmlands in India and a small portion in Nepal, is an integral part of the Mahakali Treaty, which was controversially passed by Nepal’s Parliament in 1996.
As per the treaty, both sides agreed in principle that the project cost would be shared in proportion to the benefits for each side. But the crux of the matter has been how to quantify the benefit for each side.
“Our position is that there is good benefit for Nepal from hydropower to be generated, but the benefits are negligible when it comes to irrigation and flood control,” said an official of the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation. “The draft DPR has sought to address our many concerns.”
The official said that based on the revised draft, India should invest more to develop the project on which its southern neighbour has agreed in principle. “Now, things to be ironed out are the actual portions of benefit for India and Nepal in all three areas— hydropower, flood control and irrigation.”
As per the WAPCOS DPR draft, India enjoys 65 percent benefit in irrigation and 82 percent benefit in flood control.
India has a larger land mass to irrigate from the water of Mahakali while the dam to be erected to develop the hydroelectric project will help to regulate the flow of water minimising the flood risks for India as a downstream country.
Bilateral discussions on the DPR moved ahead when the two countries agreed to finalise it within three months during the visit of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to India from May 31 to June 3.
In the first week of July, a meeting of the governing body (Board of Directors) of Pancheshwar Development Authority was held in Pokhara which decided to hold the meeting of a team of experts after extending the term of the bilateral mechanism by six months.
Then the fourth meeting of the team of experts was held in New Delhi in late July, four years after the third meeting was held in Kathmandu in February 2019.
“Let’s hope we can give happy news about the project after the fifth meeting,” said Bhetuwal.