japesc08's picture
Joined: 08/17/2011
The New Oil

The one thing that slipped my mind as I planned my research in Nepal: power cuts. In comparison to my last visit, there is a schedule for the daily power cuts. They of course are not the same everyday but at least they do not cut out whenever the Nepal Electric Authority feels like it. But it got me thinking, how does the country that has the second highest water resources in the world have a power issue?

As of a week ago, the Nepal Electric Authority instated a 69 hour a week power cut system during one of the coldest months in Nepal. So cold that people have to fundraise or gather clothes for the Terai to stay warm in this winter as many die.311 For many Nepalis, these power cuts are manageable but as I am attempting to do schoolwork and living with other students, I realize how unmanageable and difficult it is for students to try and modernize in this system. Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is the most affected by the power cuts considering half of the country is not even connected to the power grid and this city has the highest density of people, businesses and schools.

There are a multitude of reasons behind why Nepal has to have power cuts. There has been very little investment in power because of Maoist conflict from 1996 to 2006, the Koshi flood of 2008, unable political shifts in the Nepali government, and foreign investment. The most interesting is the fact that Nepal must import their own hydroelectric power from India. This reminds me of the many conversations over Nile treaties while I studied abroad in Kenya. Who is defending the rights of water? Like The Nile, the waters from the Himalayas are taken advantage of by India as they are more stable as a state than Nepal.

Recently there have been talks about the creation of dams, like Pancheswor and Sapta Koshi high dam projects, and the future water projects yet this instability worries India. This relates to one of the major points of my project: structure. If Nepal had more control over their water, they could expand their infrastructure and develop further but due to international constraints, it is very difficult. India will not fully negotiate due to the lack of economic liberalization in effect in Nepal. In order for a treaty to pass, the government must pass the treaty by 2/3 majority vote. I do not blame India for stalling the agreement due to this vote but the lack of local control over the power is becoming problematic for the developmental future of Nepal, and the future is only looking bleaker and bleaker and water becomes more of a commodity.

In the end, Jeneen Interlandi strongly finishes my point:

'Markets don’t care about the environment,' says Olson. 'And they don’t care about human rights. They care about profit.”