Sunday, December 24, 2006

Talking about water rights

Razen Manandhar [Sunday, 24. December 2006]

According to legends and lore, the place where Kathmandu stands today was once a holy lake ten-twenty millennia ago.
It is said that a Chinese saint Manjushri came here, cut an outlet in the hills surrounding the lake with his magic sword letting the water drain out leaving a lush, green valley for people to live.
However, today in this same Valley, which was once a huge lake, people are striving for every drop of clean drinking water.
Kathmandu Valley has been reeling under acute water shortage for a decade now. Today it is being slapped with a new water management system. As per the conditions in the contract with the donors of the dream water project Melamchi, a foreign water management company is going to handle the country’s water authority — Nepal Water Supply Corporation, which has been enjoying monopoly — in at least the big cities, where water can make money.
Water activists have termed this move ‘privatisation’ and this does not fail to raise the government’s ire. However, privatisation or not, it is for sure that water will no longer be as cheap as it is now.
Moreover, the poor will have to pay even more in new system.
In this context, a serious question has been raised by the water activists: Will the new management be able to provide drinking water to poor in the Capital?
A gross estimation by Lumanti Support Group for Shelter states that at least 12,000 families in 60 settlements are living in extremely poor conditions.
Regardless of what the government has done or not done for the poor in terms of water distribution, it is now impossible to neglect their voice. It has now been internationally established that water is not a commodity for anyone to merchandise for profit, but a human rights issue: you cannot deny water to the poor because they cannot afford it.
This is the very reason that Target 10 of the Millennium Development Goals aims to halve the number of people without access to clear water and sanitation by 2015. Target 11 aims to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. Apart from this, it has been made almost mandatory that all big water projects show their concern for the poor, which is reflected, at least on paper, in our context.
“You cannot talk about water if you do not want to talk about the poor people,” says Dr Roshan Raj Shrestha, chief technical advisor to UN-HABITAT, the United Nation’s Human Settlements Programme.
The access to clean water is not a problem unique to Kathmandu Valley or Nepal. It is a universal problem, but it is one that has crossed all limits in the Asia Pacific region where 61 per cent of the global population and 43 per cent of the world urban population live. The cities are growing rapidly and so is the disparity between the rich and poor city dwellers. Urban poverty is an unavoidable feature of all Asian cities.
In her recent message, Dr Anna K Tibaujuka, under secretary-general of the UN and the executive director of UN-HABITAT said, “Urban poverty is a severe, pervasive and largely unacknowledged feature of modern life.”
She has specially shown interest in improving the water and sanitation situation in Nepal.
The UN-HABITAT is committed to bring new investments of $ 500 million for water and sanitation to the urban poor, and Nepal is going to have $ 2.5 million under its Water for Asian Cities Programme.
A four-day Asia Pacific Ministers Conference held in New Delhi from December 13-16 came up with the historic Delhi Declaration on this issue. The conference was participated by housing ministers from around 35 countries of the region.
The declaration has decided to establish the Asia-Pacific Ministers’ Conference on Housing and Urban Development (APCHUD) as the consultative mechanism on the promotion of suitable development of housing and urban development in the region. All the participating ministers, including Nepal’s Minister for Physical Planning and Works Gopal Man Singh, have shown commitment to formulate plans and policies in the near future to proceed in accordance with the Delhi Declaration.
Though the Nepal government has been seen very smart in being present and professing its commitment to various international conferences, its role in the implementation side has been objectionable. It is yet to be seen what the minister, who posed for a group photograph with a tilted Dhaka topi , will do in favour of the poor living in the dark alleys of slums and squatters’ area in the Capital, and across the nation.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Villages Near Mt Everst to Light Up Soon

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, December 22[2006]:
Five villages near the Mount Everest will have electric lights in four months. The tourist area is deprived of electricity, which has been a challenge to the conservation of Sagarmatha National Park, one of four World Heritage Sites of the country.

A model micro-hydro power project, being installed at Toktok in Chaurikharkha VDC of Solukhumbu district, will supply electricity to some 100 households in five villages. The project is said to be designed in response to the worldwide debate over development and conservation. A powerhouse is being constructed at Toktok village near Ghatte Khola at a height of 2,700 metres.

"The 70 KW power project is going to be complete by April. We are working on war-footing and we hope it will be complete by the deadline as the peace process has made the job easy these days," Ugan Manandhar, alternative energy officer at WWF Nepal, told this daily today.

WWF-Nepal designed the project to use the source of alternative energy for community-based rural electrification to improve the livelihood of people by bringing about income-generating activities in the long run and correlating it with conservation.

"Unlike the widespread opinion that hydroelectricity deteriorates nature, we are trying to show that micro-hydro project indeed can support nature conservation," he said.

According to him, the locals will use electricity for cooking purposes instead of firewood and thus will help keep the forest and nature in the buffer zone of Sagarmatha National Park intact.

The project will use Ghatte Khola of Solukhumbu as its source stream and it will benefit Phakding, Thulo Gumila, Jhamkutte, Toktok and Nangbote villages. A total of 89 potential subscribers have been traced, including 11 tourist lodges, 34 local bars, two monasteries and households.

WWF-Nepal has provided a grant of Rs 12.94 million, which makes up 90 per cent of the project's total cost. Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone Support Programme will jointly bear seven per cent cost and three per cent will be born by the local users' committees.

