By Dirgha Raj Prasai
During the state visit of Prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to India 23 August to 27-2017 agreed that the work on preparation of the Detailed Project Report for the Sapta Koshi High dam and Sun-Koshi storage cum diversion scheme be expedited which was published in the joint statement of the Prime minister of Nepal Sher Bahadur Deuba and the Prime minister of India Narendra Modi. Among the entire high dam, the proposed Koshi high dam is very dangerous for Nepal and India. Why the prime minister Sher Bahadur supported that suicidal agreement? India has proposed a 269 metre high dam on the Sapta Koshi River at about 400 meter upstream from Barahkshetra temple for generating 300 M.W. of electricity for proportional sharing with Nepal. Eight kilometres downstream at Chatra has been proposed another dam for irrigating 546,000 ha of land in Nepal and 976,000 ha in India with an additional 300 MW of electricity.
Nepal is investing on a survey of the proposed project. Generation of hydropower with irrigation by means of small and medium scale dams always welcome, but it is out of question for Nepal to invest on such ambitious mega project without investigating and evaluating the benefits for such project that are detrimental to the national interest and are meant only to the interests of India. The proposal for high dam on the Sapta Koshi River at Chatra is by no means new. When B. P. Koirala became the Prime Minister, approval had been already granted for the Gandak Project, Dang-Deukhari Reservoir Project and the Koshi High Dam at Chatara in 1959 A.D. The Gandak Project was indeed implemented. The Project office building had already constructed in Dang. Numerous requests of protest were submitted to the King. Following the protestation of the people, King Mahendra and Prime Minister B. P, Koirala visited Dang. Noticing the protests against the proposed dam, Prime Minister B.P. Koirala had to revoke the project.
At the same time, the technical personal from India had already begun the survey for the Koshi High Dam by erecting tents on the hills of Barahkshetra. There was a popular protest too. The Barahkshetra is a sacred place for all Hindus. The people protested at the prospect of displacing the God of Barahkshetra including many families and inundating their valuable agricultural land. In 2062 A.D. King Mahendra together with the Chairman of the Council of Minister, Dr Tulsi Giri and his personal assistant Mr. Sushil Koirala which became the president of Nepali Congress and PM of Nepal, studied the project site by boat. After this site visit, the Saptakoshi High Dam Project was cancelled deeming that it was not in Nepalese favour and interests.
During the visit of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to India in 1991 A.D. that this dam project scheduled in 1962 A.D. was also given approval secretly along with the Tanakpur Barrage was revealed only when Mr Sher Bahadur Deuba became Prime Minister. At this critical time moment when Nepal has been terrorized by the Maoist rebels and India has consented to the expulsion of the Nepali speaking Bhutanese citizens, the Indian intention to add insult to injury upon Nepal by proclaiming that the high dam is in Nepal's interests is entirely contrary to the country's well being. Such a large dam is likely to inundate and demolish numerous stretches of land now as well as the future in both Nepal and India. Even the Indian experts and the people of the area cannot support such a venture.
Nepal has always been full of good will for Indian. Nepal has never caused any trouble to India by following an ambivalent policy. India's habit, however, of professing one thing and acting contrary always gives Nepal reason to fear it. Nepal has a immediate border with India of 1880 kilometres. Miss using the boarder, the Indian authorities makes fake maps for encroaching on Nepalese territory, in setting up its army battalion by intruding inside Kalapani where Indian army has been stationed in the Nepal territory In the western boarder of Mahakai, Lipulek is the sovereign land of Nepal after all, in the official visit of Indian PM in China the Indian PM and the Chinese President signed in the joint statement prosing Lipulek as a transit way. In fact, India and China have any rights to enjoy transit facility at Lipulek.
Indians have been encroaching Nepal's forests near the border areas, setting up Indian settlements in numerous no mans land areas, reducing thousands of hectares of fertile Nepal's land submersed and waterlogged by construction structures such as the Laxmanpur barrage afflux bunds, Raiswal Khurd Lotan dam and Mahalisagar Embankments in the vicinity of no mans land against international nubs thereby causing adversity to the Nepali people. The open border between Nepal and India needs to be controlled in the interest of both by managing the necessary border points by adopting a policy recommended by experts and cordoning stretches with barbed wire. This would prevent both countries from the scourge of criminal acts, smuggling and using the area as a haven for criminal only the border and lay concrete on the way for long lasting good will.
We Nepalese wish that the friendly ties of Nepal and India would be maintained forever with a warmth and faith devoid of any doubt. Nepal and India have so many things in common, it does not suit a great nation like India to continue interference with and cause adversity to a small peace loving Hindu nation like Nepal. Therefore, first of all, the obligation lies on India to come to an understanding in order to improve on unequal treaties ratified India's independent including the difficulties faced by Nepal in trade and transit.
It is a proven fact that India has lost its credibility in the construction of any dam in the Koshi and the Gandak projects; it did not stand by the provisions of the respective treaty. Koshi high dam project was completed in 1960. The eastern portion collapsed and the western portion showing imminent ganger. Thousands of people are displaced and killed and thousands of hectares of land swept away. Koshi & Gandak project caused thousands of families in Nepal were displaced on account of the submergence and erosion of their land and none were given compensation for the loss. Any person who visits the Gandak project can notice for oneself the shameless dishonouring of Nepal. Similarly, Nepal was cheated in the Koshi project as well. Thousand of hectares of land were submerged and numerous people were displaced. The Indian side never showed any concern. Nepali interests were not served in any manner by the past treaties even in the case of the small dams let alone such ambitious dams.
It is hoped that the Nepali people will not allow one to fall on their own head by allowing such dams. I am a resident of that area. If the high dam were to be erected, the districts of Dhankutta, Terahthum, Panchthar, Taplejung, Sunsari, a golden land of immense natural beauty, would turn into a waste land due to submergence and erosion of the steep soil and unstable rocks and project will neither be sustainable due to the siltation problem as all the rivers are glacier fended, it carries enormous amount of sediment.
To support the 269 metre Koshi High dam is equivalent to collude in the irreparable damage that would occur to Nepal. Even if proper compensation and rehabilitation of displaced people were taken place, such large dams could cause havoc to the very existence of Nepal. 95% of people are Hindus & Buddha in Nepal. As such, who would support a move to shift the God of Barahakshetra by destroying a sacred place of the Hindus and Buddhists of the world and hurting the religious sentiments of the tens of millions of people? Water resources expert, Mr Hariman Shrestha had remarked in 1996,"the Sapta Koshi High dam is detrimental, a project not in Nepal's interests".
The people of the Nepali establishment are deeply caught up in Indian water politics. Nepal's national interests cannot be protected by following such penetrated path. Survey expert, Mr Buddhi Narayan Shrestha also says "Nepal should beware of the fact that if the Barahakshtra was to be built, the valleys and habitations upstream of the dam in Dhankuta, Bhojpur, Terhathum and even Taplejung would be submerged, there is also no guarantee that this dam could prevent the flood devastation in India's Bihar state for longer periods due to siltation problem.” Hence, no Nepali ought to exhibit any interest in such suicidal project. Then, why the PM Sher Bahadur Deuba surrendered supporting the dangerous Koshi High Dam? Let it be, that the suicidal project should be corrected.