Nepal endorses power deal with India

 KATHMANDU, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) — Two weeks after signing a major power deal with India, the Nepal government has endorsed the power trade agreement, government officials said here on Friday.

     The meeting of Council of Ministers of Nepal held on Thursday evening endorsed the Agreement on Electric Power Trade and Cross- Border Transmission Interconnection and Grid Connectivity that was signed with the Indian government on Sept. 4.

     The meeting has also approved the draft of power development agreement (PDA) prepared by Investment Board of Nepal (IBN), a government agency formed to facilitate mega projects in the Himalayan country.

     According to the IBN officials with the approval upon the PDA draft, the government will sign PDA with Indian developer GMR Energy that is preparing to develop 900 MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project in rural west past of the country.

     The same meeting has authorized the IBN to move forward towards signing the PDA with GMR Energy.

     Nepal’s energy experts said both of the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers has come as a milestone towards developing Nepal’s hydropower resources which is estimated at around 45,000 MW commercially feasible power generation capacity.

     “Both of the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers will also help to attract investors from across the globe who have long been waiting to develop hydropower projects here,” Lal Bahadur Pandit, General Administration Minister told Xinhua via phone.

     Nepal’s Energy Ministry officials however denied any information if the power deal with India has been endorsed from its parliament or not.

     The agreement on power trade that will last for 25 years will come to the effect once the parliament or Council of Ministers from both of the countries endorse it.

     Meanwhile, the IBN has begun preparations to sign the PDA with GMR Energy by forming a high level committee.

     “We are trying to sign the PDA possibly today or tomorrow,” IBN chief Radhest Pant said.  Enditem

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Nepal signs 1.4 bln USD hydropower project agreement with Indian investor

KATHMANDU, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) — The Nepalese government Friday signed an agreement with an Indian hydropower developer, making ways for the latter to initiate a 1.4-billion-U.S. dollar hydropower project in the Himalayan country.

     Radhes Pant, chief executive officer of Nepal Investment Board (IBN) and R.B Seson, president of energy wing under GMR Energy of India signed the power development agreement (PDA) at a function here.

     The date for the signing of the PDA was fixed only on Thursday after Nepalese Council of Ministers endorsed the draft along with authorizing the IBN to go ahead with the sealing of the pact.

     The IBN is an agency formed by the government to facilitate and expedite mega projects such as hydropower projects with more than 500 MW capacity.

     With the signing of the PDA, the government has opened up avenues for the Indian infrastructure giant to initiate development of the 900 MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project.

     The PDA is an important pact the government has signed so far with any foreign investors and the government has assured the investors that it would avert any possible social, economic or policy-level uncertainties during the project implementation.

     Issues related to taxes, licence period, free energy, royalty, repatriation rights and parties’ obligations are included in the PDA.

     Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam, Indian Home Minister Raj Nath Singh and Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae, among others were present during the PDA signing.

     The signing of the agreement has been seen as a major breakthrough as it sets the tone for more foreign investment in the country’s hydropower sector.

     Two more foreign developers, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam and Statkraft, are in line to sign similar agreements with the government.

     Satluj and Statkraft have been planning to develop 900 MW Arun III and 880 MW Tamakoshi III hydro projects respectively under the direct foreign investment.

     The IBN will use the same template when it signs agreements with these developers, which will open up opportunities to bring in more than 8 billion U.S. dollars in direct foreign investment in Nepal.

     The IBN initiated the PDA negotiation with the GMR more than a year ago after it developed first PDA template in June, 2012.

     However, following disputes on several issues including tax exemption, resettlement of the project affected population, access to free energy and construction of transmission lines along with disruptions created, a number of political parties had hindered the government to sign the agreement with the GMR.

     As per the agreement, the developer will have to initiate the project construction within two years; otherwise the project licence will be automatically terminated. The developer will give 12 percent of the total power generated by the project free of charge and 27 percent of the free equity in the project to the government.

     Moreover, the project will be completely handed over to the Nepalese government after 25 years of operation by the developer, according to the press statement issued by the IBN.

     Speaking on the occasion, Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Gautam said the signing will ensure the socio-economic development of the country.

     “This has also given a glimmer of hope to other foreign investors to come and invest in Nepal,” he added.

