Friday, November 30, 2007

Bio-briquettes can keep the winter at bay


Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, November 29:
Winter is already here but the Valley denizens have nothing reliable to heat up their rooms. With ever-increasing load shedding hours and the year-round shortage of LPG, using electric or gas heaters in not imaginable. But wait. There is a solution at your doorstep. You can go for something called bio-briquettes made of biomass, which produces maximum heat and almost no smoke.

One bar of bio-briquette can heat your room for nearly two hours just at the cost of Rs 15 to 20. A briquette stove however costs from Rs 700 to 1200. By using bio-briquettes, youwill be chasing away the chilly winter on one hand and helping to keep your city clean on the other. But one should be cautious while using bio-briquettes for heating purpose and ensure that the room is well ventilated.

In the capital, bio-briquettes are available in departmental stores and shops around hospitals, as the marketers presently intend to supply them for the purpose of generating heat for massage of newborns.

“We can produce bio-briquettes by using wastage paper, saw-dust and other parts of the garbage. We can generate energy and help the municipality to minimise the volume of waste side by side,” said Sanukaji Shrestha, the chief of the Foundation of Sustainable Technology.

He has developed a technology for producing bio-briquettes out of waste materials. But he does not produce them for commercial purpose. Instead, he teaches people from different localities on how to produce them and contribute solid waste management.
Bio-briquettes have not however been effectively marketed so far.

Integrated Development Society (IDS) has provided training on bio-briquettes in a dozen of districts. “We provide training to communities but most of them are not producing bio-briquettes commercially,” said Santosh Guragai, a trainer of IDS.

Nirmal Nepal, the director of Nepal Bio-briquette Company Pvt Ltd, said they will be focusing on marketing this winter.
[ KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 30, 2007, Mangsir 14, 2064 ]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Making of a planned Kathmandu Valley

Razen Manandhar

kathmandu - The fertile green land of Kathmandu valley is turning into a concrete jungle so rapidly that, the planners estimate, after 25 years, Kathmandu Valley’s agricultural land will be at a zero.

The shortage of agricultural land in this legendary valley will not only distort its ecological balance but also destroy its livelihood and will create a huge crisis among the residents, a draft report states.

Is it possible to safeguard this "piece of heaven", this capital city, which has passed the limits of uncontrolled, unscientific and illegal development? One can hardly imagine making a healthy metropolis out of this valley which has called the haphazard construction of houses, urbanisation. Still, the urban planners are hopeful of bringing back a balanced and environment-friendly Valley.

The minister of works and physical planning, the minister of state, director-general, deputy director-generals, mayors, deputy mayors and other urban planners sat together for the umpteenth time two weeks ago to think seriously about finding ways to stop Kathmandu from further deterioration. (The minister Mahanta Thakur, however, left even before the resource person shed light on the objectives of the programme).

The Planning Team of Kathmandu Valley Urban Development Committee has developed the latest Kathmandu Valley Development Plan - 2020. This draft plan aims at reducing the external factors of population growth and assisting the government implement the programmes and projects as per the plan’s targets.

The making of a planned Kathmandu Valley has innumerable challenges. It is not that the government has done nothing in this field. But, the counter current is so strong and is coming en masse that it is beyond the reach of any law, by-laws or regulations. Those were the days when the valley was in the hands of the dwellers who lived to serve it, decorated it, made it even more beautiful. Now, the power of those who encroach, squat and ruin the beauty of the city is on the rise.

The present challenges:

Since it is the main valley, it obviously creates the most opportunities for starting a career and job hunting. So, the inflow of immigrants is natural. In 1950, the population of the valley was around 400,000 but now it is estimated to be over 1.5 million. During the 1981-91 period, out of the total population, 37.5 percent were found to be immigrants. In the same period, the urban population of the valley jumped to 61 percent from an earlier 56 percent.

