Monday, August 11, 2008

Where’s the plan to cope with climate change?

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, August 10 [2008]
Nepal has not been able to come up with an action plan to cope with the impact of climate change, thanks to vested interests of international organisations. As a result, $2 lakh given to Nepal to prepare the plan has been lying idle.
Nepal was supposed to prepare a National Adaptation Programmes of Action to benefit from the international provision of supporting the Least Developed Countries on how to cope with climate change.

Despite a lot of hue and cry at the national and international forums, initiatives to prepare NAPA came a cropper. Files gathered dust in the Environment Ministry for some time and it took more time for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to okay our proposal. GEF has agreed to provide $200,000 for NAPA drafting, while the United Nations Development Programme has agreed to finalise the document for Nepal.
But, instead of preparing the long-waited document, officials are trying to lure more international donors and make it a bigger project.

What is NAPA?

Article 4.9 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognises the specific needs and special situations of LDCs. It recommends LDCs to prepare NAPAs on their own. It generally provides a process for the LDCs to identify priority activities that respond to their urgent and immediate needs with regard to adaptation to climate change.

The rationale for NAPAs rests on the limited ability of LDCs to adapt to adverse effects of climate change. The NAPAs take into account existing coping strategies at the grassroots level. In this process, prominence is given to community-level input as an important source of information, recognising that grassroots communities are the main stakeholders.

Once NAPA is prepared, Nepal can seek millions of dollars for coping with climate change. Six years have passed since Nepal started talking about drafting NAPA, but loose talks have led us to nowhere. It may take several years for Nepal to come up with a functional plan. It’s an irony that 35 out of 40 LCDS have submitted their NAPAs.

Decision 28/CP.7 of UNFCCC has set guidelines for NAPAs. According to the guidelines, any country can prepare their plans. In order to effectively address urgent and immediate adaptation needs, NAPA documents should be presented in a simple format, easily understood both by policy-level decision-makers and the public.
Out of the 35 countries, Mauritania was the first country to submit its plan. The last one was Sierra Leone, which submitted its NAPA in June 2008.

Role of UNDP
UNDP official Tek Bahadur, tasked with preparing NAPA, says it is taking more time to prepare a draft because UNDP is looking for some more donors, who can contribute to NAPA and prepare a bigger document.

“We are meantime looking for other donors, who can help us with more money. Instead of preparing conventional NAPA, we have a vision of making an ‘Extended NAPA’, which will cover more areas,” says he.

The new project document has added segments of knowledge management and learning centre as well as multi-stakeholder strategy in the NAPA. According to him, DANIDA and DFID are providing one million dollar for preparing NAPA.

But the question is whether the UNDP has the authority to go for extended version of NAPA and look for international donor agencies without the ministry’s consent. As a focal point, preparing NAPA is the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology. It has nominated UNDP as the implementing agency, but has not been able to keep the things under its control.

Lack of political commitment for the preparation could be pointed out because we hardly have any ministry in our political history, which has the slightest knowledge of environmental issues. Many environment ministers even do not visit the offices. Expecting them to understand issues like NAPA is asking for too much.

We have a bureaucracy in which capable officials are transferred to other ministries if they refuse to bow to political pressure. Some ministry officials try to use their expertise to grab more “lucrative” seats. In these circumstances, it’s no wonder if the minister fails to draw attention of institutions concerned and have NAPA drafted on time.

Sources at the ministry say there has hardly been any official correspondence between the ministry and the UNDP over drafting of NAPA. Though the ministry is well-informed about NAPA, it’s recommendation has not been sought.

Role of NGOs

Drafting of NAPA, the document that enable Nepal to earn millions of dollars for adapting to climate change, has been lingering for years, while hundreds of non-governmental organisations have been keeping mum. None of the organisations working for nature conservation, clean energy and climate change have criticised the implementing agency for the delay in the preparation of NAPA.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

46 years on, project to build parliament complex still in limbo

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, August 4 [2008]
Though the proposal to construct a modern parliament building was made as early as 1962, the same has remained only on paper for 46 years. A full-fledged parliament is likely to be elected within a few years, if all goes well, but the government has no idea so far when the parliament building would be built.When the issue of the venue for Constituent Assembly came, a last minute decision was taken to use the International Convention Centre at Baneshwor as the venue for the Assembly.

