Hydropower is nature’s gift to Nepal. It is abundant, clean and renewable. It is said that Nepal’s water is its white gold and according to National Water Plan, more than 43 thousand megawatts of power generation is economically and technically feasible in Nepal. However, in the absence of clear and unanimous hydropower policy, visionary leadership and pro-people rulers in the country, the countrymen are doomed to live poverty stricken lives amidst perennial load-shedding despite colossal amount of water resources. The conventional and corrupt bureaucracy, power-hungry leaders and exceedingly growing foreign interests over our resources have thwarted the prospects of hydropower development in the country.
The book under review written by journalist Bikash Thapa has rigorously analysed the diverse issues plaguing the hydropower sector in Nepal. Thapa, who helped establish hydropower reporting as a separate beat in the Nepalese journalism through his almost two-decade journalism career, has tried his best to analyse all the issues in hydropower sector through a ‘journalistic angle’. Thapa in his book mentions that the wide presence of water mafia is one of the major bottlenecks that has blocked the development of hydropower in Nepal. Similarly, the monopoly of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) in production, transmission and distribution of electricity is another barrier in developing Nepal’s hydropower sector. The rampant corruption, inefficient human resource, unfair deals and misappropriation of huge amounts of funds during the project period are some other issues.
The book has covered various aspects such as history of hydropower development in Nepal, hydropower and economy, Nepal-India power trade, origin of load-shedding, politics in power tariff, and hydropower licensing in Nepal. The book also deals fairly with the issues faced by some of the major hydropower projects in Nepal such as Arun III, Kaligandaki A, Madhya Marshyandi, and reality of Khimti and Bhotekoshi.
The book provides glimpses of several aspects and issues of hydropower development in Nepal. The excessive politics, petty interests of the politicians, and unequal agreements accepted for fulfilling petty personal interests from the neighbouring countries at different times are some of the grave issues of this sector. Similarly, the politicians also provide economic and lucrative projects to the foreigners taking huge amount of bribes from them and compel the NEA to carry out the expensive and complicated ones. Thapa in his book has exposed all the hidden aspects of hydropower development.
The demand for power is increasing by around 100 megawatts per year. The 10th five-year plan saw the production of a meager 39 MW power during its span. This has not only escalated the load-shedding hours, more than that it has hampered the overall economic development of the country. However, Thapa says that if the political leaders became serious and honest regarding the hydropower sector of the country, there would be no problem in generating 10,000 MW power in 10 years. He also hopes that hydropower could also bring economic prosperity in the country.
Though he book fails to provide methodical analysis and logical reasoning to support or oppose any view or opinion, it has extensively presented the issues common in hydropower sector of the country. In absence of such a book in Nepali language, it might be helpful for the Nepali readers to get insight into hydropower sector in Nepal.