KATHMANDU, April 26: Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi are scheduled to jointly lay the foundation stone of the Arun III hydropower project during the latter's two-day state visit to Nepal beginning May 11.
According to senior government officials involved in preparations for Prime Minister Modi's visit to Nepal, the two prime ministers will jointly inaugurate the 900 MW hydropower project, pressing a switch from Kathmandu. Investment Board Nepal and the Ministry of Energy are jointly making the preparations for this.
A plan to lay the foundation stone for the project worth Rs 104 billion during Prime Minister Oli's visit to India was cancelled at the eleventh hour after differences emerged within the CPN-UML over inaugurating a project on Nepali territory from India. As per the suggestions of UML leaders, Prime Minister Oli had asked to remove the function from his agenda and proposed instead to do the inauguration from Kathmandu during Modi's visit here.
A Project Development Agreement (PDA) for Arun III was signed with India's state-owned Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam on November 25, 2014 in the presence of then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and visiting Indian Prime Minister Modi.
The Arun III project was canceled in the 1990's over environmental objections, misgivings over already high power tariffs, questions of whether or not such a huge project was needed, and the negative impact of the approach road. The World Bank withdrew its financing from the project in 1995.
According to UML leader Rajan Bhattarai, Indian Prime Minister Modi is also scheduled to inaugurate the Nepal Police Academy to be built with Indian assistance at Panauti, Kavrepalanchowk. The construction of the Police Academy has remained stalled for years due to procedural delays, although the foundation laying ceremony was already held when Modi last visited Nepal during the premiership of the late Sushil Koirala.
During his visit to Nepal, Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to visit the two holy places of Janakpurdham and Muktinath. Modi's planned visit to the shrines was canceled at the eleventh hour, citing security reasons. Preparations are underway to take Prime Minister Modi to Muktinath and Janakpur via special army chopper.
In Janakpur-the birthplace of Goddess Sita, who was married to Lord Ram, Prime Minister Modi shall be accorded civic felicitations. Chief Minister of Province 2 Lalbabu Raut has said that they have already begun preparations for the civic felicitations for the visiting Indian prime minister, who is scheduled to offer prayers at the Janaki temple.
Speaking at an interaction organized by Reporters Club Nepal Wednesday, UML leader Bhattarai, who is also a member of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) formed by Nepal and India to review a whole gamut of bilateral issues and recommend measures to improve relations, said the Modi visit shall be a state visit rather than a religious and cultural one. “This is the third time Modi is visiting Nepal as prime minister. I have confidence that the visit will help remove all sorts of mistrust and confusion that exist between Nepal and India,” he said.