Media workshop on Rethinking Water and Energy Cooperation
Experts emphasized on the need to review and reinforce the energy and water cooperation in South Asia in a programme organized here today. The discussion took place in a workshop organized by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) in partnership with Cuts International and Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET)-Nepal.
The half-day media workshop ‘Rethinking water and energy cooperation’ saw a series of discussions among water and energy experts and media persons on how the changing dynamics—political, economic and ecological—have necessitated reviewing of Nepal’s water and energy policies.
The first technical session saw presentation from Mr. Ajaya Dixit, Executive Director at ISET-Nepal on ‘Rivers, energy and ecosystem intersection in South Asia’. He pointed out that the impact of climate change is already visible in Nepal’s water resources. Citing International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), he said that, between 1977 and 2010 Nepal’s icecaps have receded by 29 per cent. Likewise, water reserve in the springs in mid-hills has depleted, and at the same time, our rivers have deteriorated into sewerage channels. The water-related disasters of recent times—such as the western Nepal’s 2014 flood caused by the three days of torrential rain and the 2008 Koshi flood—show the erratic nature of the rivers.
Mr. Dixit stressed that our focus on river conservation has mostly centered on the Himalayan Rivers. But the bilateral and multilateral platforms need to consider water sharing and management issues of rivers originating from the Mahabharata and Chure as well.
Commenting on Mr. Dixit’s presentation, former Deputy-Managing Director of Nepal Electricity Authority and CEO at the Kabeli Energy Ltd, Mr. Sher Singh Bhat pointed out that the major problem in Nepal’s hydrological management lies in the lack of intra-sector and inter-sector coordination. As an example, he pointed out that licensing authorities grant clearances for projects without considering the effect of upper stream projects on the lower stream and vice versa and also between usages, for example, possible impact on irrigation by hydropower projects.
As for power trading, Mr. Bhat said that with India’s current power surplus situation and Nepal’s deficit, we have become a lucrative market for India’s electricity, not the other way around. Mr. Bhat’s opinion was seconded by Mr. Kumar Pandey, the Vice President of Independent Power Producers’ Association.
Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Chairman of SAWTEE, also pointed out that Nepal’s inability to properly manage its water resources and energy potential has left it not only in power deficit situation but with a large trade deficit as well. Nepal’s increased dependency on India would translate to soaring payments deficit in this fiscal year due to increased power purchase, he said.
Mr. Keshab Poudel, Editor of New Spotlight Magazine, lamented that water discourse in Nepal has always been limited to energy generation and as a result other potential usage of rivers such as for navigation, fisheries and even for keeping ecological balance have been ignored.
In the second session, Mr. Rajendra Dahal, senior journalist and former advisor to the President of Nepal, pointed out that the media have not sufficiently covered impacts of water on livelihoods as the water narrative always gets charged with seemingly bigger issues on energy.
Mr. Gokarna Awasthi, President of Society of Economic Journalist of Nepal, said that the problem with current energy discourse is that too many different groups are lobbying in for their own interests which results in diverse, at time conflicting, reporting. Similar views were echoed by other discussants: Mr. Ajaya Bhadra Khanal, former editor of The Himalayan Times and Mr. Ramesh Bhushal, General Secretary of Nepal Forum for Environmental Journalists.
The workshop is being organised by SAWTEE under the project Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) in partnership with CUTS International, Jaipur, India. About 30 participants participated in the workshop.
Mr. Ajaya Dixit, Executive Director, ISET