Cooperative: SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI), South Asia’s apex body for private sector, has proposed for an Energy Charter Treaty for protection and promotion of foreign investments in energy sector in the region.

The proposal was made during the end of the two-day conference that ended on July 25 in Paro.

The conference released the Paro Declaration, which says that the proposed treaty should focus on facilitation of free trad in energy-related materials, products and equipment based on World Trade Organisation rules.

According to the declaration, member states should promote free flow of energy through pipelines and grids.

Organised by SAARC CCI in collaboration with Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), the conference themed “Cleaner and Greener South Asia – Managing Climate Change and Water Resources”, was attended by businesspersons, politicians and policy-makers from SAARC countries.

Acting President of SAARC CCI, Suraj Vaidya, said that considering increasing challenges like climate change and water resources in South Asia, SAARC CCI is actively involved in creating awareness among stakeholders. It intends to promote investments in energy sector.

“We believe that the energy is inevitable for sustainable economic growth,” said Suraj Vaidya.

SAARC director Singye Dorjee said the cooperation in hydropower sector is important at a time when the environmental threats have become real. He said that both public and private sectors recognise the challenges of climate change.

The Paro Declaration says the proposed treaty should act as forum for experience-sharing and encourage cooperative efforts aimed at promoting market-oriented reforms in energy sector.

The conference also called for an agreement among the SAARC nations to standardise rules and procedures to simplify transaction mechanisms to reduce the cost of energy trade.

South Asian is among the fastest-growing regions in the world.

“At the same time, adequate supply of energy needs to be ensured to sustain the momentum of growth,” says declaration.

The conference welcomed the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation, signed during the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu, Nepal, and described the agreement as “a ray of hope” to deepen regional mechanism.

The participants, however, said that conceptualization of the energy security under the agreement has not been revealed still.

“Energy agreements and projects at SAARC level must aim to increase affordability among the under-privileged and have an impact on reducing inter-state tensions in the region in addition to fueling economic growth,” says the Paro declaration.

Experts at the conference agreed that a single grid is not possible and that there should be three sub-grid systems in the region – eastern, western and southern grids.

According to Paro Declaration, the eastern grid should include Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Afghanistan, Pakistan and India will form the western grid, and India and Sri Lanka the southern grid.

The acting SAARC CCI President said that India being in the middle of SAARC countries and by the virtue of being the largest nation should play a key role in development of energy in the region.

The participants also discussed disaster management in the region. There is a need for a regional visualisation and monitoring system that integrates earth observation information such as satellite imagery and forecast models for timely and improved decision-making process.

“It has been realised that response to disasters have been ad hoc, providing support only when disasters strike,” says the declaration. “There is a dire need of a regional mechanism to respond.”

The conference also noted the importance of overall mechanism or portfolio to streamline disaster risk reduction in the various initiatives through formulation of disaster risk reduction framework.

The framework is expected to bring together various agencies for implementation of disaster management plans.

By MB Subba