Published in: Business Development Forum, Hydropower Journal, Vol. 3, No.5, Feb. /Mar 2007
Environmentalists: Dipesh Raj Pant and Arjun Kumar Limbu (E-mail:email@example.com)
Nepal is politically landlocked country, and tectonically situated with such physical geography entwined with climate variability where the Asian monsoon has been blessing both high and low-Landers for various developments. Due to its gradient and potential water resources, it has always been considered as gold for country people. There are about 6000 rivers and rivulets with about with the dream of the development of 83,000 MW in Nepal catapult towards the top of the UNDP development index started in the 1960s. Of the estimated 83,000 MW hydropower potential, it has been assessed that 42,000 MW can be exploited economically. However,Nepal has developed only 566.7 MW of hydropower to date 2005, which is less than 0.7% of total hydropower potential. It is a known fact that only 14% of country’s population enjoys facility of electricity, and a tariff rate of Nepal is expensive. About 225 billion cubic meter of water every year flow down to Indian Ocean via India. There is relatively limited precipitation during the months from November to February throughout the region, with approximately 80 percent of the annual total falling during the months from June to September at virtually all stations. Much of the precipitation occurs as a series of intense, localized storms, with the bulk of the total annual precipitation occurring during 30 to 40 storm events, each of which results in between 25 to 100 mm precipitation. The country experiences annual precipitation of 1530 mm on average. About 64% of the precipitation immediately discharges as surface runoff, some is lost in evaporation and transpiration and the rest is retained in the form of snow, ice and groundwater. Snow, ice and groundwater act as a natural reservoir supplying the rivers throughout the dry season.Nepal has been still popularly regarded as one of the second richest country for water in the world.
Problems of Hydropower
In these modern technological times, the electricity has been one of the basic needs and demands of all to this increasing population. However, still, Nepalese has been facing the problem of “load shedding”. Still, the problems have not been solved by the continuous construction and developments of hydels (hydroelectricity) of various sizes which have become a trend in various watersheds and their layers, which affects the natural beauty of rivers. How long does our country should lag behind or race in a pace of snail? How many large, small and micro-hydel should we keep on constructing in our watersheds? Sufficiency for Safe drinking water is still a problem in our country. Why the hydropower with such a huge amount didn’t invest a few dollars to the drinking water system around the nearby watershed villages, i.e., a multi-purpose system.
On the other hand, the financial issues for electricity have been pressuring Nepal Electrical Authority and an individual houses due to its cost. The price of Government developed medium range hydro-power in Nepal which is in an average 28000 US $ kW, while in Sri Lanka and Ceylon, it is in range of 1000 US$. This high cost generation escalates the tariff rate to more than NRs. 7.50 per unit (present average rate), making unaffordable not only to many poor population of the country but also to the lower, middle class population of the country. This high tariff rate acts as a hurdle for the fast growth of industry in the country, even though the man power cost is cheaper in Nepal and favorable for industry growth. The most expected Kulekhani Hydropower even suffered with sedimentation, and at times unprecedented loss of rainfall which ultimately affects us. At the time of completion in 1982, the gross capacity of the reservoir is 85.5 million cubic meters and dead storage is 11.2 million cubic meter. It was thought that 7 cubic meters from one hectare of watershed will be produced and deposited in the reservoir. But, sediment deposition rate increased to 5 to 7 times more than expected rate due the July flood disaster of 1993. The paradoxical rhetoric “Second richest country for water resources” and at times import of electricity from neighboring countries makes us to ponder upon it.
Talking about the risk, depending upon hydropower generation capacities have their limited benefits. Small hydropower needs only a small area in small watershed, which needs the huge hydropower quantity in numerous watersheds with limited span of time. While creation of high dam reservoirs benefits in massive amount, but Terai areas become worst and first victim where huge financially dissolve in such project. Many micro-hydro installed all over the Nepal basically are designed for the fifteen years and it should be located at place where there is no possibility of the NEA grid extension during five years after the micro hydro installed. This is so because the pay back period for the project is five years. The failure rate is high because of problems associated with hydrology, design discharge, lack of intensive management and operation.
Water resources are only a single factor in any environment, and such resources cannot be understood without some understanding of the larger systems, of which they are a part and with which they interact. This larger system is defined primarily by interdependent interactions among topography, climate, geology, vegetation, and human modifications of these elements of the environment. In mountainous regions, as a first approximation, the most critical factors are topography and meteorology. The most important parameter is the Climate Change. In 1998, drought dominated many parts of the Greater Horn of Africa (GHA) region like Burundi,Djibouti,Eritrea,Ethiopia,Kenya,Rwanda,Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania,Uganda. In some places, it was the worst for decades and in others was an extension of the persistent drought that began in 1998. Rainfall during March-May 2000 period (the long rains season in equatorial eastern Africa) was late and light; in some places, the rains failed completely. This failure was associated with La Nina conditions and cyclonic activity in the Indian Ocean. The same Indian Ocean triggers the formation of the Asian Monsoon may one day change its influx pattern to Hindu-Kush Himalaya. Monsoon clouds from the Indian Ocean bring about 80 percent of the annual rainfall in four months in Nepal due to its mountainous topography and blessed with a high surface water potential. Therefore, the hydrologists, climatologists’ perspective towards climate change should taper towards the Asian monsoon so that Asian nations work more intimately together. The fragile nature of climate may shift taking away the monsoon pattern. Then, what is the ultimate for electricity? Should we proceed for Nuclear Power Plant?
Is Nuclear Power Plant answer to the Hydel Inefficiency?
The stringent controlled utility of the Nuclear power plant for the generation of electricity for Nepal will solve the electricity problem “once and for all”. This is the time for the Sustainable Development and Renewable energy resource utility where, once the country is free from electricity problem. Our Hydel development is still not sufficient to envelope the whole country to this date. The development of electricity through the Nuclear Power Plant is inevitable in long run time. People have not receive the basic need like water as a safe drinking resource and once the nuclear power plant is set up for electricity, the rest of the financial donors can invest in the supplies of water for drinking purposes in both urban and rural areas around the country. Our country with approximately 78% of the mountainous part that is about 70% of the total area of the kingdom fall within the watersheds makes us to build numerous hydropowers depending upon the capacity of watershed. We should not forget the increasing population, their needs and demands. Even though, solar energy utility is another option but it is just base on individual basis, cannot be fulfilled in whole country wise basis. Therefore, Nuclear Power Plant development will solve all problems of hydroelectricity for a long term basis.
In Nepal, the topic of Nuclear Power Plant development has not been rising before because of our dependency on hydropower plant for electricity. As stated already, hydropower plant has been not effective as it seems, therefore, the other alternatives that could sustain and provide continuous flow of electricity throughout country is only the Nuclear Power Plant. What do you think about it?