Don’t Call it Disaster Yet

Protection of the environment is essential, but environmental sentimentalism must not cloud the evaluation of development schemes.

When the Chitwan Valley was opened up as a frontier for settlement in the 1960s and 1970s, several alternative irrigation schemes were considered in order to convert the alluvial plain north of the Rapti river and east of the Narayani river into a bread basket. Two of these schemes were the Chitwan lift irrigation system and the Khageri irrigation scheme, both of which supply water to the western region of the Chitwan District, north of the Royal Chitwan National Park. The 1960s and 1970s were rather easy times for development planners, since projects then were simply a matter of how much went in and what came out. The question of environmental impact was underplayed, if not disregarded. Neither the lift irrigation project nor the Khageri project received the scrutiny that ERIP is receiving today.


The questions being raised about the environmental soundness of ERIP, especially in relation to Chitwan sanctuary are appropriate. However, the debate is characterised by more emotionalism and less science. Environmental impact assessments have a vital place in the scheme of development, but they should be used scientifically and not as polemical batons to push through a biased viewpoint.

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Himal Southasian