KATHMANDU, Nov 20: Two non-government organizations (NGOs) of Nepal and India have proposed revising Koshi and Gandak treaties.
Speaking at a workshop entitled 'The Shared Watercourses Summit' organized jointly in Kathmandu by Pro Public of Nepal and Indian Environment Law Organization (IELO), Shawhiq Siddiqui, a legal expert of IELO, said that the two treaties can be updated for addressing problems that communities in both Koshi and Gandaki river basins are facing. Siddiqui also said that most of the clauses in both the treaties include project development which has already been completed.
The two NGOs are also involved in a project entitled 'Trans-boundary Water Governance' to find solutions for addressing the conflict between the communities of Nepal and India in both river basins.
The project is supported by the Asia Foundation.
But the proposal to revise the two treaties faced criticism from Nepali bureaucrats and experts. Nepali experts criticized the proposal saying that the overarching framework cannot be proposed at a time when such treaties have not been implemented duly, while Mahakali Treaty remains unexecuted for over two decades.
Saying that the Koshi treaty has not been implemented duly, former energy secretary Dwarika Nath Dhungel questioned: “Who was responsible for the 2008 Koshi floods?”
Collapse of the eastern embankments of Koshi barrage had unleashed a massive flood downward, submerging settlements in Nepal and India. But India did not take responsibility for the damage even though it had not taken precautionary measures to stop the collapse.
Indian handles both Gandak and Koshi barrages.
Former energy secretary Surya Nath Upadhyaya, who is also a member of Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Nepal-India Relations, questioned who is responsible for maintenance of the barrage. “As none of the South Asian countries have ratified United Nation's convention on international watercourses, I think it would be unfeasible to implementing such proposal at this moment,” Upadhyaya said, adding that stress the need to implement the bilateral treaties first.
Experts are also not happy with India's highhandedness on sharing natural resources of Nepal and other neighboring countries. Mahendra P Lama, another member of Eminent Persons' Group on Nepal-India Relations, said that sharing of benefits like irrigation facility is not equal. “There are too many layers of institutions dealing with water issues. We do not know which really regulates and handles them,” explained Lama. “It is an opportunity to rethink the way to manage natural resources differently than in the past.”
Former energy minister Deepak Gyawali said that India was taking natural resources of its neighbor for granted. “This is the main problem in sharing of water resources between the two countries,” he added.
Similarly, S D Muni, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that Nepal has taken a denial mode in project implementation. Muni gave example of Mahakali Treaty and failure of the Nepali side to implement it.
Dhungel, however, opposed Muni's views, saying that Nepal was not in a denial mode at all. “There must be an objective analysis of this issue,” he added.