Monday, December 31, 2007

["Multipurpose"] Melamchi: Dream or reality?


Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 30
What if the 35-year-old dream of drinking water from the Melamchi valley takes a few more years but comes with a bonus of electricity and irrigation?

A group of optimist infrastructure developers have a concept of transforming the old Melamchi project into a multipurpose one. They believe that it would increase the project cost but would be incredibly cost-effective in terms of the additional benefits.

According to the concept, water from Melamchi, Yangri, Larke as well as Balephi rivers will be tapped and used to generate electricity in different phases. The same water will then be brought into the capital to be used as drinking water as well as to add volume to Bagmati river. When it flows into the Tarai plains, it will be used for irrigation.

The water volume of Melamchi will be added to the other rivers from the adjoining valleys — Yangri, Larke and Balephi. The first two rivers flow into Indrawati river and the third into Sunkoshi. To join the rivers tunnels will be constructed between them — 18-km between Balephi and Larke, 4.5 km between Larke and Yangri, and 6.6 km between Yangri and Melamchi. Also an additional 26 km tunnel between Melamchi and Sundarijal has been proposed.
Thus the water from Melamchi will generate 35 MW electricity. Also a dam could be constructed 900 metres down the valley on the Bagmati river, which will generate 190 MW.
This would solve the problem of load shedding. Nepal now faces a power deficit of 80 MW.

The promoters believe the responsibility of constructing the tunnels would lie on companies that get the licence to generate electricity. The first power plant will be built before the tunnel reaches Sundarijal. The second 140 MW power plant is designed for the valley, for which an 18 km tunnel will be constructed. The third 50 MW powerhouse will be constructed after digging another 8 km tunnel.

Technically, the present design of 26 km tunnel to be constructed from the Melamchi valley to Kathmandu, will be insufficient to bear the additional velocity from other rivers. So, it has been suggested that the tunnel’s diameter be increased to 5 metres from the proposed 3.5 metres. Technicians believe that it will not cost much and will be completed in a shorter period big-scale excavators will be used.

Economist Ratna Sansar Shrestha said the project seems to be an ambiguous one but it is not going to cost a lot. “It’s all about resource management. If the project draws people’s participation and support, the locals will also benefit,” he said.

He also said banks would not object to funding it if the project moves forward smoothly and is implemented on time.

Traditional water sources in the valley are drying up due to the government’s negligence and changing lifestyle. In this situation, bringing in 1.12 billion litres of water per day would make any resident happy.

The existing $500-million Melamchi project has promised providing a mere 170 million litres per day after its completion. The officials concerned admit that they do not know when this project would be complete, though they have set a target for 2012. Development workers say that by the time this project is complete the water demand will be so high that it will again be insufficient.

So, instead of completing the present project and writing another proposal for a bigger project, it will be better to have a long-term vision.

[Vice] Chairman of NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation, Padma Sundar Joshi, said that there is no alternative but to expand this project because the demand for water will surely increase.

Environmentalist Bhushan Tuladhar added the Bagmati river is waiting for a large flow of water even to clean itself.

“The volume of water will not only save the riverbed from encroachment but will also generate a natural power to cleanse itself,” he said.

The water from the powerhouse will again be used to irrigate the plains of Tarai. It will be used to irrigate fields in Rautahat and Sarlahi — 13,000 hectares for rice or 30,000 hectares for other cash crops.

“After production of electricity, the water should be channelled out. If this is done properly, it is going to be a boon for agricultural production in some Tarai districts,” Tuladhar said.

However, the process of turning this dream into reality isn’t easy. In the present political scenario, investors may be difficult to find. More importantly, since development projects are guided by party politics and the possibility of winning a big commission, this mega project will have to pass through many iron gates.

Also, as Asian Development Bank is in the process of sanctioning another term of loan, the people “concerned” may not want to let go of the opportunity.

The consumers have one concern that Nepal’s bureaucracy would stall this project and make fools of them yet again.

Member of National Planning Commission Ramakanta Gauro said: “There is no doubt the concept is wonderful. But the question remains — when will it be completed?”