Government officials say that the construction of a parliament building would take at least five years in normal situation. If the Constituent Assembly worked smoothly, it will write a new constitution within two and a half years. A maximum of two more years would take for the parliamentary elections to take place. In that scenario, the country would need parliamentary complex constructed within four and a half years.

The Constituent Assembly, which functions also as the Parliament, has not even able to form a new government, forget about other issues including the study of the design of the parliament complex.The need of a new, comfortable and modern parliament building was realised as early as 1962. Engineer at the Department of Urban Development Hari Krishna Upadhyaya was one of the key designers of the model parliament building. The project started normally but the construction of the ambitious project was sidelined after fire engulfed a part of Singha Durbar in 1973, when only a portion of the work on the parliamentary complex was completed. The present Home Ministry building was a part of the then proposed grand parliament complex.

In 1994, four years after the restoration of multi-party democracy and three years after the a991 parliamentary election, the issue of the need of a parliament building emerged again. The parliament then allocated 151 ropanis of land on northeast corner of the Singha Durbar complex for the construction of a parliamentary building. The table work began. The government allocated Rs 5 million for initial studies on the project.

Sources said that even a team was formed to coordinate the construction and it travelled to India, Pakistan, Britain, the US and other countries
for studying the models of parliamentary buildings there. But the efforts and money spent on this failed to give any momentum to the construction of the project.
Afterwards, the government has been allocating small budget for the project but the budget is not even sufficient to run a small office. Neither manpower nor mandate has been given to the team to accomplish the task.

“A lot of people have earned bucks in the name of the construction of the parliament building, but there is little hope that the 46-year-old dream will materialise easily soon,” said a government engineer. He said the the project was being delayed due to the commission game.

The construction of a parliament building and housing complex for the Members of Parliament is also one of the agenda of the interim plan of the National Planning Commission. But the plan lacks details on who will take care of the proposed construction.

“We have been doing our best to complete our duty as soon as possible. But we cannot do it alone. We need approval from the government,” said Mani Prasad Rai, member secretary of the Singha Durbar Reconstruction Committee.

Last year, the dream project for the parliament building got some momentum, thanks to then Speaker Subas Nembang and some other members of the parliament.
The committee prepared a conceptual design and it was presented to select members of the parliament in September 2007. After a series of internal discussions, the Interim Parliament wrote a letter to the committee to make a new design. According to the letter, the Lower House building should have space to accommodate 350 to 400 members and the Upper House building should have space for 150 to 200 members.
The committee prepared another design, which proposes a main dome for the Lower House with 650 seats and a upper house with 250 seats. The main dome could be
used also for the joint session of the parliament.

According to the design, there will be three square structures with domes and four rectangular structures. The main dome will be used as the Lower House and for joint session. The rest two domes will be used as the Upper House and the Parliament Secretariat. Apart from this, there will be a service block, a cafeteria as well as a lot of parking space within the complex.

The design has proposed facilities like library, canteen, office of parliamentary committees, party offices and other small units. It is estimated that the construction would cost around Rs 2.75 billion.

Ram Prasad Belbase, an administrative officer at the committee, said the lack of commitment on the part of the government and the political parties was the cause behind the lingering of the project.

We have made detailed designs of each of the blocks but we cannot move ahead without getting a formal go-ahead from the government.

“We can see, everybody is busy in Constituent Assembly and this project, even as the parliamentary complex is the foundation of the multi-party parliamentary system, is not in the government’s priority,” he said. He also added that the government should revise the earlier designs if needed. He suggested it would be better to have a national level design competition among architectures so that the country’s landmark infrastructure could have the best of the designs.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Plan to resettle West Seti-affected soon

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, July 28:

The West Seti Hydro Limited (WSHL) is going to start a resettlement programme soon for over 14,000 people affected by the 750-MW power project in the far-western region.