The construction of a canal, laying underground cable and powerhouse structure have been completed. Transportation of pipes and poles is going on, pole erection and transmission as well as distribution works are about to be completed. Some electro-mechanical equipments are yet to arrive in Kathmandu, Manandhar said.

He added that the project was going on smoothly, as the local community and the community-based organisations were supporting WWF-Nepal.

"We are trying to develop some income generating activates in the villages which will make the power plant really meaningful," he said.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Delhi declaration announced

Razen Manandhar

New Delhi, December 16[2006]:
A Delhi Declaration was announced at the closing of the four-day Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Human Settlement today, with a historic commitment to support the ever-growing number of the urban poor in the region.
The minister of state for housing and urban poverty of India Kumari Selja announced the declaration during the closing ceremony of the conference.
The document, an outcome of the conference of the housing ministers from around 35 countries of the region, among others, has promised to support relief and rehabilitation of shelter and human settlement development in post-conflict and post-disaster situations.
The participating ministers, including the Minister for Physical Planning and Works Gopal Man Shrestha from Nepal, have shown commitment to formulate plans and policies in the near future to proceed in accordance with the Delhi Declaration.
The Asia Pacific Region is emerging as a major contributor to the global urban transition, holding 61 per cent of the global population and 43 per cent of the world urban population.
The Delhi Declaration has decided to establish the Asia-Pacific Ministers’ Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMPCHUD) as the consultative mechanism on the promotion of suitable development of housing and urban development in the region.
India has consented to work as the secretariat for it for the coming two years. The AMPCHUD, as guided by the “Enhanced Framework”, adopted today, will serve as a forum and network to discuss the urban challenge at the continental level as a basis for national, provincial and local level strategies and policies.
Addressing the closing event, Anna Kazumulo Tabaijuka, the undersecretary general of the UN, said: “Whether they live in the capital or a small island, the poor deserve the same security, development and rights as everyone else.”
[ KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 17, 2006, Poush 02, 2063]

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Kalam tells nations to focus on rural development

Razen Manandhar
New Delhi, December 15 :

President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam today urged ministers and experts on housing development from 35 countries to stress on the development of rural areas, if they want to make their countries free from urban poverty.
“If you want to reduce pressure on urban areas bring more support and development in rural areas,” he said. President Kalam was addressing the inaugural session of the first Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Human Settlements today. Minister of state for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation of India Kumari Selja said that the countries must accept “inclusion” of the poor as part of core policy in all urban programmes. She said that the secretarial meeting held during the last two days has focused on four major themes — pro-poor urban governance and planning, slum upgrading, delivery of Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation and financing sustainable urbanisation in the Asia-Pacific.
Anna Kajumlo Tibaijuka, the under-general -secretary of UN and executive director of the UN-HABITAT assured that the new UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is ready to offer the Asia-Pacific region all support in the field of water and sanitation.
“We are now at a significant turning point in history. The year 2007 will be the year in which for the first time, half of human population will be living in towns and cities. It makes the beginning of a new urban area,” she said.

MoU signed

NEW DELHI: A memorandum of understanding between the government of Nepal and UN-HABITAT was signed on Friday. Kishore Thapa, the director general of Department of Urban Development and Building Construction, and Dr Anna Kajunmulo Tibaijuka, the under-secretary-general of UN and executive director of UN-HABITAT, signed the document, which will provide a grant of $2.5 million till the end of 2010. The money will be spent on development of infrastructure. Also present were Minister of Physical Planning and Works Gopal Man Shrestha and the advisor to UN-HABITAT Nepal Office Dr Ros-han Raj Shrestha. — HNS

Friday, December 15, 2006

UN-HABITAT to grant $2.5m annually until 2010

Razen Manandhar
New Delhi, December 14[2006]:

UN-HABITAT is going to support Nepal annually with Rs 185 million ($2.5 million) till 2010 to upgrade water and sanitation sectors here.

Kishore Thapa, director general of the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction, said a Memorandum of Understanding is being signed between the UN-HABITAT and the Nepal government tomorrow during the Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Human Settlement. Minister for Physical Planning and Works Gopal Man Shrestha is in New Delhi to participate in the conference that will conclude on December 16.

The MoU provides a framework for cooperation between UN-HABITAT and the government of Nepal under the Water for Asian Cities Programme for providing support in the capacity building and sanitation components of the programme. This will thus support ADB-assisted projects, including Kathmandu Valley Water Services Sector Development Programme, Melamchi Water Supply Project, Urban and Environment Improvement Project, Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation, and Integrated Urban Development Programme.

Thapa said the government has not yet decided where the money will be spent. “I believe it will be used for the improvement of water and sanitation in general,” he added.

Housing ministers from 35 countries are here to participate in the conference and to show political commitment to enhance water and sanitation situations in their countries. The conference is being inaugurated by Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam tomorrow.

Talking to this daily, Roman Rollink, spokesperson for the UN-HABITAT, said a grant of $300 million is being allocated to the developing Asian countries so that they can develop a mechanism to fight against urban poverty.