Parliamentarian Lokendra Bista has the answer. “When we are thinking about a new Nepal, there should be no doubt over our capacity in bringing that about. Better late than never. We must gear up for this if there are advantages,” he stressed.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Expert asks govt to put mixing ethanol, petrol on hold

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 29:

At a time when government officials are readying to take a policy decision to mix ethanol with petrol, environmentalists have urged the government to put the idea on hold for sometime and make it environment-friendly so that Nepal could earn financial benefits from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
The CDM is a process, in which developed countries pay compensation to poor countries for the former’s production of Green House Gases.
“Though late, it was a welcome move of the government to make a policy on mixing ethanol with petrol. But we can win much more if we make the policy more environment-friendly,” Megesh Tiwari, a research officer at Winrock International Nepal, told this daily.
“Nepal will be qualified to claim $750 a day (Rs 17.5 million a year) from the developed countries if we can reduce the use of petrol by 30,000 litres a day by mixing ethanol with it,” he said.
Use of 30,000 litres of ethanol means reducing the use of petrol by the same amount and reducing the emission of carbon dioxide by 75,000 kg. Generally, the polluting country ‘buys’ the credit of carbon at $ 7 to $11 per tonne of carbon.
To earn the carbon credits by using ethanol, the whole process of ethanol production, including the use of fertiliser and other cultural practices in growing the plants that generate ethanol must be environment-friendly and should not contribute to the generation of greenhouse gases.
“For this, before actually going for mixing ethanol with petrol, it would be better to formulate strict regulations on ethanol production and thereby contribute to earn resources through CDM,” he said.
[ KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 30, 2007, Poush 15, 2064]

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Nepal to be a party to convention on intangible heritage

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, December 21:
It’s better late than never. The government is now working hard to become a signatory to the Convention on Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage.

The Department of Archaeology is preparing necessary documents to be sent to the UNESCO to become a part of the convention. “We are now working to become a party to the convention,” director general of Department of Archaeology Kosh Prasad Acharya told this daily.

The documents are currently in the ministry and will be sent to the cabinet for approval soon. After sending the documents to the UNSECO, Nepal will be a state party to the convention within three months, he said.

The General Conference of the UNESCO from September 29 to October 17, 2003, in Paris had adopted the convention.

The convention recognises the role of communities, in particular indigenous communities, groups and, in some cases individuals, in the production, safeguarding, maintenance and re-creation of intangible cultural heritage, thus helping to enrich cultural diversity and human creativity.

UNESCO defines intangible cultural heritage as practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills - as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith - that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage.

This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, Acharya said.

“We will identify and define various elements of intangible cultural heritage present in Nepal, with the participation of communities, groups and relevant non-governmental organisations,” he said, adding that educational, awareness-raising and information programmes will be launched to create awareness among the general public, in particular young people.
[ KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 22, 2007, Poush 07, 2064]

Friday, December 21, 2007

Can bio-fuel bail NOC out of red?


Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 20:
To meet the soaring power demand, the Nepal Electricity Authority generates 49 MW of electricity in thermal plants by using fossil-fuel to supplement hydro-electricity. But if this could be done using domestically produced bio-diesel, it would not only lower the pressure on imported fossil diesel but also check Greenhouse Gas emission by up to 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

It is estimated that in December the Nepal Oil Corporation will bear a loss of Rs 560 million while importing traditional petroleum products from India.

The seeds of an inedible plant, Jatropha Curcas L, locally known as Sajiban, have the potential to produce bio-diesel that can be used in vehicles, for cooking, as well as for the generation of electricity.

Megesh Tiwari, research officer at Winrock International Nepal, said Jatropha seeds could be sold to thermal power plants or other industries.

“If a thermal plant uses bio-diesel about 4,000 kl of imported diesel will be saved and this could minimise NOC’s loss by Rs 18 million each year,” he said.

He, however, added that they were uncertain about the cost of commercially grown Jatropha or the price of the processed bio-fuel.

“But, if the consuming companies themselves grow the plants, it will certainly minimise the price of the yield and will be more cost effective,” he said, adding that the plant can be grown on wastelands and landless or extremely poor families would benefit if they take up growing these plants. “Introduction of bio-diesel will support long-term energy security and lessen fuel related economic losses,” he said.

Dr Jibendra Jha, chief of NEA’s Generation Section, said the bio-diesel would be a strong supplementary fuel that can be used to produce electricity at least during the dry period.