“We will meet the locals soon with a concrete plan on what we can do for them to make the project a success,” said WSHL advisor Eddie Barendse, also the chief of the resettlement programme.

Following this, several teams of the project are scheduled to hold meetings at the local levels on the project’s $100 million resettlement programme on Thursday.

The project’s representatives will discuss with three local groups — West Seti Concerned main committee, committee of downstream affected groups and people living near the powerhouse’s site.

Talking to this daily, Barendse said, “Our study found that the local people are ready to contribute their land once they get reasonable compensation and over 80 per cent of them want to shift to Tarai districts.”

According to a project’s study, a total of 14,378 people of 1,680 households in four districts — Baitadi, Bajhang, Doti and Dadeldhura — will be affected by the construction of around 20 sq km reservoir of the project. Of them, 1,202 families need to be shifted to Kailali and Kanchanpur, the study stated.

Sociologist of the project Dr Saroj Adhikari said the resettlement programme supported by the Asian Development Bank would benefit the marginalised communities.

Under the scheme, poor or vulnerable group having one or two ropanis of land would get either 23.19 ropanis of irrigable land or 38.92 ropanis of land in the Tarai.

[2008 July 30]

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What’s stopping government from paying PLA its dues?


Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, July 28
The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and the Maoists, who formally entered the mainstream politics by ending their decade-long armed struggle, on November 21, 2006, was greeted with euphoria.

Since then, thousands of People’s Liberation Army personnel, who laid the foundation stone for a republic, have been living in pathetic conditions in cantonments.

The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) has verified over 19,000 Maoist combatants, who are living in seven cantonments located in different parts of the country.

Nineteen months have passed since the signing of the peace agreement, but the government has provided the combatants with allowance of only seven months. The PLA soldiers are living on a ration of Rs 60 a day.

Recently, Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ himself complained that the government had not sent allowance to the cantonments for several months. “Our fighters have not received their due allowance,” Prachanda warned at a press conference a few days ago.

Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat has openly said the government would not release the money until the Maoists follow the peace agreement.

This is an example of the negligence on part of the government towards the written commitment to provide allowance to the Maoist soldiers living in cantonments. The irony is that Maoist ministers too have failed to take any concrete decision from the cabinet on the allowance for their fighters.

All people, including Nepalis and foreigners, politicians and diplomats, bureaucrats and businessmen, all appreciated the peace agreement; but nobody seems serious about the commitment expressed in the agreement to bring the armed revolution to a real peaceful conclusion.

The Maoist fighters were also found crossing the limits set by the agreement. At times, they reportedly came out of the cantonments and got involved in extortion and abduction, while their leaders in the capital kept on defending them.

The period since the signing of CPA has been marked by mutual suspicion. The seven-party alliance feared that Maoists would seize state power if they gained majority in the elections and there would be no role for parties for at least a few decades. The Maoists failed to convince the alliance and the government that they would not use the arms stored in the cantonments against democracy. This lack of trust has been causing the PLA combatants to suffer. PLA deputy commander Janardhan Sharma Prabhakar accused ‘influential NC leaders’ of blocking the release of allowance for no good reason.

He said the PLA combatants received allowance only for seven months.

"Nobody knows for what reason they the allowance has been blocked. It will have a long-term effect on the peace process," he warned.

He said the Maoist leaders had raised the issue in the meetings with the government as well as the SPA several times but without much headway. “We have repeatedly asked the government to fulfil its commitment. We have made over a dozen of agreements on this issue. They only pay lip service, but no money,” Sharma added.

Office of the Central Coordinator for Cantonment Management is the authority, with representatives from all major parties, to transfer the budget from the government to the cantonments. As the government does not take any step to release the budget, the committee seems helpless. The committee has not met for the past four months.

"We have no authority to release or stop the money. The delay is at the political end," said Avanindra Kumar Shrestha, the coordinator of the office.

He said it was possible that since the cabinet meetings had to concentrate on other political issues ahead of the CA election, the issue of allowance might have been pushed to the backburner.

All we can hope is that the mutual suspicion between the parties concerned ends and the peace process is not derailed over the issue of allowance.