The conference will form a regional body to facilitate the governments in regulating or managing the crisis of urban poverty. “The conference will adopt a New Delhi Declaration with recommendations and resolutions,” he said.
[KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 15, 2006, Mangsir 29, 2063 ]

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ghunsa chopper crash victims’ kin seek dues

Rue govt apathy, bias against non-govt staffers killed in tragic mishap

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 8[2006]:
Ten weeks after Ghunsa chopper crash Elina Shre-stha, the wife of social worker Bijaya Kumar Shrestha who died in the tragic crash, is looking for someone who could sponsor her son and daughter’s education.
“I thought the government was with me when my husband left us. But two-and-a-half months after the tragedy, it seems to have forgotten his life’s contribution to the state,” she told this correspondent. Elina, who is a housewife, has a 10-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter.
Bijaya Kumar had been engaged with dozens of social organisations in Taplejung in remote north-east Nepal. He was involved in social and economic development and bio-diversity conservation projects in the area, before he died in the ill-fated chopper crash in September.
Bijaya Raj Acharya, 75-year-old father of Dr Bijnan Acharya, Program Development Specialist, USAID, is also looking for someone to take care of his family, as his two younger sons are still studying. Dr Binjan too had died in the crash. He said whatever his son did was for the nation and the government should at least feel that his loss should be compensated.
Dr Sumitra Manandhar Gurung, wife of the country representative of WWF Nepal Program Dr Chandra Gurung, another victim of the crash, too condemned the government apathy. “The government has ignored the voice of the victims’ kin who had undergone mental trauma and were facing economic hardships,” she said.
She added that other than expressing condolence on the demise of conservation heroes the government has done nothing to honour them. Moreover, the victims’ families are yet to receive the insurance money from Shree Air.
The government has already compensated the families of state minister Gopal Rai, whose wife Meena Rai also died in the crash, and other government staffers killed in the tragic mishap. The government staffers were also promoted posthumously.
“We are hurt to see the government discriminating among its citizens,” rued Bijaya Raj Acharya.
The victims’ families are planning to hand over a memorandum to the prime minister seeking government’s due recognition of the victims and compensation for their kin.

Govt told to chip in

KATHMANDU: Families of those killed in the Shree Air helicopter crash in September have urged the government to form a compensation coordination committee to be led by Tourism Secretary Madhav Ghimire. A Cabinet decision on November 7 had endorsed a proposal to provide compensation of Rs 2 million to the family of the late State Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Gopal Rai and his wife Meena Rai who died in the crash in Ghunsa, Taplejung. The government has already provided the compensation to the late minister’s family and Rs 1 million each to the families of three government officials and two journalists of Nepal Television.
Tourism Minister Pra-dip Gyawali and Tourism Secretary Ghimire had pr-omised the victims’ families the compensation.
However, a government source, requesting anonymity, said the government is considering providing compensation to the families of all those who died in the crash. — HNSGovt told to chip in

Sunday, December 03, 2006

ADB-funded water project not serving urban poor: Report

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 2[2006]:
A study conducted by water activists has concluded that the $53.9 million project funded by the Asian Development Bank has not been able to ensure quality drinking water for the poor population, as promised.
The ADB-funded Small Town Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project implemented in 40 to 50 small towns across the country with an aim to provide quality drinking water to small town dwellers in six years, has failed to meet its target, the NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation said in a report prepared on the basis of its research in Ratnanagar, Lekhnath, Parsa and Bandipur municipalities.
The targetted communities have not been able to reap benefits from the project because the service charge is too expensive for the poor communities residing in small towns.
The ADB had approved the $53.9 million project in 2000 and funded $35 million, Nepal government agreed to provide $10.9 million while $8 million was to be borne by water users and the local governments in the project sites. The deadline for the project was June 30, 2006.
But now that the project is yet to be completed, the deadline has been extended until 2008. The report has also said that the project designed by the ADB has not been able to realise the commitments made in its Water for All policy.
The report has drawn attention of authorities concerned over the issue of “affordability of the project services by the poor, lengthening of project implementation and its impact on the poor, representation and participation of the poor in decision making, sanitation services for the poor and transparency to the Water Users and Sanitation Committee”.
The report has said that average water tariff rate in the project towns reaches about Rs 12 per cubic metre for first 10 cubic metre of water against what costs only Rs 5 in Kathmandu Valley.
“The provison of compulsory 50 per cent contribution to the project by the water user communities has made it virtually impossible for the poor to benefit from the service,” it said, adding that the cost recovery scheme promoted in the Water For All policy needs to be revised to ensure that the poor people share benefits of water projects.
In the meantime, the project plan document does not include any mechanism for treating drinking water or wastewater.
Binod Neupane, deputy manager of Town Development Fund, the Nepali investor in the project, admits that there are problems in different aspects of implementation of the project. “We, however, cannot say that the project is a total failure. I don’t think it will be so difficult to make it a success if all the stakeholders work together,” he said.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Rescued Pangolin Dies; One Arrested

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 1[2006]:

Officials of the Central Zoo, where a pangolin rescued from a taxi driver in Balkhu on Wednesday was kept for conservation, said on Thursday that the mammal has died.
Volunteers of the Wildlife Conservation Nepal and District Forestry Office had rescued the animal from Kiran Syangtang Lama, 25, of Hetauda.
"Our men saw the man walking with the mammal in a bag and caught him. He was probably trying to take it to the client," said Chandra Man Dangol, the assistant forest officer at the Thankot Area Forest Office.
The scaly mammal, which is found in Nepal and South East Asia, is in the protected list of 27 mammals in the country.
Traditional healers use its scales for medicinal purposes and as pendants, believing that they protect the people wearing them from evil spirits.
Lama was seen with a friend and a client in a taxi, Dangol said, adding the two fled from the scene.
"The mammal was found alive, but was suffering due to rough handling and consumption of contaminated food. Pangolins roam in jungles. Since the animal was in wrong hands for over a week, it suffered severely," he said.
According to Dangol, since the animal is included in the "protected animal's list", the one who caught it can be slapped a penalty of Rs 100,000 and imprisoned for 15 years.
Lama, the convicted taxi driver in handcuffs, said he bought the animal from one Prem Bahadur Thokar for Rs 5,000 "without any concrete idea".
"I came in contact with Thokar, who said he had brought the animal from Phaparbari of Makawanpur and had kept it in Chapagaon for a week. I kept the animal for three days," he said.
During three days, the animal drank water and ate nothing, he said.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sikkimese Newars to study mother tongue in TU

