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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Potential of Hydropower in Nepal

Hydro-power can deliver multi-pronged benefits in Nepal.  The development of hydropower can ensure energy Security, provide food security and health security and, in addition, preserve environment, reduce Greenhouse gas emission and create entertaining facilities. It can also provide access to the sea for a Land-locked country. With the world wide recognition, from World Summit on Sustainable Development to Bonn and Beijing Renewable Conferences through Third World Water Forum, that hydro-power is the Clean and renewable source of energy, the exploitation of hydro-power is going to be a major activity to meet the Millennium Development Goal. One of the important benefits that come out of the construction of dams for hydro-power generation is flood control. In many cases, this benefit cannot be quantified in its totality; it is, however, a significant One as it saves precious life and resources. The construction of a storage hydro project, if properly executed on the basis of mutually agreed concept, Can be instrumental in maintaining peace between neighboring  countries.
Socio-economic system of Nepal
Nepal is one of the most populated mountainous Countries in the world with the population density of 175 people per square kilometer. Basically it is a Country based on an agrarian economy with about 80% of population engaged in agriculture. This sector Contributes 38% to the national economy, which Translates into 2.48% in agricultural growth, whereas Non-agricultural growth is registered at 10.44%. The Heavy pressure is on agriculture and natural resources To support the growing population. The annual per Capita GDP is estimated at USD 438. The human Development Indicator stands at 0.504. The life Expectancy at birth is reported to be about 63 years And infant mortality is recorded at 69% in 2001. The Proportion of electrified households is 40%. The government has set a target of achieving Annual economic growth of 8.3% by 2016/17, out of which 5% growth is projected in the agriculture sector and 9.7% in non-agriculture sector. The population below the poverty line will be reduced to 10%, with
The growth reduced to 1.5%. About 1700 thousand Hectares will be brought under irrigation by the same year. Nepal is a land locked country, a factor that Dominates the development scenario.
Water resources use in Nepal
Nepal is a land limited but water rich country. Its 6,000 rivers generates 224 billion cubic meter of Surface run-off annually, which translates into more Than 9,000 m3 of water per capita. This is far more Than internationally recognized norm of 1,750 m 3 per Capita. However, because of the spatial and temporal Variation in the availability of water, a few months And a few areas of the country are still water deficit. The uniform distribution of water over its territory is essential to avoid water stress situation this objective Is met through adoption of Integrated Water Resources Management. The major components of Integrated use is hydropower, irrigation, water Supply and flood control and, to lesser extent, inland Navigation, recreational use and fisheries.
Hydropower – the way to poverty alleviation
The rivers of Nepal with glacier, snow and monsoon Feeding coupled with steep gradient, are estimated to Have the potentiality of generating 83,000 MW of Electricity. (But new some report claims 200,000 MW). With the load factor of 52%, this translates Into 1,500 kWh per capita of electricity for the present Population. If this potentiality is fully exploited and Sold at an average rate of six cents per kWh, the Resulting revenue generated will be to the tune of 23 Billion USD per annum. Out of this theoretical Potentiality, 43,000 MW have been proven to be Technically and economically attractive through Sound engineering studies.
