Neighbours India and Nepal, who share the same Himalayan rivers and are often at loggerheads over the sharing of flowing water resources, resumed bilateral water-sharing talks after four years in the Napal capital on Monday.
The three-day meeting of the Joint Committee on Water Resources
is led by the secretaries of the two countries and is likely to discuss setting up of a joint ministerial committee to address water-related issues. These include the havoc caused by the Kosi and other rivers and beginning work on giant hydropower projects that have failed to get off the ground years after the agreements were signed.
The 14-member Indian team is headed by secretary at the water resources ministry, Umesh Narayan Panjiar, while the 27-member Nepali delegation is led by Shankar Prasad Koirala.
The talks kicked off Monday with the Kosi inundation issue, how to repair and fortify the raging river’s spurs and embankments and how to drive it back to its old course.
The destruction of two spurs protecting the embankment of the river last month caused over 50,000 families in Nepal to become homeless and affected more than three million in India’s Bihar state.
On Tuesday, delegates will visit Sunsari district in southern Nepal, where the Kosi breached its embankment, for an on the spot inspection.
Also on the agenda is the thorny issue of various embankments and barrages built by India across the Indo-Nepal border that Nepal alleges causes the flooding of its border villages.
These include the controversial Laxmanpur barrage, and constructions at Mahalisagar, Rasiawal Khurdalotan and Gandak.
Two giant multipurpose projects that involve the construction of high dams and were to have been built jointly by the governments of India and Nepal would also be taken up during the bilateral talks.
The Sapta Koshi multipurpose project and Pancheswor project, which is the centrepiece of the Mahakali treaty signed in 1996, are finally expected to start rolling after having been blocked for years due to mutual distrust.
Though the bilateral water talks were to have been held every six months, Nepal says India put them off for several years citing the political instability in Nepal and the preoccupation with the historic constituent assembly election in April.
The talks will also discuss the 240 MW Naumure hydropower project that India promised to build as grant in assistance for energy-starved Nepal during the time of the Girija Prasad Koirala government.