16 June, 2021

A Barrage Too Far?

The landmark Mahakali treaty gets entangled in Nepal's politics

A Barrage Too Far?

FIVE months after Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba signed the treaty with P.V. Narasimha Rao in New Delhi, the Mahakali project is waist-deep in troubled domestic waters. In January, the issue had been resolved in Kathmandu after Deuba secured an ever-elusive political consensus, but this now threatens to spiral out of the ruling coalition's hands.

The treaty envisages by far the biggest bilateral undertaking in South Asia—the multi-billion dollar Pancheswore project that would produce over 6,000 MW of electricity—and the proposed 315-metre high dam will be one of the highest in the world. An elated Deuba had described the treaty, whose equitable cost-benefit sharing represents a high in bilateral ties, as an answer to the Himalayan kingdom's vast untapped water resources.

But as all such treaties go, it has to be ratified by a two-thirds majority in a joint sitting of the two houses of Nepal's Parliament. The government is likely to table the treaty by July-end or early August. As D-day nears, there are ominous...

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