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, November 5:

While the charm of Newari language is on wane in Kathmandu, six Newars from Sikkim have arrived in the capital today to study their language.
Six Newar students from the Indian state of Sikkim are trying to join the Tribhuvan University to acquire degrees in Newari language, with a mission to take back academic and practical knowledge of their mother language to their hometown where people hardly understand use it.
Four aspirant Newari language students — two boys and two girls — are joining the Patan Multiple Campus to pursue Masters Degree, while two other girls have sought admission in Padma Kanya Collage in the Bachelors’ level.
“We are in search of our identity. We lately understood the value of our mother language and culture and now we want to study the language by enrolling in the university,” said Prajwala Pradhan, one among them, talking to The Himalayan Times.
With special programmes to promote local languages, the Sikkim government has made a provision to teach Newari language in some government schools and has allocated five seats for Newari teachers.
A resident from Milli of Southern Sikkim Prajwala Pradhan said she has chosen the study of Newari language as her career. Prajwala, Harimaya Pradhan, Chudamani Pradhan and Ashok Pradhan will study MA while Bina Pradhan and Babita Pradhan are studing BA.
Prof Prem Shanti Tuladhar, a Newari language professor in Padma Kanya Campus, said that thirst for cultural identity brought them here.
“It is their quest for identity which have driven them here. They have also found opportunity of winning a government job. That is why we say government policies matter,” she said.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

KMC says no to garbage from ‘outside’

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, November 4[2006]:

Now on, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) will not allow emerging urban areas to dump garbage in the city area. Garbage produced in these areas accounts for 15 per cent of total garbage produced in the KMC.
Government records still mention these areas as ‘villages.’ The decision to bar these ‘villages’ from dumping garbage in the city area was taken some days ago, but it was not implemented.
However, today KMC officials prevented the dumping of garbage produced in the ‘villages’ in the city area.
As legal loopholes allow people to construct huge buildings in these ‘villages’, they are fast turning into urban areas. But these ‘villages’ lack infrastructure to manage solid waste.
“We have decided not to let villages dump garbage in the city. They are called villages, but they shelter a big population. They account for 15 to 20 per cent of garbage produced in the KMC,” said Rabin Man Shrestha, chief of the Environment Department of the KMC. Jorpati, Sitapaila, Gongabu, Bansbari, Budhanilkantha, Dhapasi and other areas are dumping garbage in the City without getting KMC nod, he said.
“We can’t take it any more. Garbage brought from villages accounts for 15 to 20 per cent of total garbage, compelling us to spend an additional amount of Rs 15,000 per day on garbage management. The KMC has to face problems due to the increased garbage load at the landfill site in Sisdole and Teku station,” he said.

The KMC found it difficult to manage waste when locals of Sisdole, demanding that their demands be met, barred it from dumping garbage at the Sisdole site and locals protested against the continued operation of the 18-year-old Teku Station. Though VDCs allow people to construct huge buildings in villages, VDC offices do not manage waste. “Even after talks with the ministry concerned on the issue, we remained silent for quite some time. We had to take this decision,” Shrestha said. “If the villages want us to manage their garbage, local administration offices must pay us. Otherwise, we will return rickshaws or tractors which come from villages to our working area to dump garbage.” Private companies used to collect garbage from the peripheries and dump them in river banks and the Teku station.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Carbon credit: Two projects registered

By Razen Manandhar

Nepal has made a claim in the world carbon credit market. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board of United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has recently registered two of Nepal's projects on biogas support programme, which will give the nation a total of Rs 36,500,000 annually.

After undergoing a lengthy procedure of application and tough competitions, Nepal's projects: 'Project 0136: Biogas Support Programme - Nepal (BSP-Nepal) Activity-1', and 'Project 0139: Biogas Support Programme - Nepal (BSP-Nepal) Activity-2' are now 'registered' list of projects as small-scale CDM project activities, as per a decision made on December 27.

Authorised participants at Activity 1 are the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), Maiya Gautam and Suk Man Tamang, whereas those of Activity 2 are (AEPC), Min Prasad Gautam and Madhu Prasad Simkhada. 'It is a historic success and a milestone in Nepal's status in the world carbon credit market,' said Jivan S Acharya, a research Officer at Winrock International which provided technical assistance by preparing all the necessary documents. He said the industrialised countries will pay Nepal $500,000 (Rs 36,500,000) annually as compensation as they are emitting greenhouse gases through their industries, while the use of biogas technology in cooking and other purposes in Nepal will reduce greenhouse gas emission by displacing conventionally-used fuel sources, such as fuel wood and kerosene.

