Nepal, India ink 29-point water deal

The Nepal-India joint meeting of top water resource officials concluded recently after reaching a 29-point agreement in which India reiterated it would not continue any controversial construction work along the Nepal-India border and to expedite implementation of past agreements. In the agreement reached at the Joint Committee on Water Resources (JCWR) meet, India reassured Nepal that it would shun construction of new structures along the border which have been causing inundation problems...

KATHMANDU, Nepal, Oct. 1, 2008 -- The Nepal-India joint meeting of top water resource officials concluded here today after reaching a 29-point agreement in which India reiterated it would not continue any controversial construction work along the Nepal-India border and to expedite implementation of past agreements. In the agreement reached at the Joint Committee on Water Resources (JCWR) meet, India reassured Nepal that it would shun construction of new structures along the border which have been causing inundation problem in bordering areas of Nepal every year.

Nepali officials had expressed concern over the new construction work going on at Mahali Sagar in Kapilvastu district. In reply, the Indian officials said the work has already been stopped. The JCWR then decided to make a joint field visit within one month and resolve the issue. During talks at the Standing Committee on Inundation Problem (SCIP) held in the first week of October 2004 in Kathmandu, India had agreed not to continue any construction work at Mahali Sagar and other controversial sites until a bilateral agreement is reached.

To resolve the inundation problem caused by the India-built Laxmanpur barrage, the Indian side proposed that a structure should be constructed with a capacity to channel 40 cumec [cubic meter per second] of water to the Gandheli and Sotia canals through Kalkalwa Bund. India is ready to implement the proposal. The Nepali side will send its comments on the proposed structure within a month. At least nine VDCs (40 square kilometers of Nepali territory) are submerged every monsoon due to the Laxmanpur barrage.

During bilateral talks at the High Level Technical Committee prior to the SCIP talks held in October 2004 in Kathmandu, the Indian representatives had agreed to give natural outlet to water blocked in Nepali territory. The two sides have agreed to set up the Pancheshwar Development Authority at the earliest. The Authority will develop, execute and operate the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project. Water resources secretaries of Nepal and India will co-chair the Authority.

The two governments, during the visit of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to India last month, had instructed the water resource ministries of both countries to expedite work on the project. For the 5,600 MW multi-purpose Pancheswar project, a treaty was signed between India and Nepal in 1996. The Nepali side reiterated that the sill elevation of the head regulator for releasing water from the Tanakpur barrage to Nepal be lowered to 241.5 meters to ensure more water to Nepal.

The JCWR also proposed a Joint Ministerial Level Commission on Water Resources and another Joint Standing Technical Committee (JSTC) at Joint Secretary level. The JSTC will be coordinating all existing committees and sub-committees under the JCWR. This decision was taken in the light of the top-level political agreement reached between the two governments during the prime minister's India visit to set up a three-tier mechanism, at the ministerial, secretary and technical levels.

The two governments, in establishing the mechanisms, aim at pushing forward discussions on the development of water resources in a comprehensive manner including hydro-power generation, irrigation, flood control and other water-related cooperation. The top officials, who visited the Koshi embankment breach areas on Tuesday as part of the three-day talks, committed themselves to completing the reconstruction of ravaged parts of the Koshi and turning the river back to its original course by March 2009. High level bilateral talks will be held over issues related to the Koshi embankment breach in the first week of November. The Koshi burst its embankment at West Kushaha in Sunsari on Aug. 18, displacing more than 35,000 people in Nepal and affecting around 2.5 million in Bihar state of India.

Regarding the 245 MW Naumure hydro project, the two sides agreed to jointly prepare a pre-feasibility report within three months. The Nepali side proposed to maximise the irrigation potential in the Rapti River basin and utilise a part of the flow in Kapilvastu district with the construction of necessary storage reservoirs at Naumure and Bhaluwang. "The project will include irrigation facilities in Kapilvastu," Nepal's Water Resources Secretary Shankar Koirala told journalists upon the conclusion of the talks. The government of Nepal assured the Indian side that it will guarantee the security of field investigations and studies for the Saptakoshi High Dam Multi-Purpose Project, said a statement issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. The JCWR decided to extend by one year the tenure of the Joint Project Office established to study the project.

India's Secretary of Water Resources Umesh Narayan Panjiar described the talks as successful in achieving a positive outcome over long standing issues. The next JCWR meeting is scheduled for February 2009 in Banaras, India.

Highlights of the agreement
• Establish Pancheshwor Development Authority
• Ministerial-level joint commission
• Restore Koshi embankment by March 2009
• Resolve Laxmanpur barrage inundation problem
• India to shun construction at Mahali Sagar
• Agreement to set up Joint Standing Technical Committee
• Pre-feasibility study on Naumure within 3 months

Related articles:
>> Water dissolves border barriers
>> Nepal, India agree to rebuild embankment; Flood victims to be rehabilitated by March 2009
>> Basics of Nepali Hydro-Diplomacy

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