new Delhi : India’s continuing conflict with Nepal over border claims and map tampering in recent times has apparently delayed the construction of a much larger 5600 MW capacity dam on the Mahakali River. This river flows between Nepal and the Indian state of Uttarakhand. In the year 1996, a huge dam was to be built on behalf of two countries under a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
During the visit to Kathmandu in 2014 after assuming the reins of power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his desire to accelerate the pace of dam construction. A memorandum of understanding was also signed between the two countries to this effect. This project was estimated to cost roughly 35 thousand crores and it was targeted to be completed by 2026.
This project is going through a bad phase in view of the present anti-India stance of the Government of Nepal. Nepal’s Maoist Communist Party leader and Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has taken a stand against India under the influence of China.
Chinese President Xi Jin Ping visited Nepal in October last year where he was accorded a grand welcome. The President of China has signed several agreements to provide logistics and financial support to Nepal.
Popularly known as the Pancheshwar dam, the project is called one of the highest dams in the world. The Mahakali river falls 660 feet down into Kalapani from 11800 feet and enters the plains of Terai. During this time there is a huge possibility of hydroelectric power which has not been used yet. The proposed height of the dam is 315 meters, which can generate 5600 MW of power. It will be the second largest dam in the world with this capacity.
Officials from both India and Nepal have been discussing the possibilities of construction of this dam since 1956. At that time, the then Central Water Commission had shown interest in exploiting the power generation capacity of this river and talked about providing irrigation facilities to both the countries.
The major sub-Himalayan hydroelectric project will not only provide electricity and water for irrigation to large parts of India and Nepal, but will also help in controlling floods of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The construction of this dam has been delayed many years ago and due to increasing time, its cost has reached billions of dollars.
It is noteworthy here that in some sections of India, there has been a heated debate about the possession of this dam. Some critics say that this dam will displace around thirty thousand families from 123 villages in three districts of Uttarakhand i.e. Pithoragarh, Almora and Champawat. Not only this, they say that the dense forests in 9100 hectares coming in the area of 11600 hectare reservoir will be submerged. They talk of causing tremendous damage to the region’s ecosystem and the unique wildlife of the region.
Thus, there is strong opposition from the dam affected people and environmentalists. After coming to Nepal, this river flows through Uttarakhand and enters Uttar Pradesh by flowing southeast in the plains to meet at the Ghaghra, a tributary of the Ganges. Even the public hearing on this issue during the last few months has not helped to calm the feelings of the agitated people concerned. Now the Nepali Communist Party along with Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and National Green Tribunal, a regional political party of the state have also started opposing this dam openly.
The affected people do not seem to calm down despite the government’s assurance of proper rehabilitation and adequate compensation. Thus the controversy over the construction of the mega dam is assuming a new dimension. Now the regional political party Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, the Nepali Communist Party along with the National Green Tribunal have also registered their objection to the construction of this dam.