Rajendra

Ashoka Fellow

Citation

This profile was prepared when Rajendra Dahal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
As a journalist who has extensive experience writing about and researching the hydropower industry, Rajendra Dahal believes that creating institutionalized linkages between hydropower planners, government officials, and the people of Nepal will increase the accountability of decision-makers. As a result, he hopes to reduce the number of inefficient, environmentally harmful projects undertaken throughout the country.

Rajendra believes that he will be able to increase local participation in the planning and decision-making process, first by raising Nepalese awareness of the environmental, economic, and social costs of hydroelectric development projects, and second, by forcing public debate and transparency in planning. Critical to his plan was his formation of a hydropower "watch group" comprised of a growing cadre of investigative journalists, activists, professionals, and academics involved in or specializing in hydropower and environmental issues.

Rajendra sees the reform of the approval process for projects as an essential element of his overall program. First, Nepal must develop a sector-wide plan that would be used to prioritize projects and avoid their consideration on an arbitrary, case-by-case basis. Second, projects should take into account the available local capacity. Where there is none, the emphasis should be to favor those projects that may help build local capacity and industry. Nepal has already built six projects of between 10 to 70 megawatts but still does not have the capability to build a five megawatt project on its own. Rajendra believes that the size of the project and the priority given to it should not be measured in megawatts but should be based on Nepal's economic, technical, and administrative capacity. Just as important, the criteria for evaluating a proposed project should include consideration of the real direct and indirect, positive and negative, short- and long-term consequences it will have on the entire society in all its complexity. Only after the country's capabilities and expertise are developed, and more is known about the true socioeconomic and environmental impacts of such projects, should larger hydropower schemes be attempted.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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