Despite the present development trends, the Valley has made its identity as a place rich in cultural heritage. It was so inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1979 but the drastic urbanisation has increasingly threatened this age-long heritage. Encroachment onto public and religious lands and turning traditional buildings into concrete matchboxes has been the present tendency. This is the reason why the Valley was proposed to be included in the Heritage in Danger list.

Until 1981, 75 percent of the valley population depended on agriculture whereas in 1991, only one third are found engaged in any agro-profession. This change reflects the changing economic condition of the residents and this needs to be taken into consideration while introducing new plans for the valley. The increasing number of industries are encouraging signs but when we read that 40 percent of the polluting industries like kilns and carpet industries are in the valley, this definitely disheartens the planners. Three industrial estates cover 55 hectares of the valley.

The valley is occupied by a total of 943kms of road on which over a hundred thousand vehicles travel every day. And out of the total, 86 percent are found to be private ones, responsible for the present excessive number of vehicles in the valley — 60 percent of the country’s total vehicles use the Valley’s roads.

The legendary lake valley is in dire need of drinking water. The concerned body distributes only 80-115 million litres daily to meet the demand of 145 million litres. Only two thirds of the population depend on pipeline water and others make their own underground water source. The traditional sources of waterspouts are also drying up.

As a capital, the valley definitely houses the biggest number of institutions to provide different facilities to the citizens. There are over 2500 educational institutions, government and private, working in the valley. In the health sector also, there are 173 institutions with a bed capacity of around 4000. Out of around 300 standard hotels and resorts of the country, 87 percent are located in the valley alone. Despite the attempts and plans to promote decentralization, all the opportunities for a better life is congested in the valley but the actual capacity has never been calculated.

The rising population, industries, vehicles can be blamed for making the valley unsuitable to live in from the pollution point of view. Medium and big industries are responsible for 104 tonnes of dust particles with the smoke they jet out everyday. Lead particles found in the air around Bhotahity, Kalimati, Kingsway, Maharajgunj etc. can be held responsible for the growing cases of respiratory and reproductive illnesses.

Will this long-term plan for the coming two decades be strong enough to combat these challenges? In retrospect, we have already had several plans, which had in general little impact upon the random development in the valley. For the last 30 years, many steps have been taken in this regard: The plans of 1971, 1976, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1995 are either not finalised, not ratified, not implemented or not working forcefully enough.

Still, this is perhaps the last ray of hope to make this small valley really a model capital city — that respects both traditional traits and modern developments. The government is presently busy, discussing the draft of this long-term plan. There is hope that it can do something to put an end to the unwanted, abrupt and unsystematic development which makes many desperately wish for another tragic earthquake to level the mushrooming buildings and encroachments that stand against healthy urbanisation.
[Kathmandu, Sunday, April 15, 2001 Baishakh 02, 2058.]

Kailali jungles face encroachment

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, November 28 [2007]:

Encroachment is going unabated in the jungles along the Basanta corridor in Kailali, thanks
to poor implementation of law and order and support from some political quarters, said a forest official today. This corridor links Bardiya Wildlife Reserve with Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve.
In the past six months, 3,000 households have occupied land in 30 places in the Basanta area alone, Man Bahadur Swar, district forest officer of Kailali, told this daily today.
“Out of 47,000 hectares of jungle area here, at least 2,100 hectares have been encroached upon recently. If the encroachment goes on at this rate, there will be no forest at all in Kailali district in 10 years,” he said. The Kailali DFO recently carried out a survey in the area.
With 2.08 lakh hectares of jungle, Kailali is one of the most densely-forested districts. In 2001, the government and local communities removed the encroachers, who had occupied some 5,000 hectares of land.
The district can collect revenue equivalent to Rs one billion per year if the encroachment is brought to a halt, according to Swar.
He said the jungle always suffers due to unstable political situation because neither the governments nor the leaders give priority to conservation.
“Some organisations and some political parties are supporting the landless people and the freed Kamaiyas. The intention could be praiseworthy, but it is inviting fake squatters to destroy the jungles,” he said.
Santosh Nepal, field coordinator of the Tarai Arc Landscape Programme, said: “The encroachment in the area is so rampant that the whole patch of jungle is now ‘decorated’ with plastic sheets donated by NGOs”. “Why they were given land may not be our concern. But why were they given forest land? This is going to create problems,” he said.
[ KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 29, 2007, Mangsir 13, 2064 ]

