TOPICS : Tapping Nepal’s hydropower potential

The parliamentary Natural Resources and Means Committee has been meeting to decide on what could be the turning point in terms of Nepal’s development. In this regard, the country’s huge hydropower potential has emerged as the strongest contender, as far as economic emancipation is concerned. Nepal, despite being a country rich in hydropower resources, has unfortunately been unable to utilise this asset to its advantage. It is estimated that less than 2% of its hydropotential is being tapped.

However, realising this enormous possibility, positive steps are now being taken in the right direction. The government, after gaining and learning from past experiences, set up a bidding committee for hydropower projects with a comprehensive evaluation process to identify and select the most capable and feasible party. Some of these include 402 MW Arun 3, 300 MW Upper Karnali, and others totalling an approximate 2000 MW projects being processed by the government and private sectors collectively.

The Parliamentary Committee is now assessing the bidding process. Embroiled in a dynamic political environment, the process seems to be taking too long. The coalition has priorities changing from day to day. Meanwhile, the world is looking up to those in power to quickly take measures that will inculcate confidence in the investing community — be it national or international.

This is what puts the Committee as well as the government in a position that will help them define the future of the economic progress of Nepal. An expeditious decision on the power projects will help send a signal to the world about the government’s seriousness of purpose in inviting investment that is important for Nepal’s development. But unending deliberations and a prolonged process may take Nepal right back to where it began.

Nepal may even consider taking a leaf out of its neighbour’s book. Bhutan’s achievement in terms of hydropower development has helped establish it as the nation with the highest per capita income among SAARC countries. A remarkable feat considering that there is a two-fold increase in its GDP.

Nepal too can mobilise its huge water resources. Bearing in mind the similarities between the two countries in terms of geographical size, terrain and population, adopting a parallel strategy that can leverage hydropower resources to enhance national economy could well be Nepal’s ticket to prosperity, especially with the Indian economy promising to be a big market.

The government has already got overwhelming response from the international community. The approach, process and criteria of selection looked much more apprehensive and credible. No wonder many good international parties have submitted their proposals this time. The selection committee must take a holistic approach towards the entire process and get out of small issues. Now, it is up to the government and the Parliamentary Committee to settle the bidding process and take a quick step towards economic independence.