February 8, 2023 5:10 am

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India and Nepal Strengthen Cooperation On Multi-Billion Dollar Dam Project

India and Nepal agreed to take forward the ambitious multi-billion dollar high dam project on the Saptakoshi river.

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In a series of recent Joint meetings between India and Nepal on bilateral water cooperation, both sides agreed on strengthening their water sharing capacity and implementing various projects on their transboundary rivers.

The 7th meeting of the Joint Standing Technical Committee on Water Resources was held in Kathmandu last week, followed by the 9th meeting of the Joint Committee on Water Resources. The meeting was attended by senior officials from both nations, who reviewed the water-sector cooperation and decided to take forward the Saptkoshi high dam project and also reviewed the 1996 Mahakali Treaty. 

In the strategic meeting, both sides agreed to implement the ambitious multi-billion dollar high dam project on the Saptakoshi river. The project was put on hold after 2017 due to the disagreement between both countries on providing compensation and resettlement assurances to the locals on the Nepal side.

A joint technical team from India and Nepal has started a feasibility study for the construction of a massive 3000 MW dam. Once established, the dam will give a major breakthrough to both nations in providing irrigation and controlling floods. Irrespective of managing floods in southeast Nepal and northern Bihar, the multipurpose project will generate an adequate amount of hydropower. 

The river Kosi is known as Saptakosi in Nepal, due to the confluence of seven rivers. It is a transboundary river that flows through Tibet, Nepal, and India. It drains the northern slopes of the Himalayas in Tibet and the southern slopes in Nepal. 

The upswelling of the river has been a major cause of floods on both sides.

The swollen Saptakoshi river during monsoons breaches the embankments and inundates the human settlements in the nearby areas. 

Similar cases of flooding occur on the Indian side, where it is known as the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’. Heavy deposition of silt raises the level of the riverbed, disturbing the natural path of river flow, which causes the river to search for a lateral path, thus breaching the embankments and causing floods.

Due to heavy loss of life and property on both sides, the proposal for constructing a dam on Kosi was laid during the Kosi agreement of 1954.

Since then, arrangements have been made, and research has been done to establish a mega dam on the river and mitigate the issues of heavy flooding.

At present, the management of excess flooding in the waters of Kosi is done through the operational  Kosi barrage, which is situated across the river Kosi and carries vehicular and pedestrian traffic between Saptari and Sunsari districts in Nepal, near the international border with India. 

During his April 2022 visit to India, Prime Minister of Nepal Sher Bahadur Deuba directed the concerned officials to facilitate the finalization of the multipurpose dam project’s Detailed Project Report(DPR). Proper management and utilization of water resources is strategically important for Indo-Nepal relations considering the close presence of China in the neighborhood. 

The Indian Affairs Staff
The Indian Affairs Staff

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