Nepal Maoists to launch anti-dam stir


Kathmandu : Fifteen regional organisations affiliated to the opposition Maoist party have warned the Nepal government that they would start a “strong” protest movement against a mega power project to be built in collaboration with India.

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The Maoist groups have threatened to start the movement after June 17 if the Joint Project Team working on the 3,300 MW Sapta Kosi Multipurpose Project does not halt its activities immediately, the Maoist mouthpiece Jana Disha daily said Thursday.

The new threat comes even as the Geological Survey of India is sending a three-member team Saturday to begin survey for the project in eastern Nepal.

The geologists, who were earlier scheduled to arrive Wednesday, had to reschedule the field visit after the ongoing field inspection work was threatened by the Maoists.

The Sapta Kosi project is envisioned to provide irrigational facilities to Bihar and parts of eastern Nepal as well as develop a water way.

The Indian authorities have proposed building a high dam, which is being opposed by the Maoists as well as environmentalists in both India and Nepal, including India’s anti-dam activist Medha Patkar.

The Maoist outfits called a press conference in eastern Nepal Wednesday where they said the dam would submerge at least 80 villages in Nepal. They also alleged that the project is part of a “secret” deal between the governments of India and Nepal, intended to give greater benefits to India at the expense of the smaller neighbour.

Last week, a team of local Maoist leaders had given a memorandum to the authorities working on preparing the detailed project report and brought work to a standstill.

However, it was resumed after Nepal’s government ensured security measures would be beefed up.

The former rebels say work on the mega power project should not start till Nepal is restructured into a federal republic when the concerned states should oversee the project.

Though India and Nepal began talks in the early 1940s to develop the multipurpose project and a joint team of experts was formed in 1991, it has been able to hold only six meetings due to the political turmoil in Nepal.

A feasibility report by India’s Central Water Commission in 1981 recommended building a 269-metre high dam, which is being opposed by environmentalists, who say it would be hazardous in an earthquake-prone land like Nepal.

A joint office was opened in Nepal’s eastern Biratnagar town in 2004 to prepare the detailed project report, which was expected in 30 months. However, the report could not be completed due to the security situation in Nepal.