China Environmental News Digest

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Water Resource in Nepal-China Relation

By Mr. Hiranyalal Shrestha Via

Nepal and China are close neighboring countries linked together by common rivers and mountains. They also have relationship at people’s level from prehistoric times. Both the countries share common concern about ecology of the Himalayas, glacial lakes and river, which are located between Nepal and China’s Autonomous Region of Tibet. China has been contributing with the interest in the development of Nepal’s water resource both from the governmental and non-governmental levels. Therefore China and Nepal share common views on important issue of water resource.

The Ganges originates from the Gangotri glacier of the Himalayas located at the altitude of 7,010 meters near India and China border. The Karnali, Sapta-Gandaki and Sapta-Koshi originate from China’s Autonomous Region of Tibet. Following through Nepal they merge with the Ganges eventually joining the Bay of Bengal. The above three rivers contribute to the flow of 71 percent of water of the Ganges in dry season and average 41 percent of water annually. Out of 1,087,300 Sq. Kms occupied by Ganges, 8,60,000 falls in India, 1,47,480 falls in Nepal, 33,520 Sq. Km. falls in China, and 46,300 Sq.Km. falls in Bangladesh. Out of 5,52,000 Sq.Km. occupied by Brahmaputra, another of the rivers in this area, 2,70,900 falls in China, 47,000 falls in Bhutan 195,000 falls in India and 39,100 Km. falls in Bangladesh. If we are to develop this area making the best use of water of Ganges and the Brahmaputra, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and China’s Autonomous Region of Tibet must extend their hands of cooperation.

Himalayas is not only a scenic place to attract the tourists; it is also a reservoir of water to provide an unending flow in the rivers. The Himalayas is taken as the third great reservoir of water apart from the snow mass of the North and South poles. But industrial countries are spoiling the Himalayas, which is a source of beauty. Due to the growth of temperature form industrial pollution and atomic experiments, danger of natural calamities including the floods has increased in the process of contraction and narrowing of glaciers, increase of avalanches, and the merging and separating of glacial lakes. A challenge has appeared for China and Nepal to undertake a joint study and research about the threat of calamity that has appeared in the Himalayan region in cooperation with other countries. The ICIMOD Report 2001 describes about the ecological situation of Nepal in the following terms: Water is the largest natural resource of Nepal where there are more then 6,000 rivers. The flow of water emanating form the Himalayas has been estimated to be 4930 cusses per year. This constitutes 70 present of the surface water. There have been problems of soil erosion due to landslides induced by the explosion of glacial lakes. About 15 percent landmass of Nepal is perpetually under the cover of snow. Such a situation remains in areas with average height of 4,600 meters form the seal level. In the first half of the 20th century, the process of formation and explosion of the glacial lakes due to increase in temperature has brought about such a situation.

In a joint study of glacial lakes and rivers undertaken by China and Nepal, a report was prepared on the GOLF situation of water catchments areas of Pumko (Arun) and Poiko (Bhote- Sunkoshi). Chinese academician Xie Zichu has in the preface of the report said: "The two neighboring countries Nepal and India are bound together by the Himalayas. The water resource obtained through the melting of glacial lakes has greatly benefited the people. But both the countries have also suffered from the calamities due to the explosion of the glacial lakes. The two countries have been compelled to suffer from these calamities with considerable damage to mutual projcts and the loss of life and property of the people. Adequate success has also been scored in the first Joint Nepal China Expedition carried out wit the participation of the Canadian scientists also. The latest report of the scientific expedition has now been published." In it, identifying the glacial lakes and rivers in the water catchments areas of Bhotekoshi-Sunkoshi and Arun Rivers, has also made recommendation. Stress has been given on continuous study and monitoring of the glacial lakes and the measures to prevent them from bursting out by giving outlet to the excess water.

Sinior water resource expert Ananda Bahadur Thapa had told this columnist during his service at RONAST that question of establishing and International Centre for Snow and Ice had arisen in a meeting held in Paris while observing a hydrology decade about twenty years ago. Later it was not given adequate attention. An international center is necessary even now to study the ecology of the Himalayan area. The panic created by Thsorolpa is only a forewarning. All the countries of this region including China and Nepal should initiate necessary action by showing concern about the ecology of this region.

With the idea of diversification of the use of water resources of Nepal instead of depending on the country alone, the then Soviet Union, India China were given permission to construct hydroelectricity projects in Panauty, Trishuli and Sunkoshi respectively. The Sunkoshi hydroelectricity project with the capacity of 10,050 Kw. was constructed in Lamossanghu area of Sindhupalchok district. Its reliable capacity is 47,000 kw. a 57 kilometer 66 Kv. transmission line was also installed from the project area to Patan under the grant assistance of China. This project was constructed and handed over before deadline in accordance with agreement signed between Lin Dae Yun, leader of the Chinese delegation and Dedar Man Byahiti, the then Minister for Commerce and Transport on may 26, 1967.

After other countries including China started to make contribution in development of Nepal’s water resources, and the modern transport was opened through Kodari Highway, some point were amended in favour of Nepal in the Koshi and Gandak agreements in 1966. In the 1970s, China had provided grant asistance for the Sunkoshi hydroelectricity project and Pokhara Irrigation Project. Similarly, China had involved itself in the construction of Marsyangdi, Indrawati and Modikhola hydroelectricity Project with a capacity of 36,000 Kw. and an irrigationproject in Sunkoshi. Similarly, another Chinese company GTEK Nepal has already signed an agreement on upper Modikhola hydroelectricity project with the Electricity Authority of Nepal. The project that has the potential of generating 14 megawatts of electricity is an important hydroelectricity project to be built from the private sector of China.

In a seminar on Nepal-China Energy Development organized in December 2000, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Zeng Xuyong said that China would continue to provide assistance being given to Nepal for three decades recommending the generation of indigenous electricity in view of the large amount of money being spent by Nepal in imp0orting petroleum products.

Expressing confidence on growing cooperation between Nepal and China in the field of energy development in the future he said: "China will provide and active cooperation in the energy development of Nepal even in the future. The Chinese assistance can be either grant or BOT based".

In each meeting of the Nepal-China Joint Government Committee and Nepal China Non-government Cooperation Forum there used to be discussion on tourism and water resources development. The feasibility study of large small-scale hydroelectricity project was also made by China. the Daramkhola hydroelectricity Project has been run by CMIC in cooperation with Gorkha Hydroelectricity Project. A negotiation is also going on with Shanghai Group on the construction of Upper Tamakoshi Project.

With a version to future water resources cooperation, there seem to be two possibilities for cooperation between Nepal and China. Constructing a bypass from Brahmaputra through the Arun River can permanently solve the water dispute of this region. If some water of Brahmaputra can be diverted from Tibet, where there is access of water due to low population, to the source of the Gangetic plan that is suffering from the scarcity of water due to increase in the population in that region. Therefore China’s Autonomous Region of Tibet can be included in the Ganga-Brahmaputra sub-regional development following example of Mekong River Sub-regional development of this region facilitating the maximum use of water resources.

A railway extension is being made to Lahsa soon. It should be linked to Kathmandu by the next decade. If the railway could be operated with electricity of Nepal, the pollution-free trans-Himalayan railway journey may be an amusing adventure on the roof of the world. If the Nepalese electricity can be used for heat regulation inside the compartments of the train, an epochal leap can be recorded in the field of electricity generation creating an alternative energy market for Nepal.

This region can be oriented towards modernization befitting the 21st century through Nepal-China cooperation in field of development of water resource, preservation of ecology in the Himalayan region and the development of show sports and the promotion of tourism simultaneously. Technorati Tags: , , ,


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