Home Economy After GMR, Sutlej lands in legal tussle in Nepal

After GMR, Sutlej lands in legal tussle in Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : An Indian public sector undertaking that managed to win a hydropower project in Nepal following in the shoes of a private Indian company now finds itself in the same predicament, having landed in a law suit.

Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam, which this year received the nod from the Nepal government to develop the 402 MW Arun III project, soon after Indian construction giant GMR Group bagged the 300 MW Upper Karnali project, has been taken to court less than a month after GMR faced the same trouble.

While two private Nepali citizens from two remote districts have challenged the GMR deal, an NGO, Water and Energy Users’ Federation, has trained its sights on Arun III, calling the deal with Sutlej unconstitutional.

The NGO is contending that deals related to natural resources can come through only after being approved by two-thirds of the members of parliament.

It is also challenging the move to export the power generated by the two projects to India, saying exports can be authorised only after meeting domestic energy needs.

The NGO also says that hydropower projects, which are matters of national interest, should be addressed only after the critical constituent assembly elections next month.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, however, has pledged in his election manifesto that the projects would be given top priority.

Currently, Nepal is going through the worst power crisis ever, with eight hours of power outage daily, and the electricity authorities have warned that the outage spells can go up in the dry months of summer.

Both GMR and Sutlej had outbid their competitors after agreeing to provide Nepal with a percentage of free energy.

The NGO last year filed another public interest litigation against an Australian company that had won the contract to develop the 750 MW West Seti project which was to have sold power to India’s PTC.

Despite the MoU being signed more than a decade ago, West Seti is still to get off the ground due to political considerations.

In response to the NGO’s petition, Nepal’s Supreme Court issued a show cause notice to the government Sunday.

Though last week GMR won its first legal hurdle after the Supreme Court refused to issue a stay order, as demanded by the two petitioners, water resources still remain a thorny issue for Indian investors with many regarding deals made with Indians as being against national interest.