Republica Files A general view of the Sano Bheri River.
RUKUM, April 23: Rukum locals and representatives are protesting against the provincial government’s decision to divert the water of Uttar Ganga Hydro Project to Kali Gandaki River. The protestors claim that the move would bring several micro hydropower projects to closure apart from affecting water availability in many areas. They have demanded that the water from the project be exclusively diverted to Sani Bheri River.
“The decision of the energy ministry is likely to deepen problem rather than solve it. People are very unhappy about it. The government must review the decision,” noted Dhanbir Oli, a parliament member of Karnali Province. “If they divert the water of Uttar Ganga to Kaligandaki, dozens of micro hydro projects of Rukum are going to come to a standstill. Also, irrigation and drinking water problems will follow,” he added.
The provincial government had decided to divert water to Kali Gandaki aiming to generate 828 megawatts of electricity through the project. It had made a detailed report before making the decision. However, this is a long-standing controversy.
According to Oli, locals are going to take it to the street if the decision is not corrected. Preparation for agitation is going on.
“Locals will not let the decision implement. Preparations for protests are underway. Rather than to make it a huge problem, the government must review things and address people’s concern,” Oli suggested.
Bibek Pun, a local of Putha Uttarganga Rural Municipality – 10, stressed that the provincial government must listen to the voice of the Rukum locals. Since it was their demand from the beginning that the water should be diverted to Sani Bheri River, the government cannot force its ‘unfair’ decision on them, he noted.
“We have formed a struggle committee. We are preparing to take our agitation to the next level. Locals of Rukum had always been very concerned about the issue. Yet, the government did not care for it,” he lamented.
“Even the people of Bheri Corridor are not happy. They are also in favor of diverting the water to Sani Bheri River,” he added.
Locals of Rukum and Bheri Corridor have come together to protests against the decision. They have stated that they will go to any extent to stop the government from implementing the decision. “If the government still goes against our voice, our struggle committee will be forced to bring the entire region to a halt,” Pun said. “The government cannot do that at the cost of dozens of our micro hydro projects, irrigation and drinking water facility.”
Former Energy Minister and lawmaker Janardan Sharma also threw his support with the locals. “It was our demand from the beginning that the water of Uttar Ganga is released in Bheri Basin only. A detailed study was conducted in this regard when I was serving as the minister for energy,” he said.
He shared that the technical study had taken around eight months to study and prepare three separate reports for the project. “And their reports said just one thing that the water has to be diverted to just Bheri basin,” he said.
Sharma said that the government’s decision is against the welfare of the people of Rukum. And this decision has to be seriously reviewed.
“If the water is taken to Baglung, it is going to inundate a huge portion of arable land. What’s the use?” he questioned.
Sharma pointed out that 625 families will be homeless if the government goes ahead with the decision. “So, the best option is to correct the decision and divert the water only to Bheri,” he said.
He further stated that he is unknown about who the government consulted with before taking such a ‘senseless decision’. “We are simply unknown how the decision was taken. I do not know whom they consulted,” he said.
The company which has taken responsibility of Uttar Ganga Hydro Water Project is preparing to launch the project with an estimated budget of around two billion. And as per the DPR it has prepared, the water will be diverted to Kali Gandaki River. This decision of the Ministry has not been lauded even by the cabinet members.
According to Kamala Roka, a member of the house of representatives who won the election from Rukum, the decision of the ministry is not fair. If the water is diverted to Kali Gandaki instead of Bheri, it would be a betrayal against the people of Rukum, she said. “I came to know about it through media, and I have not been able to talk about it to the concerned minister,” she said. “However, I have always made my stance clear on this issue,” she added.