[2008 July 29]

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Quake-proof school building a source of inspiration in Hetauda

Razen Manandhar
Hetauda, July 12[2008]:

A small and ordinary-looking building at the Shramik High School in the Karra area has become an inspiration for disaster risk reduction initiatives in the fast-growing Hetauda Municipality, where around 500 houses are built every year.

“After looking at the building we have come to believe that earthquake-resistance technology is not complex,” said Sambhu Dhakal, a student at Shramik.

“Our parents should follow this model while building houses,” Dhakal said.

At Rs 6.5 lakh, the building cost only five per cent more than ordinary load-bearing houses, but it can resist an earthquake as strong as 6.5 on the Richter scale. The building was constructed on the initiative of the Community Based Management Group with the support of the United Nations Development Programme, the Hetauda District Development Committee, the Hetauda Municipality and the school management committee.

The National Society for Earthquakes and Technology also provided technical help.
“The building itself may not be that important,” said Rajendra Karki, chairman of the CBMG Hetauda, “but the message this symbolic building is giving is significant.

It has been a source of inspiration for the whole city.” “As a demonstration project, we chose this school because the school has a vulnerable community building. Besides, it could spread good message all over the city through the new generation,” said Karki.

A civil engineer at the Hetauda Municipality, Satya Narayan Sah, said after construction of the school building, people started visiting the municipality with queries about the earthquake resistant technologies and begun a trend of constructing new buildings like it. “Most of new load-bearing houses have been built by adopting this technology,” he added.

According to Karki, disaster risk-reduction technologies are not expensive but people know little about them.

Most part of the country is seismically active, seismologists say, adding that major earthquake jolts Nepal every 70 years. The 8.4 earthquake of 1934 AD claimed 16,875 lives and destroyed 3,18,139 houses. Earthquakes in 1980 and 1988 AD killed around 178 and 721 people, respectively, beside damaging property and infrastructure.
[KATHMANDU, JULY 13, 2008, Ashadh 29, 2065 ]

Friday, July 04, 2008

Gharial population declining fast

Gharial population declining fast

The number of gharials, the
slender-nosed crocodiles,
found only in South Asian
rivers, is drastically decreas-
ing due to increasing hu-
man activities and pollution
in their habitats.
The more...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Big cats in deep trouble

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, July 2
The gorgeous-looking big cats — Royal Bengal tigers — will soon turn into fancy tale characters if the government fails to curb rampant poaching.
Though many international conservation agencies are focused on preventing the extinction of the big cats from Nepal, scenes in Nepal’s protected are getting more and more alarming, with reports showing that the number of tigers is declining due to rampant poaching.

Considering its endangered status, tiger is in Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Flora and Fauna) and is protected by Nepal ‘s National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act (1973). But the poaching of this endangered species has been going unabated in Nepal.

According to estimates, there are 350 to 375 tigers in Nepal. International reports state that 5,000-7,000 tigers are presently living in the wild in some selected Asian countries. There are five tiger sub-species — Siberian tiger, South China tiger, Indo-Chinese tiger, Sumatran tiger and Royal Bengal tiger — in the world.

A recent census on tiger, conducted at the Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve by the Department of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, with support from the WWF Nepal, shows that the bid to conserve the wild cat has not been that successful.

In 82 days, or 939 trap nights — from January 7 to April 7, 2008 — five tigers were found in 15 photographs. As per the census, 2.91 tigers were found per 100 sq km area.

According to the data, only five tigers are left in the Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, where as many as 23 tigers were found in the period 1999-2001.

“Overall analysis shows a declining tiger population in the Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. The situation may be just the same in other protected zones as well,” said Jhama Karki, an assistant ecologist at the DPNWC, adding that the decline in tiger population had been spiralling for the last four years.

He stressed, “An independent probe commission should be formed to find out the reason behind the decline in the number of wild cats.” This statement, coming from a government official, shows how worried conservationists are over the issue. Are the policy makers equally committed to arresting the decline in the number of wild cats?

At least four tigers were killed and five tiger pelts were confiscated from or near national parks in six weeks. In this context, the case of writer-turnedcollector of contraband animal parts Ian Baker could be an eye-opener on Nepal’s share in multi-billion dollar international wildlife trade.

