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HomeDiplomacyIndia-Nepal friction casts shadow on proposed Pancheshwar multipurpose dam project

India-Nepal friction casts shadow on proposed Pancheshwar multipurpose dam project

The project first conceived 24 years ago in 1996, had picked up pace in 2014 after the Narendra Modi-led NDA government came to power.

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New Delhi: The friction in India-Nepal ties over the latter including three disputed areas in its new political map has cast a shadow on the future of the proposed Pancheshwar multipurpose dam project that the two countries are jointly planning to build on the border.

The Pancheshwar project will come up across the Mahakali river, where it forms an international boundary between the two countries. It straddles Uttarakhand in India and the Far Western Development Region of Nepal. According to India, the river draws its waters from the Mahakali river (known as Sarada in India), which originates at Kalapani, one of the disputed sites in Uttarakhand that Nepal has now claimed as its own.

Senior government officials familiar with the matter told ThePrint they are apprehensive that the latest round of border disputes could deal another setback to the project, which is already facing massive delays. Prior to the border dispute, the two countries have been deliberating to resolve issues related to water sharing.

“The last meeting of the Pancheshwar Development Authority was held in Nepal in November 2019. India’s water resources secretary U.P. Singh had visited Nepal,” a senior official of the Union water resources ministry, who did not want to be named, said. “But since then, no further meeting has taken place. Now, with the border issue cropping up, we are not hopeful of any forward movement.”

The Pancheshwar multipurpose project — first envisaged 24 years ago as part of the Mahakali treaty that India and Nepal signed in 1996 — includes setting up of two hydro-electric plants with a total installed capacity of 5,040 MW  and a 315 metre-high dam to meet the power and irrigation requirements of the two countries.

The dam, once complete, can irrigate 1.7 lakh hectares of land in Nepal and 2.59 lakh hectares in India, besides meeting the electricity requirements of the two countries.

It was estimated to cost Rs 40,000 crore in 2017. The funding of the project is to be jointly shared between India and Nepal.  

The project had come under a cloud after environmental experts questioned the viability of building a dam in a region considered to be highly seismic.

The project had received fresh impetus after the Narendra Modi-led NDA government came to power in 2014. Modi had, during his Nepal visit in 2014, talked about expediting the project.

Then during his visit to Nepal in May 2018, Modi had again pushed for expediting the project.

“The Pancheshwar Development Authority was set up to implement the project. India started preparatory work on the project in 2016. Since then several rounds of meetings have happened between India and Nepal,” a second water resources ministry official said.

Also read: Modi said Neighbourhood First and then ranked Nepal low in India’s priority list

The contentious water sharing issue

The first official quoted earlier said the discussion between two countries is now stuck around existing and future usage of water from the Mahakali River.

According to hydrological studies, the Mahakali has an average annual water availability of 18 billion cubic metres (bcm), of which 13 bcm is currently being used. India is drawing 12 bcm while Nepal is drawing 1 bcm.

India draws 7 bcm of its 12 bcm from the upper Sarada barrage located on the India-Nepal border, for irrigation purposes in Uttar Pradesh. The remaining 5 bcm comes from the lower Sarada barrage, which is 150 km downstream on the Indian side.

“Our contention is that this 5 bcm should be part of India’s existing usage. But Nepal wants this to be treated as part of India’s future usage (once the dam is built),” the first official quoted earlier said. “If the 5 bcm becomes part of future usage, India will effectively not get anything when the dam comes up.”

India’s stand is that when the dam comes up, of the remaining 5 bcm water available for use, Nepal’s share should be 3 bcm while the remaining 2 bcm should come to India.

“Nepal is objecting to this, saying the 5 bcm India is drawing from the lower Sharada barrage should be part of India’s future usage, taking its total to 12 bcm. While Nepal should get the remaining 5 bcm,” the official added.

“Nepal raised this issue at a very late stage. From the beginning, India had this understanding that the 5 bcm water it is using is part of existing usage,” the official said.

Water ministry officials said that until the water sharing dispute is resolved, they can’t move ahead and discuss issues related to project funding.

“It’s only after the water sharing issue is settled that we can move ahead and discuss issues like where to arrange funding for the project and the share of each country, etc.,” the ministry official added.

Also read: Kathmandu crossed red lines. India-Nepal relations are entering a deep freeze


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  1. Before putting garbage in your Article look and read and go there and see the Tanakpur Dam the so called farce Pancheshwar Project by Infia. It was all to fool Nepal and take water for Irrigation from the river in border. Just look at Google Maps and see Gaddachowki and how much water india has given us our irrigation channel is literally 2-3 hands in breath and look at India side irrigation they have taken almost 400% more volume of water to its Nanak Sagar. So before beating China’s Drum look into your soul and do some soul searching India. Just do some exploring just around Nepal India Border and look at that border from your perspective and ill call you God if your Blood didn’t boil. This anger is cumulative accumulation of 80 years of repeated intervention by India into Nepal and its people. Again New game has started to topple this Government because unstable Government are opportunities for Rich so called great Nation when their is nothing great about them its all a farce.

  2. Nepal should cancel all water related treaty with India. It is time for Nepal to call it quits with this classroombully called India.
    If push comes to shove, fence the border and sit down to talk trade and transit.
    Roti Beti is a myth and it is a way to infiltrate Indians into Nepal’s internal system and position.

    • First of Nepal must close all trade routes with india if realy intends & has courage.
      Secondly, must introduce visa system to restrict movment of people either way.
      Nepal should recall its ambassdor from india and close the embassy in infia forever.
      Nepal should fence its border with india immedietly .
      Nepal should recall all its citizen from india .
      Last but not least, by any mistake nepal intends to bring china near to india border then communist govt of nepal to be ready for bifurcation of nepal.Never blame a much bigger country india for its bifurcation .
      Do whatever nepal can do but getting back the indian territory to assimilate in nepal is a distant dream.
      Since 1954, all the postage stamp issued by nepal,it never showed the kalapani or lipulekh in nepal’s territory which clearly signifies thay current claim of nepal is just an excuse to vlose ties with india.Sooner the better.

  3. Nepal should cancel all water related treaty with India. It is time for Nepal to call it quits with this classroombully called India.
    If push comes to shove, fence the border and sit down to talk trade and transit.
    Roti Beti is a myth and it is a way to infiltrate Indians Nepal’s internal system and position.

  4. How long India will take to complete a Hydro-power/Irrigation project? Is not 25 years quite long?? 5 years should be maximum for completion of these types of project. India should be shamed for not completing this project. They are simply occupying the river and doing nothing.
    This project is one example Nepali thinks India only talk, they do not deliver.

    Though project river agreement is in huge favor of India, and current Communist government, lead by KP OLi had approved this project. After the agreement, his party broke into two fraction. Even this project is highly on India’s favor, still it is better to have some benefit instead of letting water get wasted.

    So, don’t blame current friction between India and Nepal for this project. At least 12 Nepali governments have changes since the beginning of the projects. There are many other projects where India has invested and those are going on. I hope those will complete on time.

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