The Rivers are Green On 30th May 2011, Germany formally announced plans to completely abandon nuclear power

by 2022. Following this announcement, eight of the reactors that were currently offline after the Fukushima incident will be permanently shut down and the remaining nine plants will be shut down by 2022. German chancellor Angela Merkel pointed out the helplessness of Japan in the face of nuclear disaster on her response. The topic of phasing out the Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) that had gained momentum after the 2007 Russia-Belarus energy dispute got renewed attention after the Fukushima crisis. On 26th March 2011, some 250,000 people protested across Germany with tens of thousands rallying across major cities. Although Germany has begun its move towards green energy as the first industrialized nation, the implementation is definitely an uphill task. It should be noted that nearly a quarter of Germany’s total electricity production constitutes of Nuclear power. Interestingly, this figure is almost the same as that of the United States. Although Germany has invested heavily on greener energy alternatives including solar power and wind power; thermal power plants still constitute a majority of the German electricity production. As of 2008, the gross electricity generation was about 639 billion KWh of which around 56 percent was thermal power plants (lignite, hard coal and natural gas), 23.3 percent was nuclear power, and 15percent was renewable (wind, hydropower and biomass) and remaining 5 percent was from other sources. Abandoning nuclear power would increase the dependence on thermal power plants until sustainable green energy solutions are implemented. Wind power, which currently constitutes around 6.5 percent of total electricity generation, may be a viable alternative, although it’s still pretty expensive. In my last article, I had talked about India’s nuclear ambitions and its possible impact on Nepalese hydropower. However, since Fukushima crisis, things have changed. In fact, the crisis at Fukushima has been a sort of an eye opener. It has forced us to take into account one aspect of nuclear threat that had been underestimated, maybe overlooked earlier-mother nature. It’s been 25 years since the Chernobyl disaster and that was blamed on human error as well as technical deficiency. There has been considerable development in technology to avoid such fate. But on the wake of Fukushima, another serious question arises- How can we deal with something that we cannot control? In April 2011, massive protests were organized in India against the construction of a nuclear power complex of 9,900 MW at Jaitapur, Maharastra. One person was killed in police action as the protest turned violent. Similar protests were organized against the construction of a NPP at Srikakulam of Andhra Pradesh where two people were killed on 28th February, 2011. Coincidently, on 31st May 2011, one day after Germany formally announced to abandon the nuclear power, fresh protests against the NPP broke out in Srikakulam. Former President and renowned scientist of India, APJ Abdul Kalam has said that India must learn from Japan’s Calamity and review all the planned nuclear projects in the country. Maybe such events could change India’s stance on aggressive development of nuclear power and look for better alternatives. India has already seen its share of nuclear accidents such as in Kalpakkam, Tarapur, and Bulandshahr. Based on the scale of crisis, nuclear accidents have global ramifications and the repair and rehabilitation could take hundreds of millions of dollars. One should not forget the city of Pripyat, once a bustling city of 50,000 that is now a ghost town after the Chernobyl accident.

Back to Germany, the country has been one of the largest investors in the development of green and renewable energy. According to a study by Institute of Energy Research, in Germany, the government support for solar energy between 2000-2010 stands at a staggering 73.2 billion USD. Similarly, the cost of supporting wind power during the same period was estimated to total around 28.1 billion USD. For all these investments, wind power constitutes only 6.5 percent of their total electricity production. Similarly solar photovoltaic cells constitute a mere 0.7 percent of the generated electricity. Yet they have opted to completely abandon nuclear power and lead the way on greener measures. We must consider ourselves lucky in this matter. On one hand the world is spending billions of dollars in the development of green energy, we have such a vast potential at our disposal. If we make a logical analysis, hydropower is probably the only source of electricity that is clean, cheap, renewable and sustainable. There are always debates and some experts like to put forward the ecological and social ramifications of a large hydropower project, but comparing the alternatives, presently there is probably no other source of energy that would fare better. Should India look into this matter, both the nations Nepal and India would be in advantageous position. Unlike many countries, India has the option of switching to hydropower, and the potential is enormous. It doesn’t have the compulsion to invest heavily in other green alternatives. However, the irony is that, just because the option exists doesn’t mean that the conditions are favourable. Should India be interested to invest in Nepal’s hydropower, security would be a prime concern. The recent vandalism and arson in Upper Karnali offices in Dailekh is very disturbing. The Indian Express on its edition of 24 th May 2011 has reported this incident in its front page under the heading “Ruling Maoists tell GMR to stop work in Nepal”. The External Affairs Minister of India, S.M. Krishna, had sought commitment from the Prime Minister, Mr. Jhala Nath Khanal on safety of Indian staff and property in Nepal. Some time back, one of the representatives of private sector pointed out that the current situation is such that, a single local has the ability to halt work on a project for 15 days for whatsoever reason. Experts as well as investors in this field almost univocally put emphasis on security for development of this sector. Maybe this is the reason why India has currently been favoring Bhutan over Nepal in the field of hydropower development. In the past, we have already made numerous commitments for the development of this sector. Therefore, fulfilling those commitments seems to be the only way forward. Peeyush Tiwari Kathmandu, 9841002538