     Similarly, Indian Home Minister Singh said the agreement was signed as per the policy of Indian Prime Minister that the development of India alone would not suffice until the whole South Asia region develops.

     Once constructed, it will be the first ever export-oriented project constructed in Nepal which has been seeking to sell its additional hydro energy to neighbouring markets for more than a decade.  Enditem

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Nepal’s PM sets off to participate in 69th UN General Assembly

 KATHMANDU, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) — Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has left for New York on Friday to participate in the 69th UN General Assembly to be held on Sept. 26, officials said.

     Leading a 15-member team, Koirala will first stop in Abu Dhabi to meet Nepali ambassadors and heads of missions in the Middle East, West Asia and North Africa, among others on Saturday.

     “The meetings are fixed to learn on the situation in the major labor destinations where a huge number of Nepali immigrants are working and to issue necessary directives,” said Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) through a press release.

     According to the MoFA, Koirala will attend a few high-level meetings with heads of governments from a number of countries, discussing issues concerning promotion of investment and friendly relationships with those countries.

     The prime minister’s meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon has been fixed for Sept. 27 and the Nepali community living in the United States will organize a function in Koirala’s honor and an interaction on the same day.  Enditem

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Extreme nationalism mars India, China, Nepal cooperation: former Indian envoy

KATHMANDU, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) — “My own country is suffering from nationalism of the wrong kind. It is good for all of us to be proudly nationalistic but the temptation to be ultra nationalistic makes no sense at all.” Krishna V. Rajan, former Indian Ambassador to Nepal said here on Thursday.

The former envoy made the remarks while talking about how to strengthen trilateral cooperation among China, India and Nepal on the talk program organized by Nepal Institute of International and Strategic Studies in the capital city Kathmandu.

During his speech, Rajan who worked here for more than 5 years said an environment of strategic trust is a prerequisite for any kind of sustainable and structured trilateral cooperation, hoping that the bright future will not be damaged by past experiences, misconceptions or prejudices because today’s India, Nepal and China are very different from what existed a couple of decades ago.

Asserting that “China has absolutely no interest in insulting India,” the former secretary of India’s Ministry of External Affairs envisioned the three countries working together as three cogs, “each connected to the other two wheels, all of them interdependent and moving at increasing speed.”

His lecture was echoed by other speech-makers on the program attended by over 300 people.

In his speech titled “The trans-Himalayan Dream”, Akhilesh Upadhaya, editor-in-chief of the Kathmandu Post, one of the most influential English dailies in the Himalayan nation, said that China’s initiative of new Silk Road economy and its emphasis on connectivity will potentially revive Nepal’s glory days as the transit point between its two giant neighbors.  Endtime

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Nepal parties fails to fix date for all-party meeting on constitution drafting process

KATHMANDU, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) — A meeting of four parties in Nepal failed to finalize the date for the all-party conference which is expected to bring CPN-Maoist which boycotted election process on board constitution drafting process, leaders said on Thursday.

     In the meeting of Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-Maoist held in Prime Minister’s official residence, all parties remained stick to their position. In the meeting, NC said all-party conference should be held before Sept. 17 as Prime Minister Sushil Koirala will have to go America for the treatment on Sept. 19.

     The UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-Maoist, however, said that it is not possible before Sept. 19 due to the lack of the preparations. Due to the lack of consensus, cross-party talks failed to make any agreement pushing the constitution drafting process towards uncertainty.

     The four-party meeting also failed to finalize the modality and members of the all-party conference. Earlier, major parties have agreed to hold the all-party conference to bring the CPN-Maoist in the election process. “We have proposed to provide us some time to make preparations but ruling parties did not agree,” said CPN- Maoist Secretary Dev Gurung to the reporters after the meeting.

     Due to the delay in talks, the constitution drafting process has been delayed. Parties are not in mood to forge consensus on contentious issues until the talks with CPN-Maoist reaches a conclusion.

     The CPN-Maoist has said that it is ready to join the constitution drafting process if contentious issues of new constitution are discussed on CA.  Enditem

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Nepal submits progress report on aviation to European Commission

KATHMANDU, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) — The Nepal government has on Friday submitted a progress report to the European Commission (EC) on the improvements in aviation sector in a bid to get out of the ban that the commission had imposed upon Nepal based all airlines, officials said.

     Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the aviation regulatory body, sent all necessary documents via email to the EC which had blacklisted Nepali airlines showing safety concerns in December, last year.

     Following much hue and cry from Nepal government and stakeholders, the EC had committed to uplifting the ban once the Himalayan country improves its aviation safety status.

     “We have submitted all necessary documents that prove improvements in Nepal’s aviation sector and they are enough to help us come out of the blacklist,” Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, Chief of CAAN told Xinhua.

     He claimed once going through the progress report, the EC will respond to it positively.

     Previously, EC had asked Nepal to furnish its progress report setting the deadline as Sept. 15. CAAN officials said the meeting of EC’s Aviation Safety Committee scheduled for November, this year will study the report in detail and make a final decision if to uplift the ban imposed upon Nepal or not.

     According to CAAN officials, they will also justify the progress report and safety reform activities during the video conference on Sept. 24 to EC.

     Suman said the progress report has centered upon the improvements in four different areas that had primarily troubled EC including, revalidation of the air operators’ certificate, training and licensing of pilots and other technical staffs, recommendations provided by aircraft accident probe committee and its implementation and CAAN’s existing capacity.

     “The reports submitted by all airlines companies are also pretty strong. This gives us hope that we will be out of the blacklist this time,” added he.

     Nepali private airlines operators have been blaming CAAN and Nepal government for the ban on Nepal’s aviation sector and said that the restriction has already turned burden to the industry.

     Government statistics say, Nepal has already witnessed around 70 air crashes claiming 700 lives in its six decades’ aviation history.  Enditem

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Nepal’s 47 parties protest against power trade with India

KATHMANDU, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) — A hard line faction of Nepal’s Maoists party has protested against the Nepal government’s recent signing of major power deal with Indian government by burning the copy of the agreement here, party officials said Friday.

     An alliance of 47 parties in country’s capital Kathmandu, under the leadership of UCPN-Maoists, burn the copy of the agreement stating that the recent power deal with India called, “Agreement on Electric Power Trade and Cross-Border Transmission Interconnection and Grid Connectivity” was not in the interest of Nepal but of India.

     Nepal and India had finally clinched the much anticipated power trading deal on September 5 that will be effective for 25 years enabling both nations to import-export hydro energy among each other.

     The alliance that has been demonstrating against the agreement in several forms also organized a sit-in protest on Friday in front of Nepal’s major administrative center, Singhadurbar.

     Addressing the protest program, the senior leaders of the agitating political parties also warn that they will come up with stern steps if the agreement is not cancelled.

     Both of the governments from Nepal and India cannot implement the agreement till the pact is endorsed from their respective Parliaments.

     “Firstly, the agreement has been signed at a time when there is extreme energy crisis in Nepal. But the government seems to be excited to sell energy to India rather than serving its people,” UCPN-Maoist central secretary Dev Gurung told Xinhua, “On the other hand, the clauses under the agreement serve the interest of India instead of Nepal.”

     At a time when the 47 parties are demonstrating against the agreement, Nepal’s power entrepreneurs and stakeholders however have been saying that the deal was “historic” and would help Nepal to fully harness its huge hydropower potential which is estimated at around 45,000 MW commercially feasible power generation capacity.  Enditem

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Nepal’s parties missed first deadline of constitution drafting process

KATHMANDU, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) — Nepal’s political parties have missed the first deadline set by Constituent Assembly (CA) calendar concerning the constitution drafting process.

     As per the calendar, parties should have settled contentious issues such as forms of governance, electoral system, federalism and judiciary by Saturday but parties did not make any progress.

     The missed deadline has raised questions about the possibility of promulgation of new constitution by Jan. 22 next year. After failing to meet the deadline, parties have been divided about extending the deadline through an amendment to working calendar but parties are at odds on the same issue.

     The ruling parties Nepali Congress and CPN-UML are in favor of settling contentious issues through a voting process in the CA but opposition parties UCPN (Maoist) and Madhes-based parties want to extend the deadline. A three-party meeting on Saturday also failed to make any headway.

     “We are not in favor of extending the deadline. All the contentious issues should be resolved through a process in voting, ” CPN-UML senior leader Jhala Nath Khanal told media persons after the meeting.