Without entering into the export Market, the benefits from hydro generation cannot Be maximized. In the regional market, hydropower is going to play a significant role in addressing concern for energy security. Hydropower, being capable of generating cheap and reliable peak energy, Contributes to the stability of the system by stabilizing The supply frequency. Nepal and India have been traditional power Exchange countries. To sustain India’s rate of GDP Growth requires considerable addition of electricity. The electricity deficit in India, particularly the peak deficit is significant at 18%. As reported earlier out of the 43,000 MW 0f proven capacity of Nepal, 22,000 MW will come from storage Plants. Development of these schemes will maximize the benefit of Nepal Hydropower. In view of the mutual benefits to both Nepal and India and the need to mobilize private financial resources, India and Nepal have initialed a bi-national Power Trade Agreement
Irrigation – assure food security
As earlier mentioned, Nepal is basically an agriculture Country with its contribution to the economy Standing at 38% of GDP. Nepal has 2.64 million Hectares of cultivable land, of which only 1.76 million Ha (66%) are irrigable. Irrigation facilities are Available only for 60% of irrigable land, though less Than one third of that land has round-the-year Irrigation facility. This limited facility for irrigation And resulting unsatisfactory cropping intensity Resulted, in 2003, in the production of 7.2 million Tons of agricultural products—hardly sufficient to meet The minimum requirement of the nation.  The Nepal Government has embarked upon the Plan to increase the total year-round irrigated area. Fortunately, the resource Generation capacity of this sector is satisfactory and If the capital costs are shared between irrigation and power in a multipurpose development it will not only help address the problem of the irrigation sector but will also maximize the profits from hydropower Development. Nepal has a number of projects that Can meet this objective, such as Bagmati, Kankai, Sapt Kosi, Sunkosi, Karnali Bheri-Babai, Mahakali, etc.
Flood control – dropping human suffrage
One of the significant benefits that a dam construction Gives is the flood control. This advantage becomes More important in the area where flash floods occur Or the rivers are fed with monsoon rain. In Nepal Floods usually occur because of the monsoon Precipitation, glacial lake outbursts, cloud outbursts And coincidence of monsoon with increased base flow From snow and glacier melt. The damage and loss of Living beings and assets are tremendous. There are Many trans-boundary rivers that traverse from Nepal Through India to Bangladesh causing extensive Damage in multiple countries. One of Nepal’s eastern Rivers, the Kosi, is called ‘the sorrow of Bihar’, a Populace state in northern India, because of the trail Of devastation it leaves in Bihar every year after Monsoon. Studies conducted So far have identified about thirty reservoir sites in Nepal. The total effective water holding capacity of These reservoirs created by storage dam has been Estimated to be about 77 billion m. Nepal is divided into five hydrological regions:
Mahakali River Basin, Karnali River Basin, Gandak River Basin, Sapt- Kosi River Basin   and Southern River Basin. The holding capacity of each of these basins is given in Table: 1 Holding Capacity of reservoirs in each basin
Basin Holding Capacity of Reservoir
(million cubic meters) Holding potential of Monson Runoff (%)
Mahakali 6,040 43.2
Karnali 34,243 123.7
Gandak 17,830 55.1
Sapta Koshi 13,760 44.6
Southern River 5,221 92.9
Drinking water and sanitation – assure health Security
Nepal is water rich. However its surface run-off Heavily depends upon the monsoon, which is limited To four months a year. Although it is a small country With an area of 144,000 km2, the spatial distribution Of run-off is uneven. Therefore the inter-basin transfer Of water is necessary to meet the water needs of all Regions of the country. Inter-basin transfer requires Construction of dams to divert the water to water Conveyance system. Drinking water and sanitation services are basic Needs of the population. At present around 50% of Population has access to these services. By 2007, this Service will be extended to 80% of population it is Envisaged that by 2012, 90% population will have Access to water supply and basic sanitation facilities.  100% of the population will have these facilities by 2017.
Hydropower and cost of imported energy
Nepal does not have any fossil fuel reserve or coal Mining. Technological development of the country does not allow development of nuclear power. The development of alternative energy such as solar or wind is also limited due to the cost involved in such development. Hence, for all commercial energy needs, Nepal has to depend either on imported fossil fuels or indigenous hydropower. The industrial, transportation and urban household energy needs are predominantly met by imported fuel.  Hydropower has been exploited only in a limited quantity because of the lack of investment.  Meanwhile, the importation bill of fossil fuels is rising, not so much because of an increase in demand but because of skyrocketing prices. The demand on petroleum products has remained more or less at the same level, largely because of political instability, which has contributed to a slow down in? economic activities and, to some extent, to the increase in hydropower generation. However, the price of petroleum products has more than doubled in the past decade (see Table 2).
