House panel asks government to seal PDA within September 18

House panel asks government to seal PDA within September 18

A Parliamentary committee on Agriculture and Water Resources today instructed the government to sign power development agreement (PDA) with India's GMR-ITD Consortium within September 18. Earlier this month, both Nepal and India had agreed to conclude the Upper Karnali PDA within 45 days from August 4, as they could not sign it during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kathmandu on August 3-4. The GMR that has bagged 900-MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project has been waiting to sign PDA before starting the develop the hydel project. Before directing the government to seal the deal, the parliamentary committee had discussed in detail with the members of a committee formed to review PDA document – for Upper Karnali – prepared by Investment Board of Nepal. The government had on August 2 formed the committee under National Planning Commission (NPC) vice chair Dr Govinda Prasad Pokhrel to finalise the PDA document. Apart from ensuring development in affected areas, maximum use of domestic products and services, and of minimal impact on downstream irrigation projects, the committee also instructed the government to take account of rehabilitation and resettlement, employment opportunities, compensation and share allocation to locals while concluding the PDA. Though majority of the lawmakers in the parliamentary committee were for signing the PDA with Indian company on time, they also instructed the government to ensure minimising liability on Nepal’s part during a force majeure. Some of the lawmakers also raised the issues of project impact on irrigation schemes downstream and share allocation to locals. Nepali Congress lawmaker Gagan Thapa, on the occasion, asked to expedite the PDA signing process by taking the locals into confidence. Likewise the committee has also asked the government to ensure rate of return from free equity, guarantee of employment opportunities to locals and maximum use of local products and resource in the agreement. The committee has also concluded that the force majeure clause should be made explicit. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala today told party leaders on that the agreement would not undermine the country's sovereignty. Talking to a delegation of 10 parties at his official residence in Baluwatar, Koirala said that the committee has revised the PDA in Nepal's interest. There has been many changes in India after the new government came to power, he said, adding that India is trying to re-build its relations with neighbours on the basis of equality. "India has assured us that any deal between the two sides will respect the sovereignty of the states. Opportunities are knocking on our door. Let’s seize them." The delegation asked the premier not to sign a power trade agreement with India and PDA for Upper Karnali in a hurry. The CPN-Maoist-led alliance has warned against any energy deal with India in the political transition. They also cautioned the premier not to reach any agreement giving India the upper hand.
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