It is estimated that the projects, registered in CDM Executive Board from Nepal, will reduce around 94,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. "It is almost sure that the countries are ready to send us money. The Community Developed Carbon Fund of the World Bank has shown interest in purchasing carbon credit from these projects," he said. "The government will get the money," Acharya said, adding: "It should be used to support biogas plans."

Source: The Himalayan Times, 01 January 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sherchan for recognising Nepal Sambat

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 22:
Thousands of activists, mostly Newars, have been making a hue and cry since the past 26 years calling governments to recognise the cultural identity of the Nepal Sambat (Era) and announce it as the national calendar by replacing the existing Bikram Sambat, but nothing to this effect has happened yet.
Deputy PM Amik Sherchan today said he would table a proposal on recognising Nepal Sambat as the country’s national calendar in the Thursday’s cabinet meeting and also sought an application from the activists as a proposal to the government.
“I only need a letter from some coordinating organisation as a proposal to the government. I also want to see Nepal Sambat recognised,” he said addressing a programme of Jyapu Samaj, orgnised on the eve of Nepal Sambat 1127 New Year.
This statement, however, has not come as an encouraging development to the people who have been rallying across the Kathmandu Valley to observe the native Nepali Sambat New Year.
Chairman of Newa Day Daboo, the national forum of the Newars, [Malla K Sundar] said: “It is customary for all political leaders to deliver encouraging speeches to the audience, whom they consider a vote bank, but do almost nothing when it is time to make a ground-breaking change.”
“Since long, we have been hearing prime ministers and other prominent leaders highlighting the significance of the Nepal Sambat. But, unfortunately, our demand of having it recognised it still a distant dream,” he said.
“It is strange that the governments are indifferent to Nepal Sambat. Recognition to the Nepal Sambat will establish Nepal as the only country in the world with its native calendar and pave way to use the international Gregorian calendar for day-to-day affairs,” said Prof Prem Shanti Tuladhar, the chairperson to New Year Celebration Committee.
Since the calendar was formulated 1,126 years ago, it was the only Nepali official calendar in historic times. Still, people either turn their back to it or incorrectly claim that it only belongs to the Newars,” she said. Human Rights activist and chairman of Nepal Bhasha Mankaa Khala, Padma Ratna Tuladhar said the government must make a clear policy on why to choose a certain calendar and which one to choose rather than blindly following the one handpicked by Chandra Sumshere Rana.
“It is sympathetic that we don’t have a policy on following a specific calendar. We need a clear policy, in the constitution, to decide which calendar should be followed and why. After going through the big change on monarchy, we must ask why we cannot discard the Bikram Sambat which is related with a legendary monarch and why we cannot accept a citizen’s legacy,” he said.
History has it that a commoner Sankhadhar Sakhwa introduced the Nepal Sambat after donating all his wealth to free Nepalis from debt during the reign of King Raghavdev on October 20, 897. The Nepal Sambat is based on lunar movements and is followed to observe all Hindu and Buddhist festivals.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Nepali simians ‘soft target’ for export to US

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 21[2006]:
With slack legal provisions and loopholes, Nepal can become the next target for those willing to import monkeys of different types to the US for conducting biomedical researches, fears a conservationist.
The United States, the home to proponents of animal rights, alone imports over 26,000 monkeys of different types from all over the world for conducting biomedical researches, the International Primate Protection League (IPPL), a US-based primate conservation body states in a report.
“Nepal has not figured in the list, but we cannot rule out the possibility of illegal export of Nepal’s wild life for similar purposes, thanks to loopholes and slack legal provisions,” Mangal Man Shakya, chairman of the Wildlife Watch Group, says.
“The trend of importing monkeys is dangerous for countries like Nepal. Monkeys can easily be exported illegally as Nepal has been infamous in the world for illegal wildlife trade. Noting that India had banned such exports, Shakya fears Nepal could be a new target for US researchers.
“A strong lobbying is necessary to prevent Nepal from becoming the target of US researchers”.
According to the report, 33 research centres and zoos imported 26,319 monkeys from 18 countries last year. The number is growing by 7,000 per year.
“The IPPL may also put our country in its list because a channel is being developed to export Nepali red monkeys to conduct experiments on them in US laboratories,” says Shakya.
It was recently revealed that a controversial testing of monkeys three years ago in the capital was done with the objective of helping US primatologists develop HIV vaccines.
Out of 14,319 monkeys imported for commercial purposes last year, 10,608 were imported for biomedical researches and 1,359 for scientific purposes. Eighteen monkeys were subjected to experiments for breeding in captivity or artificial propagation. Only 12 out of the total monkeys landed in zoos, while three were used for circuses and travelling exhibitions.
Covance Research, the largest importer of monkeys, brought in 12,549 in the US in 2005. Charles River imported 3,818 monkeys, Primate Products imported 2,340, Rhenos LLC imported 2,760 and SNBL USA imported 1,672 monkeys the same year. Zoos turned to be nominal importers – Cincinati Zoo imported one, Houston Zoo imported four and Philadelphia Zoo imported two monkeys that year. A San Diego Zoo imported 33 monkeys from South Africa recently, which had imported them from the Democratic Republic of Congo at a cost of over $12,000 per monkey, the IPPL states in another report. The largest exporter of monkeys to the US is China, from where 13,106 simians were sent in 2005 alone. Other major exporters are Mauritius, Vietnam and Indonesia, from where 4,606, 4,360 and 2,677 monkeys were exported. Cambodia, the Philippines, Guyana, Nevis and Brazil are among exporters.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Spanish woman elated after adopting Nepali ‘orphan’ child

