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Book Review:

Energy Enigma

Despite Nepal's huge potential to export hydro-power, the country is yet to produce enough for itself

Energy Policy: National and Regional implications

Editors: Sridhar K. Khatri and Hari Uprety
Published Date: September 20, 2002
Published by: Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) and Coalition for Action on South Asian Cooperation (CASAC) in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal

Price: Not mentioned, Pages: 132



With the countries of South Asia step-ping up their efforts to accelerate economic growth, they need a more reliable supply of power. Nepal needs more energy to make up for lost time and to meet its long-term development aspirations. Despite the region's impressive power potentials, how-ever, it has been able to exploit only a frac-tion largely because of political and other petty issues.

Although the countries of the region share similarities in culture, religion, lan-guage and other aspects of life, they have yet to come closer in dealing with common issues of sharing energy. Because of petty issues, often bundled together as national interest, opportunities have been restricted. Everything is possible at one moment; noth-ing is the next. The long list of discontent and differences among South Asian nations has taken over their cultural and religious simi-larities.

Over the last five decades, many coun-tries have transformed their economies through regional cooperation. Given South Asia's failure to come to a basic understand-ing, the promise of collective self-reliance in water resources risks remaining a dream.

There are wide differences in the na-tional level on exploiting water resources for the benefit of the region. Nepal, for instance, has signed several bilateral agreements with India to harness its rivers, but anger and criticism have almost instantly pervaded the debate.

"However, considering how this pre-cious commodity has been loosely negoti-ated in the past, it was forcefully pointed out that our water deals so far have repeatedly proved to be more rhetoric than substance. This is probably why the story of our past water negotiations have been heavily criti-cized on grounds of being one sided, con-trary to international conventions and against the national interest," writes Ananda P. Shrestha, executive director of Nepal Foun-dation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) in his preface.

In his paper "Electric Power Trading in the SAARC Region: Prospect and Prob-lems," Santa B. Pun discusses the whole gamut of the energy situation as well as bitter experiences in sharing electric power among the member countries. Pun also analyzes the pattern of sources of energy in the region. For instance, Nepal and Sri Lanka depend on the hydropower, whereas India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have a predominantly thermal source. The Maldives does not have any re-sources.

"With over 1.2 billion people, one fifth of the world's population, living in the SAARC region and with 35 percent of these people forced to live well below the poverty line, regional cooperation is impera-tive if we are to im-prove the quality of life of the people of this region," writes Pun.

Binayak Bhadra's paper, "Hy-dro-energy for Na-tional development" highlights the effec-tiveness of small and medium power plants for cheap energy supply. In "Energy As a Security Issue: A Nepalese Perspective." Han Man Shrestha stresses the need to get more benefits for the country in bilateral agreement. Kamal Rijal's "Role of Nepalese Water Resources for Meeting Energy Needs in South Asia" highlights the importance of hydropower in regional development.

All South Asian countries have their own resources to generate energy, but these alone are not adequate. For instance, India needs huge energy to sustain its economic growth rate of over 6 percent. As the cheap-est and easily available energy source, there is a need to develop a well-accepted strategy to exploit water resources for the greater benefits of the region.

The book, based on articles presented at a seminar, deals with various constraints and technical capabilities of Nepal. Organized by the Coalition for Action on South Asian Cooperation and NEFAS with (lie coopera-tion of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung experts discuss the pragmatic use of Nepal's vast water resources.

The discussions were primarily focused on hydro energy for national development, electric power trading in the SAARC region, role of Nepalese water resources for meeting energy needs in South Asia. economic flows from highland to lowland, and energy as a security issue. The result: a handy volume on promise and predicaments of regional coop-eration in energy.

Source: Spotlight (13-19 December)

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