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Climate change poses risks for Nepal: UN

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, November 27:
Avalanches and floods pose special risks to densely populated mountain regions, such as Nepal, where glaciers are retreating at a rate of several metres every years, states the United Nation’s Human Development Report, released today, which is focussed on climate change this year.
“Lakes formed by melting glacier waters are expanding at an alarming rate. The Tsho Rolpa Lake being a case in point, having increased more than seven-fold in the past 50 years,” the report, ‘Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World’, says.
It also stresses that the time and energy being spent for fuel wood collection is also affecting Nepal’s productivity. “In Guatemala and Nepal, wood expenditure represents 10-15 per cent of total household expenditure in the poorest quintile. Collection time for fuel wood has significant opportunity costs, limiting opportunities for women to engage in income generating activities. More broadly, inadequate access to modern energy services restricts productivity and helps keep people poor,” the report says. The report also appreciates the attempts being made in Nepal. “In Nepal, communities in flood-prone areas are building early warning systems — such as raised watchtowers — and providing labour and material to shore up embankments to prevent glacial lakes from bursting their banks,” it says, adding that farmers across the developing world are responding to emerging climate threats by drawing on traditional cultivation technology.
If climate change is not properly addressed in South and East Asia, changes in rainfall, temperatures and the availability of water would cause great loses in productivity of food staples, thereby thwarting efforts to cut rural poverty, it states, adding,”Central Asia, Northern China and the northern part of the South Asia are particularly vulnerable to retreating glaciers”.
The report makes a case for the urgency with which climate change needs to be addressed. “Time matters for all of us. Today we are living with what we did yesterday/ tomorrow we will all live with what we do today. We need to take action now,” it says.

Nepal ranks 142nd in HDI
• Nepal has gained 0.007 in HDI value but dropped 4 places in rank from the
last year’s.
• Nepal ranks 142 out of 177 countries with the HDI value of 0.534. In 2006, Nepal ranked 138 with an HDI value of 0.527.
• Iceland stands at the top and Sierra Leone at the bottom in the HDI.
• Nepal ranks last in South Asia; Pakistan (rank 136 and HDI 0.551) and Bangladesh (rank 140 and HDI 0.547) being nearest in the HDI. The regional average HDI value for South Asia is 0.661. Nepal’s HDI value is also below the average for all developing countries (0.691).
• Life expectancy at birth in Nepal is 62.6 years, adult literacy rate is 48.6 per cent, and combined gross enrolment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary education is 58.1 per cent.
[ KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 28, 2007, Mangsir 12, 2064 ]