Diwakar Chapagain, a wildlife trade officer at the WWF Nepal, said the plight of tigers in the Bardiya National Park and Chitwan National Park might be no different.

“In six weeks, at least five cases of confiscation of tiger pelt or tiger bones have surfaced in Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts. This points to a booming trade in tiger parts,” he said, adding four tigers were killed by poisoning in Chitwan National Park in three months.

Unlike rhinos, of which only horns and hoofs are sold, every part of a tiger fetches a hefty price. Because of this, it is almost impossible to find how many tigers have been poached. A pelt of tiger is sold for Rs 50,000 in Nepal. In the international market, it can fetch $30,000 to 50,000.

The effect of much-hyped $1 million Tiger Conservation Action Plan (20072001) is yet to be reflected in the jungles. The goal of TCAP, announced in March 2007, is to preserve, recognise, restore and increase the effective land base that supports tigers in Nepal and maintain a viable tiger population.

It may be noted that a group of Chinese people tried to lobby for lifting the ban on the illegal trade of tiger body parts during the International Tiger Symposium held in Kathmandu in April 2007. Twelve countries had taken part in the symposium.

As a signatory, Nepal has an obligation to implement CITES properly but the government has not bothered to formulate laws in line with CITES to conserve wildlife. Moreover, laws alone cannot protect wildlife in the absence of mechanisms.

The conservationists naturally get demoralised when cabinet makes decisions to release notorious poachers in the name of showing ‘good behaviour’. Once out of the cell, they take to poaching again. The conservationists suspect that international racket of tiger poachers is in operation in Nepal. Poachers with political patronage go scot-free; only low-level porters are arrested here.

When there is no provision of holding one person or institution accountable for the irreplaceable loss of endangered species of wild animals, laws alone cannot function well. The army, government staffers and local community should take joint responsibility to conserve wildlife and take individual responsibility when they fail in their respective missions.

Big cats in deep trouble

Big cats in deep trouble

The gorgeous-looking big cats — Royal
Bengal tigers — will soon turn into
fancy tale characters if the govern-
ment fails to curb rampant poaching.
Though many international conser-
vation more...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A national museum bereft of all valuables?

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, June 22 [2008]

The 240-year Shah dynasty will vanish from the pages of history if the government fails to conserve artefacts and documents in a museum.

Historians do not know what kind of museum the Narayanhiti Palace will turn out to be if it cannot display historic objects, medals, trophies and personal belongings of rich kings of Nepal, one of the poorest countries.

When the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly announced that the palace will be turned into a national museum, the intellectuals appreciated the move. But they got distressed when they came to know that the palace hardly had anything valuable left in its bosom.

Members of the commission formed to gather details of palace property have started grumbling in low voice that the deposed king left in the palace those items that could not either be carried in loaders or the items that he did not like.

"Most of the artefacts and historic documents have gone missing from the palace," says a member, adding that the crown and the sceptre were left only because of pressure from the media.

From the very beginning, commission members were acting suspiciously. They were not ready to meet the press. It seems that commission members were shocked when they did not find valuable objects during their first visit to the palace, but were subjected to pressure from "unseen" quarters not to disclose the reality.

Beside all royal events, the palace was the centre of all conspiracies, popular propagandas, coups and infamous decisions. The proposed museum can indeed tell unwritten history of the Shah dynasty, provided it has the priceless items.

A palace staffer said the ministers might have let the former king take away everything.

"We know what kind of people go to the government in Nepal. The king might have promised to award the ministers if he is allowed to take away the valuables," he said.

The staffer said the palace staffers will one day come up with a detailed list of valuables the palace used to posses if the government-formed commission fails to unearth artefacts and historic documents.

Culture expert Satya Mohan Joshi is hopeful that the property and documents will be returned. "If the king has indeed taken the valuables, the government knows how to get them back," he said.

However, experts are yet to believe that the Palace will get rebirth as a museum.

