Monday, November 29, 1999

Nepal Maoists intensify anti-dam protest

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Kathmandu, June 18 (IANS) Work on a controversial high dam by India and Nepal in collaboration continued under tight security in eastern Nepal even as the opposition Maoist party intensified its protests against the mega power project, calling it 'anti-people'.Fifteen ethnic groups affiliated to the former guerrilla party, who had warned of a 'strong protest movement' from Thursday if survey on the 3,300 MW Sapta Kosi Multipurpose Project was not halted, have submitted a fresh memorandum to Nepal's foreign ministry, saying they would begin a stir if the 'voice of the indigenous people was not heard'.According to the memorandum, the project which envisions building a 269 metre dam would cause 83 villages in Nepal to be submerged.These, the protesters say, contain agricultural land as well as ethnic cultural and religious relics.The groups allege that the project will serve mainly India's interests.However, the protests have failed to stop the ongoing survey. Nepal's Survey Department has completed a map of the project area while presently, a three-member team of geologists from the Geological Survey of India is adding a geological survey to determine the nature of the rocks in the area.The Sapta Kosi project, besides generating hydropower, is envisioned to prevent floods on the Kosi, known as the 'Sorrow of Bihar', provide irrigational facilities and develop a waterway.Though India and Nepal began talks in the early 1940s to develop the multipurpose project and a joint team of experts was formed in 1991, it has been able to hold only six meetings due to the political turmoil in Nepal.A feasibility report by India's Central Water Commission in 1981 recommended building a 269-metre-high dam, which is being opposed by environmentalists, who say it would be hazardous in an earthquake-prone land like Nepal.A joint office was opened in Nepal's eastern Biratnagar town in 2004 to prepare the detailed project report, which was expected in 30 months. However, the report could not be completed due to the security situation in Nepal.Though last month protesters disrupted survey, it has been resumed after Nepal's home ministry pledged stringent security.Nearly four dozen security personnel have been deployed in Sunsari district, where the survey is on.

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