Monday, November 26, 2007

Plan for Lumbini development soon

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, November 25[2007]:
Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha and one of the four World Heritage Sites of the country, is soon going to have a framework for future plans in the sacred archaeological site soon.
Since the site is now a centre of attraction for religious pilgrims, architectural students and tourism entrepreneurs, the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is going to come up with a framework based on which all new master plans and other development works will be carried out.
“The drafting of the framework has begun. It is going to stop the government as well as other institutions from making unwanted changes in the site,” said Kai Waise, the adviser for drafting the framework for the UNESCO Kathmandu Office.
The Integrated Management Plan (IMP) will define the significance, size and right of authorities concerned from different aspects, the UNESCO adviser further said. More than a single plan, it is a system, process or function of the area, which will be the supreme guideline for Lumbini, once it is endorsed by the cabinet, he said.
Though the focus of the framework is the patch of land measuring 1.92 square metre, in which Lord Buddha was born, the framework will also come up with recommendations for buffer zones and other surrounding development zones in this Integrated Management Plan, in line with recommendations made by the World Heritage Committee to prevent the total de-listing of the site from the World Heritage Site list. “We will also draw certain lines on how existing factories, the proposed construction of the international airport and dams in nearby rivers will or could affect the vulnerability of the site,” Waise said.
The government must make sure that development works to be carried out around the site do not affect the site, Waise further said.He said that the plan itself is not a master plan, but a broad and long-term guideline that will govern drawing of new master plans and other initiatives for conservation or development of the the area.
“It is good to hear that Lumbini will have its IMP, finally,” said Kosh Prasad Acharya, director-general of the Department of Archaeology (DoA) who was also involved in drafting of the project proposal.
He said that since the DoA is the nodal agency of all World Heritage Sites of Nepal, it is our responsibility to support the process of drafting it.
“Drafting of IMP was the requirement of the World Heritage Committee. And since the master plan of Kenji Tange was only a development plan, a separate plan was needed to draw strict lines for conservation of the sacred garden,” Acharya further said.

[KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 26, 2007, Mangsir 10, 2064 ]

Friday, November 23, 2007

Produce cooking gas at home!

Alternative energy:

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, November 22[2007]:

Here’s good news for all of us, who have been facing gas shortage and sewerage disposal problems. These problems can be solved at a cost of Rs 20,000.
By installing a small plant on the rooftop of your house or on the backyard, you can get rid of kitchen and toilet waste. On top of it, cooking gas will be available at your kitchen round the clock for free, concludes a recent experiment, supported by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).

Hari Prasad Pandey, a sanitation engineer at the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage in Jhapa, worked out this solution after conducting an 18-month-long experiment.

He has built a domestic plant, which converts kitchen waste and human waste into cooking gas. “You can run a gas stove for around 90 minutes per day out of the faeces and urine of two persons as well as kitchen waste you dump in the plant daily. It means you save at least Rs 400 per month,” he told The Himalayan Times, adding that there will be no foul smell or explosion.

A kitchen waste inlet, part of the plant, is linked to the outlet of the toilet. Both the lines feed a 1,100-litre reactor tank and 300-litre pressure tank, which has an effluent outlet. Another 300-litre tank is also used for drying the sludge.

On average, 1.5 kg of kitchen waste and toilet waste of two persons can generate gas equivalent to 802 kilocalories of energy. “Thus, it is possible to reduce the generation of biodegradable solid waste by 60 per cent. If the plant is installed in all houses in the Kathmandu Valley, the generation of solid waste can be reduced by 750 metric tons every day,” he said, adding, “This will also help keep the Bagmati river less polluted.”

“After keeping the waste in the plant for about two months, it can be disposed in the river. Biological Oxygen Demand in the water will be reduced from 6,000 milligrams per litre to 938 mg,” he said.

Pandey said, “I will not go for patenting this experiment, but will be happy if my invention serves the public.”
[KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 23, 2007, Mangsir 07, 2064 ]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ex-army men to approach UN

Want money ‘grabbed’ by NA from UN peace-keepers back

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, November 14[2007]:

Former Nepal Army personnel who had served in various UN peacekeeping missions have decided to demonstrate in front of the UN Complex in Kathmandu after they failed to get back nearly Rs 65 billion that the Nepal Army has “illegally grabbed” from them.
Since1973, Nepal has sent as many as 61,000 army men to dozens of countries around the world on UN missions. The Nepal Army collects as much as 90 per cent of the salary the peace-keepers get from the UN.
“We don’t know where the money is. Our gross calculation is that the government has grabbed as much as Rs 65 billion out of our sweat money,” said Ambar Bahadur Thapa Magar, the chairman of the Nepal National Free Ex-Army Council. According to the council, a soldier got only $110 out of the $500 provided by the UN as monthly salary during the missions from 1973 to 1977. He got only $150 out of the $680 from 1977, $300 out of $950 from 1980 and $800 out of $1,028 from 2001.
The Nepal Army kept the rest of the money and kept saying that it has been deposited in the Army Social Welfare Fund.
The peace-keepers do not get a penny from the $2,000 they get along with the medals, $1,000 for clothing, $1,000 for training, $1,000 for family support and $950 as support for one extra month. It is estimated that the Nepal Army chops off Rs 500,000 from each soldier serving six months in any peacekeeping mission.
Thapa said the government gave a deaf ear to their pleas to give the money back to its rightful owners.
The Council has decided to stage demonstration and hunger strike in front of the UN Office from November 21, after holding a relay hunger-strike at Maitighar for nine days.
“We have heard that the money is in Nepal Army’s possession. It is used for studies of high-class army officers abroad and wedding parties of their children.” He claimed few senior army officers have opened a bank by using this money, while others have begun real estate business in Pokhara and Itahari.
Despite a Supreme Court decision, the government has not paid the sum back to the soldiers. The SC had ordered the government to make the money public and distribute the “confiscated” money to the soldiers.

Money will not be returned: Army
KATHMANDU: Nepal Army spokesperson Ramindra Chhetri said the army collects some percentage of the perks the peacekeepers get from the UN and it has been deposited in the Army Social Welfare Fund. He said the interest coming from the money is being used in various welfare programmes. “The money we take from the soldiers is utilised in education, health and other welfare of soldiers’ families. It is transparent. As the fund is being run with the government’s consent, the money will not be returned,” he said. — HNS

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Load-shedding to be delayed by few weeks

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, November 13:

Electricity consumers will witness more bright nights this winter as load-shedding, a regular practice in Nepal, is going to start some two to four weeks later as compared to the previous years.
“Thanks to the prolonged monsoon this year, the load-shedding will begin two to four weeks later than the usual routine,” said Sher Singh Bhat, the chief at the System Operation Department of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), adding that the scenario of power deficit will be clear after the festival of Chhath.
In general, the NEA prepares the routine of load-shedding by the end of November. But the NEA has not yet begun to draft the load-shedding routine for this year.
He said that the country cannot go without load-shedding at least for several years to come but, this year, the consumers will have some relief.
Last year, the consumers had to face 21 hours of load-shedding every week in the winter. The load-shedding hours reached as high as 12 hours a day by April.
During festival periods like Dashain and Tihar, the demand for electricity goes relatively down than in other normal days. “In general, we have 380 MW of power consumption in the day time but the consumption during Dashain and Tihar was only 310 MW,” he said.
“I guess the demand will rise after Chhath,” he said, adding that most of the powerhouses in the country are running in good condition at present.
“Most of the power plants are running in full capacity these days and the possibility of importing 40 MW of power from India through Kataiya-Duhabi line will also help us minimise the deficit,” he added.
Generally, there is a demand for 650 MW of electricity in the winter season, but the electricity authority has been facing a deficit of 50 MW.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

ADB loan renewal for Melamchi not before January

By: Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, November 14[2007]
The loan renewal with Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP) will be postponed till January 2008 due to a delay in the handing over of Nepal Water Supply Corporation to a semi-private body and other changes in the project infrastructure.

The ADB was supposed to renew the loan agreement for S120 million this month with the Nepal government for the construction of 26.5 Km tunnel in the Melamchi valley.
An ADB mission, which studied the project's progress in the Kathmandu and in the field for the past six days, presented a report to the project. The report said the renewal of the agreement will not be possible before January. The Melamchi's agenda was supposed to be presented to ADB board meeting on November 22. "The mission, in short, told us that the renewal of the loan agreement will be held only in January," said Purna Das Shrestha, deputy executive director of Melamchi Water Supply Development Board. He said that the project was moving forward with temporary extension which has been taking place in every three months. "Now, we cannot approve tender bids for the construction of the tunnel. However, we have been continuing the process for calling the tender," he said adding that as it is a big-scale construction, the bidder do not want to make bids before the loan approval.
He said that a delay in handing over the assets and liabilities of NWSC to the semi-private company—Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL)—could be the major reason for the delay in the loan agreement. "Due to some changes in KUKL and as NWSC also had some problems to complete its duties, the handover problems to complete its duties, the handover was delayed, which ultimately affected the process of loan renewal," he said.
The ADB had agreed for the loan in December 2000, which will be used mainly in the construction of the tunnel.