“I have heard about bio-diesel. I believe that it can help in running our thermal plants in the face of diesel scarcity,” he said, adding, “NEA would be happy to work with researchers who have been trying to use bio-diesel in energy production.”

He said the NEA had made a power purchase agreement for a similar plant around Bhairahawa some years ago but it has failed to generate electricity for NEA.

Currently, NEA has two thermal plants — the one in Hetauda uses diesel to generate 10 MW and the Biratnagar plant uses multi-fuel to generate 39 MW.
[ KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 21, 2007, Poush 06, 2064 ]

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mix ethanol with petrol, save money!

Alternative energy

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 13:

Tired of queuing up for petrol for your vehicles? Imagine of something what nature has given to us and has dual benefits. It relieves us, to some extent, from waiting our turns in petrol pumps and also helps keep our environment clean.

It is more relevant now at a time when the Nepal Oil Corporation has been failing to meet the demand of oil and the rise in price of petrol in international market is going on.

Different plants can be turned into something, which you can add in your fuel tank as much as 10 to 20 per cent, without modifying the engine. It has been in practice in countries like the US, Brazil and Indonesia since a long time.

In our context, if treated properly, waste of sugar mills can produce a liquid named ethanol that can be mixed with petrol to run vehicles. It is cheaper than petrol, provides relief from petrol shortage, helps mange the industrial waste and keeps the environment clean.

“Waste of sugar industries is a source of molasses from which ethanol can be extracted,” said Om Bahadur Shrestha, the team leader of the research on ethanol-pe-trol blend for vehicles. He has recently done a research mixing sugarcane and etha-nol and successfully run eight cars and six motorcycles.

He said the use of ethanol he-lps emit less sm-oke. “If we run our vehicles with 10 per cent of ethanol and 90 per cent of petrol, the emission of the poisonous gas, CO, is reduced to 36.61 per cent,” he added.

As the NOC is not meeting the growing demand of petrol, any company which produces ethanol is going to make profit, he claims, adding that it is also going to provide a new market for sugarcane and create employment for farmers.

He urged the government to make mandatory laws for using etanol in its all vehicles and to cut the demand of oil.

Bhushan Tuladhar, the executive director of ENPHO, said that if all sugar mills start producing ethanol and market it in Nepal, the shortage of petrol will be considerably minimised.

According to him, some sugar mills have already produced ethanol but, since the government has no proper policy to promote it, they have exported the production to India.
[KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 14, 2007, Mangsir 28, 2064 ]

Friday, December 07, 2007

Alternative energy: Power outage? Turn to Solar Tuki


Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 6:
Load shedding is not a new phenomena in Nepal and fighting darkness during the power outage sometimes become a nightmare for people who have to rely on Tuki (kerosene-lamps), candles or low quality “emergency lights” with rechargeable batteries.
But now there is a durable solution — using Solar Tuki, a cheap solar lighting system.
Tuki is a traditional kerosene-lamp widely used in the cities and the villages for illumination and a Solar Tuki is a set of two units of 0.3 Watt White Light Emitting Diodes (WLED) powered by solar energy supplied through a built-in Nickel Metal Hydride rechargeable batteries, charged by 3 Watt solar photo voltaic panel.
The lamp unit also has a 3 Volt outlet for connecting a FM/AM radio. The fully charged Solar Tuki works for eight hours.
A newer version of the lamp, named Solar Tuki Plus, even supports a cellular mobile phone and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) phone charger or a 12 Volt TV or a fan for improved cooking-stove.
Such lamps have already been popular in remote villages and are now waiting to be introduced in other areas.
In rural context, such lamps have been effective to reduce use of kerosene, help children study in the evenings, minimise indoor pollution and also to be informed by listening to radios in the places where there is no electricity.
“After distributing Solar Tuki in different remote districts across the country, we are concentrating on urban populations who need an alternative energy source for lighting homes during the load-shedding hours,” said Yogendra Chitrakar, the director of Environment Camps for Conservation Awareness (ECCA). In the urban context, such lights could be a relief for students, housewives as well as businessmen by using it for lighting purpose, he said.
The Tukis are now assembled in Nepal these days with materials imported from China, Taiwan and other countries and the lamp unit set with a solar recharge panel and two lamps costs Rs 3150 to 3500 and bears a guarantee for two to five years. A Solar Tuki consumes very low energy but produces sufficient light. Some three hours’ charge is sufficient
to illuminate a room for nine hours.
Over a dozen factories in the capital assemble such lamps. Sahadev Byanjankar, the chief of the Green Engineering and Technology Lab (GETL) said: “We have been producing the Solar Tukis from the past eight months. We have a capacity to produce 100 to 150 pieces in a month,” he said.
The solar-based lighting system, has also been awarded with the US Innovation Award by the US Tech Museum, for its innovative technology and utility.
[ KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 07, 2007, Mangsir 21, 2064]

