Nepal Maoists resume opposition to Indian investment in hydropower



Kathmandu: Nepal's ruling Maoist party has resumed its opposition to Indian investment in the republic's thorny hydropower sector, saying they went against the country's national interests.

The Maoists, who are the dominant partners in the new government of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, on Wednesday kicked off their campaign against Indian investment in hydropower projects and the new emergency energy policy on the anvil, saying power projects should be developed with domestic investment.

At an interaction organised in the capital on Wednesday, former minister Leelamani Poudel, who is also the water resources chief of the former guerrillas, said projects given to Indian investors - like the 900 MW Upper Karnali and 402 MW Arun 3 projects - served only Indian interests and fuelled repeated Indian intervention in Nepal.

Upper Karnali is being developed by Indian infrastructure company GMR while Arun 3 was awarded to public sector Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, both of whom have been facing obstruction by local groups led by the Maoists.

To combat an unprecedented energy crisis that has plunged Nepal into an almost 18-hour power outage daily and hit industries, businesses and the common man, the Khanal government last month announced an emergency power policy.

It seeks to curb local protests to power projects by empowering security authorities to shoot at sight and slap a five-year jail sentence on obstructing protesters. It also seeks to form an authority that would hold direct talks with foreign investors to develop large hydropower projects.

Dharmendra Bastola, member of the Maoist politburo, said the energy plan formulated under Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari would be opposed by his party.

The Maoist decision comes even as the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, met the Prime Minister on Wednesday to express India's concern at the growing anti-India activities by the Maoists.

Besides showing black flags to the Indian envoy during the inauguration of India-funded projects, the Maoists have also stepped up on trade union activities, imposing strikes to pressure industries into hiking workers' wages.

Major Indian investors in Nepal like ITC's subsidiary Surya Nepal and Dabur India's joint venture Dabur Nepal have been affected by the strikes.

IANS