"Making a museum is no joke. What kind of museum are you expecting out of tatters left behind by the king?" said Jala Krishna Shrestha, chairman of the International Commission of Museums, Nepal Chapter. He said though the decision of the Constituent Assembly to turn the palace into a museum was appreciable, the government failed to implement it.

"You cannot buy things for A museum in a supermarket. What on earth are you going to display after letting the former king take away everything he wanted?" he said, adding that the government has not even understood what a world-class museum means.

He said government ministers would be held responsible if objects needed for the museum are not found. "Just like deeds of former king Gyanedra, deeds of this government will be recorded in history books," said.

Keshav Raj Jha, former ambassador to France and residential representative of the UNESCO, "Most of major palaces of former kingdoms have been turned into world-class museums. But looking at the preparation of the government, there will be some old photographs, ordinary furniture and some replica to demonstrate how simply the Shah kings used to live in the palace. We all know that every valuable item has been carted off," he said.

Jha said that the former king took all valuables either with a hope of coming back to power after some turmoil or he did not believe that the government has the expertise to preserve the legacy.

He called on the government to seek technical and other assistance from recognised organisations like UNESCO.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No historic documents found in palace

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 18[2008]:

An investigation panel formed to come up with details of royal property and unearth historic documents kept at the Narayanhiti Palace said it found none of such documents.

A member of the panel said the former king did not return historic documents in possession of the palace.

The Archives Preservation Act 1989 states that the government offices shall transfer official documents that are at least 25 years old to the National Archives.

The official documents include hand-written manuscripts, books, reports, financial statements, treaties and agreements, newspapers and magazines, letters, deeds, drawings, photos, maps, plans, charts, files and case files.

But neither the ministers nor other government officials raised questions on the possession of such documents. As a result, documents of national importance have been either taken away by the former king or have been destroyed.

The committee member said no such documents of historic importance were found in the palace. "We asked in writing about the existence of historic documents, but there was no response from the palace," said the member.

He said the Nepali and foreign historians had made mention of Lal Baksa and other cases, which contained historical documents, but nothing was found. The panel member said a search should have been carried out right after the decision to depose the king.

The National Archives does not have copies of Nepal-India Sugauli Treaty, Nepal India Treaty of 1950 and other documents related with the changes of 1951, 1960 and 1990.
"We have plenty of religious, cultural and literary documents here, but do not have important documents related with great political changes," said Bhim Prasad Nepal, chief of the National Archives.

Joint-secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Jala Krishna Shrestha said no one is bothering to follow the Archives Preservation Act. "The present government will be held responsible if documents of historic importance are lost from the palace," he said.

Panel misses deadline:
KATHMANDU: The committee formed to collect details of property at the palace failed to submit its report on Wednesday. "We could not submit report today due to technical reasons," Dr Govinda Kusum, secretary at the Ministry of General Administration and convener of the committee, said. Kusum did not disclose anything about the property details at the palace. Source said the committee could not submit its report as it could not fix an appoint with PM Girija Prasad Koirala. —HNS

[ KATHMANDU, JUNE 19, 2008, Ashadh 05, 2065]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Budhi Gandaki project fails to attract investors

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 11:

Thanks to unclear government policies, investors are showing reluctance to investment in the hydroelectricity sector.

No one has sent Request for Proposal (RFP) for building the storage-type 600 MW Budhi Gandaki Hydro Electricity Project, though the Department of Electricity Development (DoED) had invited the RFP for the project in January. The dateline for invitations has been extended two times. A total of 28 parties —18 Indian, 5 Nepali, 2 Chinese and one each from the US, Iceland and Russia — have purchased the RFP documents.

As per the cabinet decision of December 30, 2007, the DoED invited detailed proposals from firms or joint ventures as bidders for developing Budhi Gandaki Hydroelectric Project on Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) model under Hydropower Development Policy, 2001.

“The fact that nobody has shown interest to invest in the Budhi Gandaki project is worrisome,” said an official at the Ministry of Water Resources. He said, “Nepal can generate thousands of megawatt of hydropower, but theoretical and practical obstacles have prevented national and international developers from generating power.”

