Our government has so far not informed the ministries concerned like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs and the political parties about the project.
-- Bhim Rawal, UML leader
KATHMANDU, Sept 5: Senior CPN-UML leader Bhim Rawal has criticized the government over "suspicious preparations" by the government and Indian officials to carry out field survey for laying cross-border natural gas pipeline without consulting the concerned government authorities.
Rawal has also taken serious exception to the "sudden" mention of the cross-border pipeline in the India-Nepal joint statement issued during Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's visit to India last month.
Speaking in parliament on Monday, Bhim Rawal, vice-president of the CPN-UML, sought clarifications from the government over the "suspicious activities" taking place in Rupandehi district near Nepal-India border with a plan to lay the pipeline. He termed the developments "suspicious and highly objectionable" and saiid such activities were taking place while keeping the concerned authorities in the dark.
"It requires serious discussions before starting any work on a cross-border pipeline. But our government has so far not informed the ministries concerned like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs about the project. Also, there has not been any discussion with other stakeholders including the political parties before starting the survey for the pipeline on the Nepali side," Rawal told Republica.
"We were taken by surprise when the pipeline issue suddenly came up in the joint statement of the two prime ministers," he added.
In the joint statement issued during the visit of Prime Minister Deuba to India in August, the prime ministers of the two countries said that they welcomed the decision to set up a Joint Working Group on cooperation in oil and gas sectors toward advancing cooperation in areas such as the pipeline project.
"The prime ministers welcomed the decision to set up a Joint Working Group on cooperation in oil and gas sectors, which would consider advancing cooperation in areas such as (a) construction of LPG pipeline from Motihari to Amlekhgunj; (b) construction of Natural Gas pipeline from Gorakhpur to Sunwal; c) assistance of IOCL for preparing DPR for extension of Petroleum Products pipeline from Amlekhgunj to Chitwan in Nepal," read the statement.
The two prime ministers also welcomed the finalization of the route survey and engineering design reports of Motihari-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline project. "The Prime Minister of Nepal conveyed that the Government of Nepal considers the Motihari-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline project a priority project. The two Prime Ministers welcomed the finalization of Detailed Engineering Route Survey and Engineering Design reports of the project. They directed the concerned officials to expeditiously remove all bottlenecks, including the right of way, land acquisition, environmental and regulatory clearances, so that the construction work could begin at the earliest," the joint statement added.
Leader Rawal has also accused the government of signing a deal between local officials in the district. He said it was signed by a staffer of regional office of Nepal Oil Corporation and an Indian official of the same level. "Based on such agreement, Indian surveyors were brought to Nepal to carry out the survey in Rupandehi. Such act is objectionable," added Rawal.