     The Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (PDCC), a committee responsible to forge consensus on contentious issues is preparing to ask full House CA for the extension of deadline.  Enditem

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Nepal introduces Fibre to the Home service for the first time

KATHMANDU, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) — Nepal government-owned telecom service provider Friday launched a new project — Fibre to the Home (FTTH) for the first time in this Himalayan country.

     Aimed at providing customers with the fastest Internet as well as other value-added

services

including voice and television, the project was officially launched by the country’s Minister of Information and Communication (MoIC) Minendra Rijal at a function inKathmandu.

     According to Nepal Telecom (NT), the globally effective FTTH technology will be initiated in a few spots of the country’s capital city in the first phase and later be expanded to other parts gradually.

     “Under this facility, users will be provided with services including fastest speed Internet data and voice-over-the-Internet Protocol (VoIP) in the first phase,” Managing Director of NT Buddhi Prashad Acharya said during the project inauguration.

     The director added, “We will also offer multi-media services through this facility very soon.”

     The unlimited and volume based Internet service under the FTTH will have speed ranging from 1 Mbps to 100 Mbps, making the usage of Internet very easy and hassle-free.  

     According to NT officials, the service was launched primarily to cater to Kathmandu based corporate and business houses, which later will reach all Nepalis’ households, helping mass population for easy e-governance, e-banking, e-commerce and other activities.

     Speaking at the function, Minister Rijal said that as quality service is being Nepalis’ necessity, the NT should have to work towards that direction.

     “Without the development of information, communication and technology, the country cannot develop,” said Rijal, added, “The NT should stay more focused to achieve the development of information technology in the country.”

     Considered as the best solutions for data service, the FTTH can carry high-speed broadband services integrating voice, data and video and get directly to homes and buildings, for which it is also called Fiber to the Building (FTTB).

     The NT also said it has already completed the installation of optical fibre links for expanding the FTTH services throughout Kathmandu and a few other parts of the country.

     Internet has gained huge popularity in this small country with more and more people getting educated and becoming busier, and more and more business firms switching from their traditional working

patterns

to modern and IT based style.  Enditem

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Nepal, India seal power deal

KATHMANDU, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) — Nepal and India have finally clinched the much anticipated power trading deal, officials said here on Friday.

     The Agreement on Electric Power Trade and Cross-Border Transmission Interconnection and Grid Connectivity was signed by Nepal’s Energy Secretary Rajendra Kishore Kshatri and his Indian counterpart Pradeep Kumar Sinha Thursday in New Delhi.

     Nepal’s power entrepreneurs and stakeholders believe that the deal was “historic” and would help Nepal to fully harness its huge hydropower potential which is estimated at around 45,000 MW commercially feasible power generation capacity.

     Earlier, Nepal’s meeting of Council of Ministers on Tuesday had formed a seven-member task force to negotiate with Indian side for signing the deal which Nepal had been seeking since last many decades.

     Following that, the team left for India on

Wednesday

for a two- day-long negotiation in the headship of Energy Secretary, Kshatri.

     “After holding four-hour-long discussion during the first day negotiation, the Indian side expressed readiness to sign the agreement upon the draft proposed by Nepali side,” Nepal’s Energy Minister, Radha Gyanwali told Xinhua Thursday evening.

     The Nepali embassy in New Delhi issued a press release on Thursday saying that the agreement aims to enhance friendly relations and mutual trust between Nepal and India through increased cooperation in the field of transmission interconnection, grid connectivity and power trade.

     “It (agreement) facilitates government, public and private enterprises in planning and construction of interconnection facilities and power trade,” the press release said.

     Earlier, there was much hue and cry in Nepal after the Indian government forwarded a draft of the agreement which according to the lawmakers and government officials, “was in mere favor of Indian government.”

     The draft forwarded by the Indian government on May 9, this year had sought 100 percent investment of Indian investors in development of hydropower projects in Nepal or only through the joint venture with Nepali partners.

     The agreement, which needs to be endorsed by the cabinets of both countries, will initially run for 25 years, Gyanwali said.

     With this agreement, Nepal will officially be energy exporter to India during the wet season and buy energy from the Southern neighbor during dry.

     Following the agreement signing, Nepal and India also formed a secretary-level joint steering committee and joint secretary-level joint working group.  Enditem

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