Small is beautiful

Published: Thursday 31 October 1996

Small is beautiful

As part of the Indo-Nepal Mahakali Integrated Development Treaty, signed on February 12, 1996 in New Delhi, the 315 m-high Pancheshwar dam is to be constructed over the Mahakali river in Nepal. The dam is expected to produce over 6,480 MW of power and cost US $12 billion, which the two countries shall share. INHURID international, the Mahakali Treaty Resistance Movement and a number of other Nepalese organisations have jointly launched a campaign against both the treaty and the dam. It is alleged that the river flows through ecologically-fragile and earthquake-prone mountains. Most of the information on the costs and benefits of the project is not available as the Detailed Project Report has not been made available to the public. It is not clear as to whether an environmental impact assessment has been done or if resettlement plans have been made.

INHURID International calls the Pancheswar dam the most destructive one in the region. Letters and faxes demanding that the Detailed Project Report be made available to the public, that environmental and social impact studies be undertaken and that resettlement plans be worked out before implementation, have been despatched to the Indian and the Nepalese governments. Above all, there is opposition to the construction of mega projects of this size involving such huge budgets, which is part of a larger global movement to promote series of smaller dams to harness river waters.

INHURID International has threatened to set off an international campaign against the project. It is also planning to raise the issue at the First International Conference of Victims Affected by Large Dams to be held in Brazil in 1997. The hearing of the public interest litigation against the treaty is likely to begin soon in the Nepalese Supreme Court. The campaign is likely to hot up in days to come.

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