With Nepal and India signing terms of reference (TOR) on Pancheswor Development Authority during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit, the Ministry of Energy (MoE) has begun works on setting up a governing body to make the authority “functional”.
The MoE is planning to establish such a governing body in the next two months. The governing council will then make the authority functional by appointing staffs and setting up an office that will oversee the issues regarding 6,720 MW Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project. The authority will undertake the execution, operation and maintenance of the project including the re- regulating dam situated in Rupaligad.
“The Terms of Reference (TOR) has been already signed in by both the countries which has opened up a path to move ahead. Everything will be readied in time to make sure the project starts on time,” said Rajendra Kishore Kshetri, Secretary at the MoE. Addressing the Nepali parliament, Indian PM Modi had said that the much-delayed Pancheswor Project will move ahead within a year.
The governing body will form an executive body by appointing the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the authority. According to Kshetri, both Nepal and India have agreed that the CEO of the authority will be chosen on the basis of the candidate’s qualification, relevant experience and proven track record. The CEO will also play the role of member secretary of the governing body.
On November 2009, a secretary level Joint Commission on Water Resources (JCWR) meeting in Pokhara had decided that further roadmap for the project shall be supervised by the authority. However, since both the nations could not come into a common conclusion regarding the TOR, the project did not see any progress since then. While the Nepali side had formally endorsed the TOR within two months of the commencement of the meeting, the Indian side had some reservations regarding clause 17 and 18 of the TOR that comprises a total of 19 clauses.
During Modi’s visit, the two countries exchanged notes on the terms of reference (TOR) where they agreed that the two governments would set up the authority within six months and finalise the detail project report (DPR) of Pancheswor Project and start implementation of the same within a year.
According to MoE, India has signed the TOR with minor amendments. “The content basically is the same. We have changed a little bit of language in case of clause 17. Likewise, for clause 18, the issue about diplomatic immunity has been reworked. Since diplomats are provided with several facilities like customs waiver, among others, the clause has been reworked,” Kshetri explained.
The clause number 17 of the TOR reads, “No taxes, levies or contributions of any kind shall apply to materials and equipment acquired by the authority in any of the two countries or imported by the authority from third country for use in its works or installations. No restrictions of any kind shall apply to the movement or delivery of the materials and equipment required for the project.”
Similarly, the clause 18 states that, “the officers and staff of the authority shall enjoy diplomatic privilege and immunity and would not be prosecuted by any party for the works carried by them in course of execution of the project in good faith.”
According to Kshetri, the authority will now prepare an integrated DPR. Though both Nepal and India have already prepared the DPRs on their own, the document was not integrated.
“The report prepared by the authority will be an integrated one,” assured Kshetri. Since there are only a few issues—for instance, cost to benefit ratio of the project—to be sorted out, Kshetri expressed confidence that the project would move towards the implementation phase within this year.