Source: The Himalayan Times, November 7, 2007

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Lack of bridges makes half of rural road network ‘defunct’

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, November 3:

At least 4,000 bridges connecting over 21,000-km rural road network have been awaiting immediate construction.
Construction technicians have urged the government to give high priority on construction of these bridges so as to make the maximum use of the rural road network, half of which is already defunct due to the lack of bridges.
“An exclusively dedicated Rural Road Bridge Programme is necessary for authentic special planning, prioritizing, and fixing the bridge capacity, technical norms and standards as well as for fixing uniform implementation procedures and executing bodies,” said Artha Tuladhar, a research consultant on construction of trail bridges.
He said that the government has to immediately construct 4,000 such bridged to take advantage of the already constructed 21,000-km rural road network.
He stressed that an authentic institution under Ministry of Local Development is necessary to fix the exact location and capacity of a rural road bridge considering the geology as well as technical and socio-economic aspects of the area.
Tuladhar also pointed out that rural road construction and bridge construction requires close coordination as there are different categories of rural roads which may need bridges of different capacities.
There are 521 suspension bridges, 2,483 suspended bridges, 140 steel truss bridges and 236 other types of bridges in trails and tracks of Nepal.
Around 20 national and international agencies are involved in the trail bridge construction in Nepal. In addition to extended support of Swiss government, World Bank and Asian Devlopment Banks are showing interest in extending their hands in teh construction of rural roads in various districts.
Prof Deepak Bhatarai, the principal of the Nepal Engineering College, said that the government should prioritise this issue. “Not all the bridges that are required can be constructed immediately. A system of prioritizing on bridge construction will remain challenging in the present socio-political context,” he said.
He also said trail bridge building in Nepal is also suffering from the lack of trained manpower and low retention of skilled personnel.
Dr Jagadish Chandra Pokhrel, the vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, however, added that budget must not be a constraint in development activities. He also urged engineers to come up with unconventional technologies to provide access to rural areas through rural bridges.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Small parties to team up for TPR

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 31:

Unlike big parties, small parties are rooting for the adoption of a Total Proportional Representation (TPR). They say an alliance should be forged between small parties and other alliances for the adoption of this system. The Jana Morcha Nepal, CPN-United, CPN-Unified and the NSP-Anandidevi are some of the parties that have been demanding that the constituent assembly polls be held on the basis of TPR.
Ganesh Shah, general secretary, CPN-United, said today: “We will wage a joint struggle to break the monopoly of the big parties.”
Kabiraj Timilsina, spokesperson, Nepal People’s Party, said only a coalition among the pro-TPR parties and forces will put pressure on the big parties.
Chairman of the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) Pasang Sherpa said that the adoption of an all-out proportional representation will suit the country.
Demanding the TPR, the NEFIN handed over a memorandum at the PM’s Office yesterday. “TPR is a matter of our existence. Women have been sidelined by parties in polls. Now, we want to have our seats secured in the CA and this is the only way for us,” said Dr Renu Rajbhandari, coordinator, National Alliance of Women Human Right Defenders.

NEFIN’s proposal
KATHMANDU: The indigenous people will assure the government that those who will be elected in the constituent assembly will not claim their share in the government, NEFIN chairman Pasang Sherpa said on Wednesday. “We know, the major parties are worried that we might seek our seats in the government. We want to make it clear that we, the Janajatis and as minorities, are not asking for total PR to become ministers. We just want to have the right to write our own statute,” he said. According to his option, elected assembly will be engaged only in drafting the statute, while the seven-party coalition will stay in the government even after the polls, probably in an expanded form. — HNS