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 18[2006]:

Paca Tomas, a Spanish woman in her forties, is elated, for her dream of adopting a Nepali child has turned into reality after three-and-a-half years.
“It was like being on top of Everest. Everybody knows it is difficult, but you can imagine the pleasure of being there only when you are finally there,” she said today, relating her feeling after she got the approval from the government to adopt the girl-child.
It was almost four years ago when Tomas, an official at the International Oxfam, dreamt of adopting a child. “Now that Subhechha has come to my life, my professional life is a second priority,” says the unmarried professional from Barcelona.
Tomas first filed an application at the Ministry of Welfare Family and Adoption in Spain and followed an eight-month hectic process of giving interviews to the ministry officials, child psychologists, social assistants and padagogists.
“It is a long story. They used to come to my home any time and asked any question they had in their mind. They sought my permanent work contract, bank accounts, health certificate and what not. But I was not tired. Then I felt how strongly I wanted to adopt a child,” she said.
After getting an approval from the Spanish government, she decided to adopt a Nepali girl. And the Honorary Consular of Nepal, Lluis Belvis, helped her a lot in contacting orphan homes and translating her Spanish documents into English and correspond with the orphanage from where she was to adopt the girl.
“I came to Nepal in March to see my child. When I saw Subhechha in the orphanage, my heart told me she is the girl I love,” she said. As the process of approving the adoption here was very long, she had to come here again in October to complete the “whole thing”. Thereafter, she had to wait for two more weeks to get the paper signed by the secretary at the Minister for Women Children and Social Welfare.
Meanwhile, she also found that the child, presented as an orphan by the orphanage, actually had parents and she also managed to meet them. “It was shocking. I felt sorry when I knew that Subhechha had parents but I could also understand that they might prefer her to be adopted due to poverty,” she said, adding that she would be in contact with them. However, she refused to give the name of the orphanage, which gave her the “orphan”.
Tomas may have to face more bureaucratic hassles. The officials can refuse to sign papers without giving reasons. “The process is problematic and needs improvements,” she said, smiling. According to the District Administration Office, there are over 600 orphanages in the capital city alone. Thanks to the conflict, many children are left without parents and some orphanages here are found showcasing children with parents as orphans to have them adopted by foreigners.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Top leaders scent success

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 12[2006]:

Today’s talks between top leaders of the seven-party alliance and the CPN-Maoist have been identified as a “successful round” although much of what has been decided among them will be known only by Sunday afternoon when they meet once again.
The fact that the talks have ended on positive note becomes clear from what even Maoist talk team coordinator, Krishna Bahadur Mahara said while fielding reporters’ questions at a press conference after the talks today.
“Talks have ended on a constructive note and the participants are all moving ahead for an overall and significant conclusion,” Sitaula said at a press conference after the talks indicating at the possibility of having the Maoists agree to a ceremonial role for monarchy in the interim phase.
He said that another date for the next round of the talks was fixed just because it is not possible to come to a conclusion in a hurry.
“The team wants to assure the people that the talks were going on according to the wishes of the entire people,” Home Minister said emphatically.
He added, “No decision on any particular agenda was made because we did want to make partial decisions and thus we waited for one more day to make a ‘wholesome decision.”
Coordinator of Maoist talks team Mahara said that the talks were taking time “because it is moving ahead for a “historic” decision as the government side also showed some progressive mood.”
“We are coming to a historic decision and the process is very complicated. It is taking some more days. But it is for sure, we are very near to a concrete decision,” he said.
Saying that some issues were not addressed properly on earlier occasions, Mahara said that the Maoists and the alliance alike were “very much conscious that no such mistakes be repeated”
Mahara said that the talks so far have brought the two sides much closer something which is the result of serious homework and commitment shown by the leaders. Sitaula left the room, saying, “Everything will be clear on Sunday.”
The nagging issues which were debated today were role of monarchy in the interim phase, interim constitution, arms management and interim legislature, amid claims that Maoists could settle for “king without power” if the alliance grants them their other demands as part of a package.
See also:

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Govt not doing enough for Kumaris' upkeep?

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, September 30 [2006]:

The Living Goddess Kumari, who is adorned by the head of the state himself and poses as an attraction for millions of people, tourists and media gets hardly more than an office boy's salary in the government's pay scale, for sacrificing her juvenile years, and for her "divine powers".
"The Kathmandu Kumari is given Rs 6,000 per month as livelihood allowance and Rs 1,000 per month as scholarship," states a report of Kaushi Toshkhana Office, an outlet of Ministry of Finance for Cultural Expenditures, sent to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation recently. She started getting scholarship only last year.
The government had to disclose the details of the Living Goddess's entitlement only after it became a legal issue, when an advocate, Pundevi Maharjan Sujana, filed a case against the government, seeking rights and facilities to the girl child last year. The government had to produce a report of what Kumari has been getting, as per the order of the Supreme Court.
According to the report, the Kumari is also given a pension of Rs 3,000 per month after she ceases to be Kumari. Apart from the cash, every month the office also sends two kilos of rice, two kilos of beaten rice, 1.7 litres of oil, 100 grams of red vermilion, 75 grams of barley, and certain other commodities for carrying out rituals to the caretaker of the Living Goddess, who lives in the Kumari House at Basantapur.
The report adds that the Kumari of Kathmandu also receives Sripad allowance, allowance from the Royal Palace and expenses for marriage. The report is mum on the details of such allowances and says nothing on when she is provided with the same.
Cultural expert Kashi Nath Tamoth said the government's financial support is far from sufficient when compared to what the state seeks from the girl as the source of divine feminine power.
He believes if the government plays fair, she won't need even a penny from others. "The Kumari used to own hundreds of ropanis of land. The income from that land would have been more than enough to support her. But Singha Durbar and Putali Sadak Road have come up on part of that property, while the rest has been taken over by the government," he said. However, another cultural expert, Satya Mohan Joshi, begs to differ. He says the contribution of the Living Goddess and the honour she earns from the public and the state should not be weighed in rupees.
According to the report, the Kumaris of Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Nuwakot also get nominal monthly allowance of Rs 1,500 each from the government. The ex-Kumaris of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur get a monthly pension of Rs 1,000 while there is no provision of pension
for ex-Kumaris of Nuwakot. In addition, all of them receive monthly allowance of Rs 200 each for schooling.
[September 31,2006, Kathmandu]

