The Disaster That is ERIP

Irrigation projects can have far-reaching, damaging ecological impact. The government must pay more than lip service to environmental concerns.

The Government of Nepal, with financial and technical assistance from the Asian Development Bank, began to plan the East Rapti Irrigation Project (ERIP) in the mid-1980s, showing little concern over how the project might affect the environment of the area. The feasibility report does not even mention the world-renowned Royal Chitwan National Park, whose northern boundary is the Rapti river. The ADB's appraisal report of 1986 states blandly that "ERIP…is not expected to have significant negative environmental impact."

ERIP is a large-scale surface irrigation project, which, when completed, will provide irrigation facilities to 9500 hectares of land in the eastern Chitwan Valley. The planners have suggested building a low diversion weir across the Rapti. The site of the permanent intake structure is actually inside the park. The designs of the weir and the channel are almost complete, and the project is awaiting final approval.

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Himal Southasian