Thursday, December 06, 2007

FM stations are mired; some are suspect

Razen Manandhar
[2007 December 6, Thursday]
One decade has passed since Frequency Modulation (FM) radio stations were introduced in Nepal, but over a hundred FM radio stations, aired from different parts of the country, are mired — they are still not clear where they are heading for.

The Kathmandu valley itself has two dozens of FM stations, out of 34 companies which have obtained government licences, trying to find their audience among the potpourri society of FM listeners. Those who claim themselves to be “community” or the others who remain “commercial” FM stations all are moving forward with an unclear audience.
Radio Sagarmatha was the first to get private firm to get the licence for broadcasting on May 18, 1997 after the state-owned Radio Nepal got licence for its FM station in February11, 1996. According to the government records, 305 companies have obtained permission for FM radio stations.

“Most of the radio stations, do not actually know for whom they are producing programmes and also have no idea whether the listeners are interested in the programmes they air,” said Krishna Adhikari, a media scholar, who has recently done a study on FM stations.

How many?

There is no hard and fast rule on how many FM stations are appropriate for the valley. “And there should not be either. But they must be serving the needs of the audience,” said Raj Shrestha, managing director of Times FM.

Earlier, it was decided that there would not be no more stations than 11 — out of which one was reserved for the then Royal Nepal Army and one was for the palace in the valley. But later , the number of stations the valley supposedly could hold grew — Kamal Thapa had issued licences to over a dozen new stations and the situation worsened when Krishna Bahadur Mahara became information minister, a media critic said.

The craze for license was so high that the one, which legally costs Rs 200 thousand, cost up to 10 million when the Jana Andolan II was taking its height. “I paid 3.3 million for my licence when I acquired it. A pro-palace agent came to me and
offered Rs 10 million because he needed a running station to disseminate views against the seven party agitation and to support the king’s direct rule,” said an owner.

He also says that many of the FM stations are owned by top-notch political leaders who will one day come up with their real intention in acquiring the licenses.

In general, the distance between two stations should be 0.6 MHz. But on one hand, the minimum distance is not maintained, while on the other, some stations have successfully stopped the government from issuing licences to nearby frequencies, so, keeping their air safe from possible encroachment.

Popularity and listeners
For the 1.8 million of the Kathmandu Valley we have 26 running radio stations, which mean the audiences are divided for their choice of stations but no clear indication has been drawn which one is the most popular one.

“Of course, nobody can stop me from claiming that my station is the best and most widely listened in the valley,” said Shrestha sarcastically. He said that there is no authority to compare or review the impact of the radio programmes, and those who claimed to be best or whatever are never criticised.

He added that it happens so because the listeners in the Kathamndu Valley are all dumb and they seldom react whether you provide them with the best or the worst.
A programme presenter of Radio Sagarmatha, Pratyush Onta, had to paste a
notice in the office of the radio station itself seeking feedback as he failed to get any critical comment for his 30 episodes of Dabali discussion programme in
November 1998.

And, according to Shrestha, making programmes only for the sake of society is also useless for they do not respond and you never know if the society makes any benefit or not. “Rather, I will go for making businesses by making programmes for the advertisers,” he said.

In recent days, a kind of understanding among the station owners has been made that one particular station cannot cover the need of the versatile and wide range of denizens of the valley. “So they are now trying to specialise their programmes so that a particular group of audience could be targeted — you can find news-oriented, intellectual, musical, religious or even humourous stations,” said he.

He added that since the government is always under the influence of the
political leaders, only society could bring the FM stations to a desired track by appreciating, warning, teaching or even boycotting them.

A radio station needs 50 to 100 employees to run a station but hardly any of them is satisfactorily paid.