Friday, September 15, 2006

Nepali primates used for US research

<span style="font-style:italic;">Samples taken for AIDS vaccine, keeping govt in dark

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, September 14 [2006]:
The controversial testing of monkeys three years ago by US primatologists in the capital was not what it was made out to be. In actuality, the monkeys were used as guinea pigs for developing AIDS vaccine, reveals the cover story of a recent issue of the American Journal of Primatology.
More than 20 red monkeys, known as rhesus macaques, were darted and trapped to have their blood, stool, swap and hair tested in June 2003 at Swoyambhu temple on the pretext that the monkeys had fallen ill mysteriously. A team of American experts came here without the knowledge of the government and returned with the samples, without providing any treatment to the mammals.
Article 15.1 of the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act 2029 (Fourth amendment 2049) states that nobody can collect samples from any animal for scientific research. However, permission for the same can be sought from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) after paying Rs 2,000 for each red monkey and justifying the need for the test. But, according to the government officials, the researchers did not even notify the authority about their ‘testing’.
The synopsis of the report carried by American Journal of Primatology in June, states: “Scientists investigating the genetic make up of rhesus macaque monkeys, a key species used in biomedical research, have found that rhesus in Nepal may provide a suitable alternative to alleviate a critical shortage of laboratory animals used in work to develop vaccines against diseases such as HIV/AIDS.”
According to the report, the study was spearheaded by Randall Kyes, a primatologist and head of the of the University of Washington’s Division of International Programmes at the Washington National Primate Research Centre, in collaboration with Mukesh Chalise, president of the Nepali Biodiversity Research Society and a zoologist at Tribhuvan University.
When contacted, Chalise said, “I don’t have to answer any queries. The chapter is closed. You may charge me of anything but I believe that I have done a good job for mankind by letting carry out the tests,” he said.
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation has also refused to take responsibility of “unauthorised testing”. Shyam Bajimaya, the Chief Ecologist at the DNPWC, said the matter did not concern the department, as no one contacted the officials for carrying out the tests. “Even for a noble cause, it would have been better had the researchers chosen a legitimate way,” he said.
Though the American journal report acknowledges Bajimaya as one of the co-author of the research paper, he wonders, “I don’t know how my name figures in the report.”
Similar tests used to be carried out on Indian monkeys earlier. However, India banned export of all macaques in 1978.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Nepal to fall short of MDG on water: Report

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 3 [2006]:
A Japanese researcher from a reputed American university, who has recently completed a study on Nepal’s water supplies and sanitation, has said in her report that Nepal is unlikely to meet the

Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Among the ten MDGs, the government has been projecting the country’s Water
supply and sanitation sectors as satisfactory. According a government report, Nepal has already achieved the MGD target in
water supply, though it has someway to go to meet the sanitation targets.

The MDGs aim to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. Nepal has signed
two documents on safe drinking water and sanitation in Stockholm and Johannesburg in 1990 and 2002, respectively.
“Progress in both water supply and sanitation sectors in Nepal is unlikely to keep up with the MDG targets,” the report, prepared by
Tomomi Kitajima of the University of Pennsylvania, states.
Talking to this daily, Tikajima said she collected data on water supply and sanitation in Nepal from various available documents
and field visits.

The report “MGD Targets, National Policy, and Current Efforts for Water Supply and Sanitation in Nepal” indicates huge discrepancies
between the government data and that put forward by independent studies.
According to Tikajima, the difference in method of collecting and analysing data may account for the discrepancies.
The difference is so vast between two sets of data that while the Census report puts the national drinking water coverage in 2001 at
82 per cent, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) of the same year indicates that it is mere 72 percent, according to

Similarly, according to Census 2001, national sanitation coverage is 46.8 per cent whereas the PRSP indicates that it is only 25 per

Talking about the differences, Tikajima states in her report: “It does not matter for the local people if the current coverage is
high or low. Concrete steps need to be taken to address the water and sanitation needs of the people.”Asked if Nepal could meet the MDGs, she said: “It will be a big challenge.”

Taikajima has studied water shortage in Kathmandu Valley, surface water contamination, arsenic contamination, sustainability of
various technologies, barriers to improvement of water resources, Nepal’s chaotic political history, ethnic, cultural and linguistic
diversity as well as caste-based social structure, among other problems.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Newar body stresses on ethnic autonomy

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, May 11[2006]:
The demand for ethnic autonomy - once considered a “weird” agenda of the Maoists when they launched the ‘People’s War’,has now become a common demand of all indigenous and ethnic organisations. However, it is still unclear whether a Constituent Assembly (CA) can pave the way for such autonomy.

