West Seti project draws flak

Kathmandu, July 21:

Speakers at an interaction today raised concern about various aspects of the 750-MW West Seti Hydropower Project. Work on the project is to begin this November.

Chairman of the Water and Energy Users’ Federation Nepal (WAFED) Ram Chandra Chattaut said that the government agreement on the West Seti should be scrapped and an entirely Nepali project should be commissioned.

“The people of the region are the real owners of West Seti. They are not ready to hand over the West Seti to companies like Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation Limited only for 10 per cent of energy or for some royalty that the government will get from the mega-project,” he said.

Chattaut urged the government to clarify why it, all of a sudden, okayed the project, which was awaiting government approval for a decade. He demanded that the agreement on West Seti be revised as per Article 156 of the Interim Constitution.

An hydroelectricity expert, Dipak Gyawali, said that the project will add the burden of loan on Nepali citizens in the long run. The project will also deprive the locals of their right to irrigate their fields, he said.

He urged all to stop dreaming of earning money from the “Bhutan model” if we are not ready to become “Bhutan” for India.

An NC lawmaker, NP Saud, said locals should take pains to know what they are getting from the project. “If we cannot commission projects on our own, we should let others exploit our resources, provided it benefits us,” he said. Saud said that the government should rehabilitate the people who will be displaced by the project, carry out economic activities and development works.

A Maoist lawmaker, Lekhraj Bhatta, said there should be clarity on what the state will gain from the project. Either a supplementary project should be commissioned or the Karnali region should get royalty generated from the project. “We are not in favour of big hydroelectricity projects,” he added.