Friday, June 15, 2007

Yami to write to ADB today on her terms

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu , June 14[2007]: The Ministry of Physical Planning and Works is writing a "final" letter to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) tomorrow on its stance on the Melamchi Water Supply Project.

"We will write to the ADB tomorrow, requesting it to let the Melamchi project materialise the way we want," Minister for Physical Planning and Works Hisila Yami told this daily today. The ADB headquarters sent a letter to the ministry yesterday, urging Yami to clarify her stance. The ADB also asked the ministry to respond at the earliest so that Nepal's final stance on the project can be discussed at the ADB's board meeting, slated for June 16 in Manila.

The ADB has been asking the government to adhere to what the former government decided ― let the British company, Severn Trent Water International (ST), work ― if it wants the ADB loan for the $500m project.

The ministry has said it will accept the ADB loan if the government chooses any other means of institutional reformation for distribution of water in the valley, except the handover of the operation of valley's water distribution system to the ST.

Ruling out the "comeback of the ST", Yami said she has a new plan to let Nepali or other foreign experts handle the valley's water distribution system.

She said that the ministry is now working on strengthening the Kathmandu Upatyaka Khane pani Limited, Kathmandu Valley Water Board and Tariff Fixing Committee.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Pact to rid Tarai water of arsenic

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 3[2007]:
The government, along with three international partners, will spend over one million dollars over the coming 18 months to mitigate the adverse effect of arsenic, a type of carcinogenic mineral found in most of groundwater in Tarai.

A Memorandum of Understanding to this effect was signed today between the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage and three UN organisations.

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) agreed to support Nepal, pledging a fund of over $1,182,192. The fund will be spent on 20 arsenic-prone districts by the end of 2008.

As per the MoU, the DWSS shall allocate Rs 27,692,000 ($395,600) to purchase test kit reagents, arsenic removal options/components and supplies for new wells.
The UN-HABITAT shall contribute $303,661 to support the cost of training, well testing, supervision, monitoring and entry of information into the arsenic management information

database; support public information dissemination; and supply arsenic removal filter components.

The WHO shall contribute $28,000 to support capacity building for arsenicosis screening and management and develop district surveillance and patient referral systems according to the attached Project Proposal and Budget.

The UNICEF shall contribute $302,931 to support the cost of well testing, supervision and monitoring, verification tests, material for reinstalling wells, installation of filters and dissemination of test results in the districts. The project will conduct tests in around 350,000 wells. It will cover around 3.5 million people through well-testing and 135,000 people through arsenic mitigation.

Dr Roshan Raj Shrestha, chief technical adviser to the UN-HABITAT, said that the overall aim of the project is to address the problem of arsenic contamination in drinking water in 20 Tarai districts, through a programme of blanket testing of all wells providing drinking water, provide and promote options to avoid arsenic contaminated water or remove arsenic from drinking water and identify arsenic affected persons and support the case management of arsenicosis patients.

The MoU was signed by Ishwor Man Tamrakar, director general of the DWSS, Atoine King, the director of Programme Support Division of the UN-HABITAT, Han Heijnen, the
Environmental Health Advisor of WHO and Larry Robertson, the chief of CWE Section of the UNICEF.

Over the last three years, the testing activities have been scaled up through DWSS (with UNICEF support) and up to March 2007, over 637,000 wells have been tested in 13 districts.

Out of this, 8 per cent of the wells showed concentrations higher than the WHO guideline value of 10 ppb, whereas around 2.3 per cent of the wells exceeded the Nepali Interim Standard of 50 ppb. Based on these test results, it is estimated that over one million people living in Tarai districts may be drinking water with an arsenic concentration higher than the WHO guideline, and nearly 300,000 people are using arsenic contaminated water higher than the government’s interim guideline value of 50 ppb.
[ KATHMANDU, JUNE 04, 2007, Jestha 21, 2064 ]

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Lobbying on to bring back Bikram tempos

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 1[2007]:

The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST) is making secret arrangements to bring back diesel-run Bikram tempos back in the capital streets.
Following a series of protests, environmentalists had finally succeeded in banning the polluting Bikram tempos three-and-a-half years ago.
The government had then introduced a plan for the Bikram owners to replace the two-stroke diesel-run vehicles with gas or battery operated ones. The government had made a provision for them whereby they could import one microbus or two sets of three wheelers with 75 per cent tax exemption.
“Some parties are piling pressure on the ministry to grant permission to two parties who want to import diesel-run three wheelers,” a source in the ministry said.
Without naming them, he said a motorcycle importer and an eminent industrial group have been urging the ministry to make an “extraordinary” decision on importing the banned vehicles.
“The ministry’s regulations have no provision of granting permission to import diesel-run three-wheelers. But they claim that the ones they would bring in are ‘improved’ ones. They also want us to revise the regulation or ignore it altogether so that a decision could be taken to let them import the vehicles,” the source said.
While two rounds of meetings of “stakeholders” have taken place in the ministry in this regard, a third round was scheduled for today. The source added that the parties plan to import an infinite number of “dangerous” vehicles in Nepal.
Joint-secretary at the MEST Khumraj Punjali admitted that two parties have approached the ministry for acquiring licences to import diesel three-wheelers. He refused to give details and said the ministry is not taking any decision very soon.
“It is very disappointing that some businessmen are again planning something that will give rise to air pollution in the Valley,” said Bhushan Tuladhar, executive chairman of Environment and Public Health Organisation.
Gopal Raj Joshi, the chief of Clean Energy Nepal, said environmentalists would obviously come to the streets again, adding no prominent environmentalist was invited to the so-called stakeholders’ meetings.
[ KATHMANDU, JUNE 02, 2007, Jestha 19, 2064 ]

Friday, June 01, 2007

INGOs plan Bengal tiger census in Nepal

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, January 30[2007]:

Various international non-government organisations are making plans to carry out a census of Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris) in Nepal’s national parks.
Recent studies have put the number of the wild cats in Nepal at about 350 to 375.
A tiger survey has been initiated in the Bardia National Park with a focus on the Babai river floodplain. A team of seven park personnel will start monitoring from the Chepang area, the gateway of the Babai, according to the last updated draft of the tiger count plan.
“We are currently working on methods to conduct a survey in the national parks to find
out how many tigers are living in the habitat, which is constantly under human threat,” Dr Ghanashyam Gurung, the action country representative of WWF Nepal, told The Himalayan Times.
He expressed the hope that the count will most probably begin this season with support from various other institutions and will last for some six months.
“This is the first time the WWF is initiating such a survey. The past five years of the insurgency have had a marked impact on wildlife population in the Babai river floodplain,” he said.
Gurung added that the WWF will also develop a congregated methodology of counting rhinos. He, however, refused to comment on the financial aspect of the surveys.
The current tiger population estimation is based on various sources and surveys carried out in the past three decades.
However, it has been felt that there is insufficient information on the demographic patterns of the tigers such as population structure, spatial distribution, home-range size, movements, social organisations, age-structure, survival rate, extent for breeding etc, according to a recent outline document for tiger conservation.
Currently, three isolated areas in Nepal remain as tiger habitats. Chitwan occupies the largest area where 75 per cent of the tigers are within protected areas. The other two populations are those in Bardia and Shuklaphanta.
A $1million revised action plan to conserve tigers and their habitat is on the final stage of drafting. It will consolidate various programmes on tigers for the coming five years.