Energy cooperation between and among the nations in South Asia can help lift millions of people out of poverty

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Saturday stressed the need to build robust and renewed global partnership in a bid to build a greener, safer and more sustainable world. He also called for ensuring easier and direct access to financing and modern technologies for countries in special situations. Addressing a high-level dialogue on Energy through a pre-recorded video, PM Deuba said energy was crucial in achieving the 2030 Agenda and implementing the Paris Agreement. He said energy could play a crucial role in combating climate change and attaining the goals related to poverty reduction, gender equality, food security, health, education, among others.

World leaders, including heads of states/governments, ministers, parliamentarians and UN officials are scheduled to address the 76th UN General Assembly that began on September 21. Nepal's Minister of Foreign Affairs Narayan Khadka is leading the Nepali delegates to the UNGA. PM Deuba highlighted the problems faced by countries like Nepal with low income, difficult geographical terrain and dispersed settlements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said these problems can be tackled if all the countries work collectively through cleaner, greener and smarter energy. He also expressed his government's commitment to realise climate-resilient development pathways and net-zero emissions through the utilisation of Nepal's vast hydropower potential and other renewable energy resources.

Nepal is one of the countries in South Asia fully dependent on clean, green and renewable sources of energy. Most of the energy produced in the country comes from hydropower plants, and a small portion of it is solar, both of which emit zero emission. As Nepal is rich in water resources and has a suitable topography to generate clean energy from hydropower and solar plants, the country can meet the energy needs of the entire region and beyond should the countries in the sub-region cooperate in energy connectivity through better financing and transfer of modern technology. Energy cooperation between and among the nations in South Asia can help lift millions of people out of poverty.

It may be recalled that the 4th BIMSTEC Summit held in Kathmandu on August 30-31, 2018 had agreed to Nepal's proposal to develop sub-regional connectivity in the energy sector. Although progress on connectivity has been slow, the countries are working in developing a legal framework to realise the goal of the summit. Nepal, India and Bangladesh are working on developing transnational transmission lines so that the energy produced in one country can be transported to another one by using the national grids of the third country. That is why Bangladesh, whose economy has been growing fast over the decade, has shown keen interest in investing on a 1,500-MW hydropower plant in Nepal, hoping that it would be able to transport the electricity generated here by using Indian national grids under a trilateral deal. It will be a game changer in the energy sector at the sub-regional level should the three countries move forward as per the declaration made during the BIMSTEC Summit. This kind of cooperation is a must for the economic prosperity of the region.

Hasty decision

Kathmandu Metropolitan City's decision to run classes in-person from Sunday, September 26, has created a lot of confusion and anxiety among both school students and their parents. Why the KMC took the decision with the Dashain festival less than a fortnight away is anyone's guess. People leave for their homes in the villages for the great festival, nearly emptying the Kathmandu Valley. So in case the students have to come to the capital for about a week's studies, this could mean a lot of travelling back and forth. Many of the children of migrant workers are in the villages, studying through distance learning, and they could have continued doing so until Tihar, another big festival.

Of particular concern to the parents is that most of the school students have not been inoculated against the coronavirus, raising the risk of infection. The daily number of infections in Kathmandu has definitely been declining, but the virus has not been defeated yet. If the KMC has taken the decision to open the schools under pressure from the private school operators, then it is a hasty decision, which could prove counterproductive as has been the case in other parts of the country.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 27 2021, of The Himalayan Times.