House panel pressed to pave way for West Seti deal implementation

KATHMANDU, MAR 20 – Lawmakers from the ruling UCPN (Maoist) have started piling pressure on the Natural Resources and Means Committee of parliament to revoke its directives that bars the government from implementing the memorandum of understanding signed with a Chinese company on the West Seti hydroelectricity project.

The call to allow China’s Three Gorges International Corporation to start its work based on the deal signed with the Ministry of Energy was made by some Maoist lawmakers at Monday’s meeting. A majority of lawmakers, however, stressed that the House committee complete its investigation before permitting the implementation of the deal.

The discussion in the parliamentary committee follows a strongly-worded letter sent to the Nepal government by the Chinese company warning of pulling out of the project. The debate in the panel, however, was focussed on extending the term of the Shanta Chaudhary-led panel by 10 days.

“People have serious complaints against the committee. We are being seen as the ones standing against the country’s development,” said Maoist lawmaker Prem Tamang. “Frustration is growing in the country in the absence of development initiatives. We should not completely block the implementation of such a mega project in the name of a probe,” he added.

Tamang suggested that the term of the subcommittee formed to investigate into the deal signed by the government should not be extended by more than three days. The 10-day deadline for investigation set by the full committee expired on Sunday.

Nepali Congress Chief Whip Laxman Prasad Ghimire commented that three days would be insufficient. He said the government was yet to furnish its response to the 16 questions asked by the subcommittee regarding the controversial deal.

“The Ministry of Energy is yet to provide us with the original copy of the MoU despite our demand. The ministry spokesperson responds to the media like an agent of the Three Gorges company,” said the NC lawmaker. Maoist CA member Tamang demanded a probe into the issue saying that government officials and representatives of the Chinese company should both be punished if there was any misappropriation.

Another Maoist lawmaker Dabal Bahadur Shahi said the delay in the West Seti project was against the sentiment of the people in the far-western region. “The project is crucial to maintaining unity among the people of the region,” he said. “It should not be delayed because of the committee.”

UML lawmaker Netra Panthi and CPN (Samyukta) leader Chandra Dev Joshi stressed that the House committee should complete its investigation to ensure smooth execution of the project in future.

The committee’s meeting agreed to extend the term of the investigating subcommittee by10 days. Chairman Chaudhary stressed that the panel would speed up process and arrive at a conclusion soon.postreport

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