Table 2: Importation of fuel and fuel bill of Nepal
Year Imported Quantum in KL Amount in USD
1999/2000 877856 121 million
2000/01 941914 190 million
2001/02 896324 241 million
2002/03 890,609 312 million
2003/04 879,455 313 million
2004/05 n/a 291 million

Topographically, Nepal is brick shaped with east west prolongation and north-south width presents a narrow strip with elevation differences of more than 8,000 m within a narrow width of about 200 kms. If Nepal develops a transportation system run by electricity generated from hydropower, it can save substantial portion of petroleum product importation bill of USD 138 million. This is 23% of annual export. A transportation system that could bring about this benefit could be based on hydroelectricity driven east-west railway networks, north-south cable cars and inter- and intra-city tramways and trolley buses.
Environment benefit from hydropower
World climate change has been a phenomenon of global concern. One of the major agents of climate change has been the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission by various powers generating plants. After the Kyoto protocol signed by 134 countries, it has been the obligation of the each signatory country to help reduce the emission of GHG within a certain period. Globally it is expected that GHG emissions will be reduced by 2010 by 10% from the present level. To meet this international obligation, a new kind of trade—Carbon Trade—has started through Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Hydropower, being not related with the emissions-related environmental concerns and being the cleanest source of power generation, not only helps the environment but also generates revenue by entering into this trade, thus maximizing the benefit.
Hydropower and poverty alleviation
In a country which is hydropower rich, poverty Alleviation hinges on the development of this Resource. The potential impact is astonishing in a Small country with no competitive source on income Generation. In Bhutan, for example, a country of about Half a million population, the development of Hydropower has been dramatically changed by the Construction just two hydropower plants with Combined capacity of 1,380 MW. As a result, it is Expected that the per capita income will go up from USD 760 to 1,320. In Nepal, the impact of hydropower Development may not be that dramatic, but it has been established that the hydropower sector is the driving Sector in economic development and a major Resource to alleviate poverty. A macro-economic Study has concluded that in order to eradicate Absolute poverty in households, the country needs To register 8% economic growth rate. This will help to Bring the level of percentage of population below Poverty line to 10% and by 2027 there will be no Household in absolute poverty. No other sector of Economy other than hydropower is in a position to Help attend to this goal, as the required quantum of 25,000+ MW by 2027 that need to be developed to Achieve this target is ready for exploitation at short Notice and the market are available. Thus, the solution Of poverty alleviation is closely linked with Hydropower development in Nepal.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Nepal is a land limited but water rich country. Its 6,000 rivers generates 224 billion cubic meter of Surface run-off annually, which translates into more Than 9,000 m3 of water per capita. This is far more Than internationally recognized norm of 1,750 m 3 per Capita. Nepal does not have any fossil fuel reserve or coal Mining. Technological development of the country does not allow development of nuclear power. The development of alternative energy such as solar or wind is also limited due to the cost involved in such development. Hence, for all commercial energy needs, Nepal has to depend either on imported fossil fuels or indigenous hydropower. Imported fossil fuel needs lots for foreign currency and reserve is also limited for future. So for the real development of our country we have to develop the Hydropower enrgy. which cheap, clean and is our own resource. Based on the recommendation and statement of Third World Water Forum on Water and Energy, some Pertinent observations can be made:
I. Water and energy must be integrated as far as Possible to maximize the benefit of Hydropower development. Multipurpose Infrastructures offer the advantage of shared Cost and benefit.
II. Hydropower contributes to meeting both Water and energy needs.
III. Hydropower with storage reservoir is the most flexible energy technology in terms of Power generation; it can generate power exactly when it is needed, providing back-up For intermittent sources such as wind power And allowing thermal plants to operate at their Best efficiency, thus further reducing Greenhouse gas emissions.

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