The political parties have agreed on restructuring the state through elections to a CA, but they are still tight-lipped on the issue of granting autonomy to the Janajatis.

The Maoist and other ethnic leaders fear that elections to a CA will in no way meet their demands.

“We will not give up our revolution if ethnic autonomy is not guaranteed,” said Prabesh Man Shrestha, the general-secretary of the Newar National Liberation Front, a Kathmandu-based ethnic wing of the Maoists.

He told THT that the revolution would end only if the government announced ethnic autonomous regions clearly, as, according to him, the present centralised political system only allows a group of people to remain in power.

“The issue of constituent assembly itself is abstract, which is not enough to ensure that all the people will have the right to political participation in all spheres,” he said. According to him, not assuring ethnic autonomy would be labelled an anti-revolutionary step and would invite a bigger revolution.

Dr Om Gurung, the general-secretary of the Nepalese Federation of Indigenous People and Nationalities (NEFIN) - the federal body of all 59 ethnic communities - said the Janajatis are not happy with the commitment currently shown by the parties on the issue of Constituent Assembly .

“The decision to hold election to a constituent assembly is welcome, but we are not happy with this alone. We also do not expect them to take up our agenda easily as all the parties are led by upper-class Hindus who have been ruling for centuries,” he said.

“The state should be restructured as the old feudal system has not incorporated everyone’s voice. But restructuring could also mean regional autonomy, which is meaningless for us,” he said.

However, UML leader Shankar Pokhrel said restructuring of the state would automatically solve the problems of ethnic communities. “We are heading for a proportional election system. In this way we don’t even need to set up constituencies. All parties will provide their lists with representation of all sectors and it will come up with inclusive results,” he said.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Child marriages still on in valley vicinity

Razen Manandhar

Nuwakot, February 3[2006]: Seven couples between the ages of 14 and 17 years tied the knot today in a village 20 kilometres northwest of the capital on the occasion of Sri Panchami, an auspicious day in Newari culture.

Despite legal prohibition, the age-old tradition of child marriage is still ongoing in the Kagati Gaon village. Around 350 Balami families migrated here from Bhaktapur during the Malla period.

“It is none of our concern,” said an old man, who did not allow this reporter to take a picture of the young bride, who came to her new home this morning. Due to adverse coverage in the media in past several years, locals do not welcome journalists in their area. He added that each community has its own traditions and others should not “poke their noses”.

Last year the villagers had broken a camera of a journalist who attempted to take pictures of a child marriage ceremony. Last night they had a scuffle with a documentary film maker who tried to do the same.

However, some youths recently launched a campaign against child marriage and this has checked the practice to some extent. Samir Balami, a young activist staged a street drama against the practice while child marriages were being performed in the locality.

“The tradition is now not as rampant as before but we must admit that it is still going on,” said Chakra Man Shrestha, the chairman of the local Mahalaxmi Janajagriti Youth Club, adding that a decade ago they used to have over 25 child couples, some not even 10 years of age, tie the knot each year.

Eighteen-year-old Kabita Shrestha, who now studies in Grade VIII, said she would say no to marriage till she is grown up. “Instead, I would continue to study till my family can afford and work to end child marriage in the village,” she added.

A young teacher of a local Sri Bhawani Proposed High School Shambhu Balami Shrestha, said local social mobilisation can help. With no agent to implement the legal provision in the village, the same don’t work here, he added. Villagers say it has been years since they last saw a policeman in the area.

The Himalayan Times, 4 February 2006

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Carbon credit: Two projects registered

By Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 31[2005]
Nepal has made a claim in the world carbon credit market. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board of United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has recently registered two of Nepal's projects on biogas support programme, which will give the nation a total of Rs 36,500,000 annually.

After undergoing a lengthy procedure of application and tough competitions, Nepal's projects: 'Project 0136: Biogas Support Programme - Nepal (BSP-Nepal) Activity-1', and 'Project 0139: Biogas Support Programme - Nepal (BSP-Nepal) Activity-2' are now 'registered' list of projects as small-scale CDM project activities, as per a decision made on December 27.

Authorised participants at Activity 1 are the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), Maiya Gautam and Suk Man Tamang, whereas those of Activity 2 are (AEPC), Min Prasad Gautam and Madhu Prasad Simkhada. 'It is a historic success and a milestone in Nepal's status in the world carbon credit market,' said Jivan S Acharya, a research Officer at Winrock International which provided technical assistance by preparing all the necessary documents. He said the industrialised countries will pay Nepal $500,000 (Rs 36,500,000) annually as compensation as they are emitting greenhouse gases through their industries, while the use of biogas technology in cooking and other purposes in Nepal will reduce greenhouse gas emission by displacing conventionally-used fuel sources, such as fuel wood and kerosene.

It is estimated that the projects, registered in CDM Executive Board from Nepal, will reduce around 94,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. "It is almost sure that the countries are ready to send us money. The Community Developed Carbon Fund of the World Bank has shown interest in purchasing carbon credit from these projects," he said. "The government will get the money," Acharya said, adding: "It should be used to support biogas plans."

Source: The Himalayan Times, 01 January 2006