Accepted Paper:

Securing the volume: Nepal's water for the people's investment?  


Matthäus Rest (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
Austin Lord (Cornell University)

Paper short abstract:

Despite extreme seasonality of water and a chronic shortage of electricity, Nepal's rivers function as foundation of an imagined "hydropower nation" whose citizens will become wealthy from their shares in export-oriented dams. China and India are simultaneously trying to secure those rivers' volumes

Paper long abstract:

Water in Nepal is highly seasonal: 50% of the annual precipitation falls on just 15 days while there is hardly any rain at all between October and April.  This has severe ramifications on Nepal's energy generation as it relies heavily on hydropower. Therefore, while some of the run-of-the-river projects produce more energy than the transmission lines can carry during monsoon, in winter Nepal has to import large quantities of electricity from India. Only with the recent completion of a major new transborder transmission line a decade of daily scheduled brown-outs (with up to 14 hours of power cut on winter days) has come to a close. Yet for some years now, a substantial part of the political and economic elites have been collectively engaged in the construction of a vision for the future of Nepal that denies all of these fluid complexities. Instead, in this telling, water and gradient are the ingredients for future wealth through the export of electricity. Every drop of water that leaves the country's borders without producing hydroelectricity is imagined as wasted. Out of this rationale, we argue, emerges a double movement of securing these volumes: on the one hand the attempt to secure the potential physical sites for hydropower projects; on the other hand the effort to securitize the financial assets necessary to develop them. And with the high interest of both India and China in developing Nepal's rivers, their volumes turn into complicated flows of territoriality.

Panel Time02
Resource temporalities: anticipations, retentions and afterlives