RUKUM, May 1: Locals of Rukum have said that they would strongly protest a decision of the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation to divert water of Uttarganga River to Kaligandaki River for building mega hydropower plants.
They have asked the ministry to overturn the decision, arguing that the diversion will deprive them of the water rights that they have been enjoying since ages. “The decision is against the sentiments of local people,” Bikram Jhakri, a local of Uttarganga Rural Municipality, said.
Uttarganga River is the only source of drinking water and irrigation in the district. The diversion of the water in the river will affecting livelihood of the local people, he added.
They locals allege that the decision to divert water has come with vested interests of some individuals or groups. “We won’t allow this to happen at any cost,” Bisham Budha, another local of the same rural municipality, told Republica. “The river is a lifeline for people of both Rukum East and Rukum West districts. It will not only affect life of local people but will also render dozens of small hydropower, drinking water and irrigation projects useless.
Locals of Rukum led by Member of Parliament have submitted a memorandum against the decision to Minister for Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Barshaman Pun.
“We have launched a protest against the decision both at the central and local level,” Dhruba Pun, a local leader of the main opposition Nepali Congress, told Republica.
Te ministry recently decided to prepare a detailed project report for building power plant of 828 MW capacity on Kaligandaki River by diverting the waters of Uttarganga River. Gawagaun of Baglung has been proposed as the dam site of the mega project. According to feasibility study of the project, the dam will submerge 250 hectares of fertile land and displace 625 households.
Former energy minister Janardan Sharma, who is also the Member of Parliament, is also supporting the protest launched by the local people. Condemning the plan of diverting water from Uttarganga River, Sharma said that the river should flow into the Bheri basin naturally. He also said that report of a detailed study conducted during his tenure at the ministry states that water of Uttarganga will be released into the Bheri basic after building a plant.