Cold feet

The government has fallen distinctly short of meeting its targets outlined in the Water Resources Strategy, 2002. For instance, the strategy envisioned generation of 820 MW of electricity through hydropower projects by 2007, but the existing maximum power generation capacity is a paltry 560 MW. Another goal was to increase the share of private investment in hydropower sector to 75%. As things stand, private sector involvement is limited to very small power plants. Other areas where the government made some progress but failed to meet its targets are water supply and sanitation, and irrigation.

The strategy, say its proponents, was not ambitious (one big hydropower project would have been enough to meet the country’s power needs). They are unanimous in their view that even though the decade-long Maoist insurgency erected countless hurdles for effective implementation of their outlined plans, the failure to meet even modest targets can by and large be attributed to the lack of political commitment and incompetent leadership. As usual, Nepali political leaders and top-level bureaucrats have proven themselves ultra-efficient in making big promises but found to be developing cold feet when it came to making a real difference. Building a new Nepal starts with the readiness on the part of those occupying responsible posts in the government to change their outmoded mindset that tends to encourage rewards for producing practically nothing of substance. Old habits die hard. And yet, unless Nepali leaders and bureaucrats are weaned off the culture of exalted sinecures, carving out a new Nepal will be that much more difficult.