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Nepal crisis may hit Pancheshwar dam

Shishir Prashant  |  New Delhi/ Dehra Dun 

The 6,000 megawatt dam planned on the Indo-Nepal border likely to be delayed.

The ongoing upheavals in Nepal in the wake of the resignation of Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ can further delay the proposed 6,000 Mw Pancheshwar dam on the Indo-Nepal border.

“We view the developments in Nepal very disturbing as far as the Pancheshwar dam is concerned,” an official here said.

Prachanda, who had shown keenness in developing the Pancheshwar dam, had visited the 2400Mw Tehri hydel project, an engineering marvel, last November to understand the problem of rehabilitation. He also went inside the powerhouse of the dam, which is the highest in Asia, and watched various mechanisms of the project.

After visiting Tehri, also had a luncheon meeting with chief minister BC Khanduri in Dehra Dun where the two leaders discussed matters related to the Pancheshwar dam, which is being jointly developed by Nepal and India with an estimated investment of Rs 30,000-40,000 crore.

At that time, the Maoist leader had also told Khanduri that Nepal was looking forward to work with India on more hydel projects.

Significantly, Uttarakhand, which had opposed big dams for a long time, gave its consent for the Pancheshwar hydel project.

For the development of the mega dam, a separate Pancheshwar development authority comprising top officials from both Nepal and India was also in the process of being set up. The Uttarakhand power secretary is a member of the authority established to expedite matters related to the project as well as its detailed project report. The project was proposed on the basis of the 1996 Mahakali Treaty.

Initially, after the formation of the Maoist government in Nepal, doubts were being raised over the future of the hydel projects sharing border with Nepal. But after the visit of to India, the air of uncertainty had been removed largely, the official added. Now, all depends on the situation in Nepal and future government at Kathmandu, the official added.

The Pancheshwar hydel project, thrice the size of the Tehri dam, is being proposed on the Kali river in Pithoragarh and Champawat districts of the state along with some parts of Nepal. The project, having 12 units of 540 Mw each, would uproot hundreds of people from Pithoragarh and Champawat districts and submerge a large area in the region. Nearly 80 percent of the catchment area would be in India and rest in Nepal.

There are reports that the height of the Pancheshwar dam has been increased from 238 metre to 315 metre. Besides, a huge reservoir is being planned for the Pancheshwar dam in which over 100 villages would be submerged completely. But the sources here said as compared to the potential of the dam, the number of people being uprooted would be far less.

There will be two underground power projects in the proposed site. Most of the areas in Pithoragarh and Champawat districts are ecologically very fragile as well as earthquake prone.

The project has also come under fire with social activists saying they do not want another Tehri-like experiment in the state again.

First Published: Thu, May 07 2009. 00:23 IST