Remarks by Hon’ble Mrs. Sahana Pradhan, Minister for Foreign Affairs at the National Seminar on “ Water Resource Management of Nepal: A Strong Means for Sustainable National Development” ( June 7, 2007)
Mr. Chairperson, Executive Director of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, Ladies and Gentlemen It is a pleasure for me to inaugurate and address this seminar on the management of water resources in Nepal - an issue of crucial importance to our country. I would like to appreciate the Institute of Foreign Affairs for organizing this seminar at a time when we are thinking of a comprehensive restructuring of the country in our efforts to create a new Nepal. We have some unique natural resource endowments at our disposal which could greatly contribute to promote our economic development. Looking at the economic potential inherent in water resources, there is no reason why this country should remain underdeveloped. Water is the lifeline of all human beings. With unprecedented rapidity in urbanization and modernization, fresh water resources are rapidly becoming a scarce commodity in the world, including in South Asia. The large number of rivers and streams gushing down through the rugged mountainous terrain of Nepal would be a firm basis for our progress and development, provided we can make the best use of them. We all know that Nepal has a theoretical potential of 83,000 MW of hydropower generation, and an economically feasible potential of 43,000 MW, out of which we have been able to harness a meager percentage so far. Increased use of the conventional fossil fuel, its depleting trend, and the negative environmental impact it is causing through exhaust gas emissions, have compelled the world community to look for sustainable and nonpolluting alternatives like hydropower, wind energy and solar power. As we celebrate the World Environment Day, it vividly reminds us of the environmental impact of CO2 emissions. Among the renewable and clean energy resources, hydropower has traditionally been the most viable sector where proven technology exists for generation, transmission and distribution on a massive scale. Moreover, water has several important consumptive usage, apart from the non-consumptive use of power generation. Water for human consumption,
irrigation, industrial inputs and many other usage are equally important for us. We in Nepal, therefore, must be prepared to fully tap the development potential of water resources to uplift our economy and the living standard of our people with a comprehensive and integrated perspective. Water resources must be harnessed and developed for meeting our own national needs in the first place. Since we have an enormous potential to generate surplus power and channelize fresh water for other consumptive uses, we must pay attention to meeting the demands of the outside market on a mutually beneficial and equitable basis. I think that both the national demand for economic development, and the power and water demand of the neighboring countries could be simultaneously fulfilled by choosing to develop projects on the major river basins. On the other hand, development of small and medium scale power and irrigation projects could bridge the gap of the local demand on a sustainable manner. If we could develop suitable projects to supply power and water to cater the huge demand, the ensuing benefits could change the whole development landscape of Nepal. Proper management of water resources would also help mitigate and prevent water-induced disasters. This has to be looked at from the point of view of the impact of climate change on our water sources. We need to develop a clear vision and strategy based on rational choice and strong political consensus to derive sound economic benefit from this otherwise wasted resource. Without involving the private sector capital and efficiency, our capacity to generate power from projects in a cost effective and timely manner for international trade will be severely constrained. So, we need to enhance our regulatory capacity for the participation of the international power developers. Cross border inter-connection of power grids and harmonization of standards is another pre-requisite for power trade with India, and possibly beyond in the SAARC region. India has taken some good initiative in the grid inter-connection for facilitation of power trade with neighboring countries. Once cross-border connectivity of grids exists and the quantum of power increases, cooperation in the power sector may become wider. At this juncture, the concept of SAARC Energy Ring, involving all forms of energy trade in the South Asia region, being developed within the framework of SAARC, needs our closer attention.
Water resources provide huge benefits to the people. But its sources need to be constantly nurtured. Water resources management therefore needs conservation and protection of its sources, management of its multi-purpose use and equitable benefits to the people. It is in combination of these aspects that we can ensure its sustainable and beneficial use for national development of Nepal. Finally, I would like to reiterate that we should not delay in harnessing the rich gift of Nature – the enormous volume of water resources, for the uplift of the economy and the living standards of the people. We must make judicious use of this resource, forging deeper understanding and cooperation with our neighbours in reaping mutual benefits on an equitable basis and on a sustained manner. More confidence needs to be forged in the technical and economic aspects of the hydro projects in the spirit of bilateral and regional cooperation. I hope that this seminar would give us valuable suggestions to take this issue forward for reaping desired benefits for our people in a comprehensive manner. Thank you!