“Making a career in FM radio is a distant dream. During my study, I found that most of the stations are running with new, untrained staff or relatives, for which they don’t have to pay sufficiently,” said Adhikari.

He also added that in many cases, the owners have sought money from the programme presenters who want to be “famous” by airing a programme or two. On the other hand, many of the stations have a tendency to block chances[...]

News in FM has become a craze in the recent days. Almost every FM stations are airing news at regular intervals. Most of them have hourly news bulletins and some like Kalika FM of Chitwan has 24 hours news bulletins.

“It is almost a surprising craze. Once people used to look down on FM news, saying that they do not have sources and they are not reliable. But now, they take FM news as something comparable to papers,” said Binod Dhungel, editor of Nepal FM.

He said, however, most of the FM stations lack basic infrastructure— either a reporting team or a news desk.

“But, they all are running blindly only to do something innovative, driven by passion than by ability,” he said.

On the other hand, most of the FM news bulletins, like broadsheet newspapers or state-owned AM radio, are covering the usual political stuff and working as local or community radio stations. Meetings of the parties, speeches of leaders, changes in party philosophy are taking covering time, not local problems or day-to-day affairs of the people.

Dhungel admits that though many of the stations have news bulletins, they do not give emphasis to local news.

“We also tried to cover local incidents and stories trough a programme ‘Tole Chhimeki” but we lack that kind of manpower and the local audience do not want to help us,” he said.

He also added that since the advertisers want wider coverage, they prefer national news or stations, which could be listened to in other cities as well.

“We cannot blame all but most FM stations are only escalating crave for news among the audience and serving the audience with half-baked or misleading information,” said Adhikari.

Nothing is clear — some owners had to sale parental properties as they incurred heavy losses running FM stations, and some persons, who brought almost nothing from their hometowns, are running stations which are now worth billions.

Businessmen, media persons, municipal organisations and political leaders are also seen in investing in FM stations.

“Some owners are even unseen and even foreigners could also be traced behind stations,” Adhikari said, adding, that it is suspicious that most of the stations have invested billions but they all do not own land and buildings.

An investor said that hardly any of the stations are sincere in terms of investments. “Some are bringing surplus profit of their other business and others are inviting unseen and dubious investors to run the stations. Many of them are surviving only because of their ego problems with one person or institution,” said he, adding that the problems in FM stations can be traced to the fact that stations are run by businessmen, not professionals.
[Kathmandu, 2007/12/06]

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Yeti footprints found at Khumbu, explorers claim

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, November 30:
A team of explorers has arrived in the capital with an exciting story of finding footprints of yeti near the base camp of Mount Everest, at Khumbu.

“We are happy to say that we have found footprints of yeti. And the snowman is no more a legend for us now,” Joshua Gates, the team leader of the expedition of the American television channel Destination Truth, told the media today.

Showing the model of the footprint, collected at the site, he added that some scientific research would continue in the US regarding its authenticity and other phases of exploration for further studies.

The team, consisting of 9 Americans and 14 Nepalis, left Kathmandu on 24 November and arrived here today after competing the expedition. After finding the footprints, they chartered a helicopter and directly flew back to the capital.

He said that the team found the footprints when it was returning from Khumbu by the confluence of Ghettekhola and Dudhkoshi rivers, near Monju village at a height of 2,850 metres.

It was Tul Bahadur Rai, assistant guide of the team, who first spotted the footprint by the riverbank.

“It was the night of November 28. I cried in excitement when I saw the footprints. I called all the members and they took photographs and also made a model of the footprint, after they were convinced that it indeed was a footprint,” he told this daily.

He also said that one of the prints was around 12 inches long and others were smaller because the ground was not even and the prints were not clear.

This is not the first time, footprints of yeti, a species of hairy, humpbacked and dark giant biped ape, were found in Nepal’s Himalayan valleys. In 1925 a Greek photographer, NA Tombazi, claimed that he had spotted an ape-like creature walking in the valley near Mt Everest. Another noted explorer who claimed to have seen yeti was the father of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the first person to climb Everest.

Similarly, British mountaineers Eric Shipton and Michael Ward found the yeti footprints in 1951 near the border area.

Even Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, found giant footprints on the way up the top of Mount Everest, in 1953.

[ KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 01, 2007, Mangsir 15, 2064]