Even as 15 Maoist organisations vowed to prevent work on the mega 3,300 MW Sapta Kosi Multipurpose Project signed between the governments of India and Nepal, local organisations have begun calling afresh for scrapping the licences given to two Indian companies to develop smaller hydel projects in Nepal, calling them "illegal".
Private Indian infrastructure major GMR Group became the first private enterprise to enter Nepal’s contentious hydropower sector in 2008 by winning the licence to develop the 302 Upper Karnali project.
It was followed by public sector undertaking Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam - a joint venture between the governments of India and Himachal Pradesh - winning the licence to develop the 900 MW Arun III project.
"Both the Indian organisations are working illegally," said Ratan Bhandari of the Water and Energy Users’ Federation Nepal (WAFED Nepal). "Two public interest litigation cases have been filed against both in Supreme Court and the licensees, as per law, can’t undertake further work till the court gives its verdict. However, they have still gone ahead with the survey."
Since February this year, Maoist organisations have obstructed work at a joint hydropower venture of GMR - the 250 MW Upper Marsyangdi.
Now, fresh protests have begun to rise in the capital against both GMR’s Upper Karnali project and Satluj’s Arun III.
The Maoist-affiliated Autonomous Council of Karnali (ACK) has filed a PIL against Upper Karnali while WAFED Nepal did the same with Arun III.
"There is probably political pressure," says Bhandari. "Though we filed the PIL almost two years ago, not a single hearing has been held and the dates keep on being postponed."
Both the contending groups say since hydropower projects involve a nation’s natural resources, the government can’t unilaterally hand out licences to applicants. They have to be first approved by two-third of Nepal’s 601-member parliament, as per the constitution.
The ACK says even if the court verdict goes in favour of GMR, its campaign will not stop.
Its chairman Gorakh Bahadur BC announced during a public interaction in Kathmandu Sunday that ACK would then start collecting funds so that the project remains in the hands of Nepalis.
The current estimated cost for Upper Karnali is around NRS 27 billion.