According to him, political instability, changing opinions of leaders and policy makers, emergence of a federal identity, uncertainty of market and ritual protests are the reasons developers are not willing to invest in the hydropower sector.

“Many bidders do not want to be involved in the evacuation process and on top of it, the developers are still not convinced of the political leaders’ commitment,” he said.
Deputy director general of the DoED Dibya Narayan Manandhar, however, said the bidders might be waiting for an appropriate time to file their RFP documents.

“We cannot say the situation is hopeless. Yes, the bidders in this project are not showing interest, but it may not reflect the scenario of the whole country,” he said.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

NWSC reeling under human resource crunch

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, June 3:

The state-owned Nepal Water Supply Corporation, entrusted with supplying drinking water to 23 cities of the country, is facing a dire situation due to lack of human resources.
After the government carved semi-government institutions out of NWSC — Kathmandu Valley Water Management Board, Upatyaka Khanepali Limited and Nepal Water Tariff Fixation Commission — on February 13, almost half of the its staffers joined these institutions.
District-based staffers previously working for NWSC are now posted in the capital. “The season of water-borne disease has not ended but most of our branches lack technical staffers. Who will be responsible if diseases like cholera outbreak?” questioned an NWSC staffer on condition of anonymity.

Following the outbreak of cholera two weeks ago, nine persons had died in Makawanpur and one in Siraha and over 80 were hospitalised.

Some NWSC branches out of 22 even lack office chiefs and are being run by ad hoc chiefs for three months, since the government announced voluntary retirement schemes. Only 15 chiefs are running 23 offices in districts, leaving many important works pending, he added.

For instance a chief in Butwal has to head three cities — Krishna Nagar, Bhairahawa and Taulihawa. While some branch offices lack engineers, others have been facing shortage of overseers.

“In search of handsome salary and with a hope to live in the capital, some NWSC staffers might have joined KUKL,” he said.

NWSC manager Ram Kumar Yadav admitted that the corporation has been facing crunch of technical officers. “We are short of technical staffers in district branches. Though the workload has been lessened after the formation of KUKL, some NWSC district branches are unable to operate due to staff shortage,” he said.

NWSC general manager Gautam Bahadur Amatya, however, said the corporation is holding talks with its management board to appoint technical staffers on the vacant posts.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Palace lacks items to stock museum?

Himalayan News Service
Kathmandu, June 1[2008]:

A scholar said today that valuables stored in the Narayanhiti palace may have vanished and it may not be possible to turn the palace into a museum as desired by the Constituent Assembly.

“The decision to turn Narayanhiti into a museum is a welcome one, but I do not think the palace has objects to bring to light the grandeur of the Shah dynasty,” said Jala Krishna Shrestha, chairman of the Nepal Chapter of International Commission of Museums. The palace, built in 1846 by Rana Prime Minister Ranodip Kunwar, has undergone modifications. The palace got its European look in 1963.

According to newspaper reports, eight truck-loads of objects were ferried away from the palace on Thursday night. The reports said ex-officers of the palace have burnt historic documents.

Shrestha said everything related to the Shah dynasty should be accommodated in the museum. “The building, the garden, showpieces, ornaments, souvenirs, furniture, utensils, dresses and documents are all valuable for the museum,” he said.

But he does not believe that these things will be part of the proposed museum. “After reading newspapers, I hardly believe that there will be anything left except used clothes and something that the former king could not either sell or give away to his dear ones,” he said.

“The standard of the museum will depend on what all is left there. I hope Gyanendra will at least leave the crown and the scripture,” he said.

Dr Dinesh Chandra Regmi, an expert on Shah dynasty and architecture, said the museum might pave the way for in-depth study of the Shah dynasty.

“Every object and document related to monarchy and history as a whole belongs to the nation. The government should be watchful and save the objects and documents for future generations,” he said, adding that the government will be held responsible if any document or object belonging to the palace is lost.

Historian Dr Tri Ratna Manandhar said only serious talks with former king will help retrieve objects of historic importance.
[ KATHMANDU, JUNE 02, 2008, Jestha 20, 2065]

Friday, May 23, 2008

Nepalis in maiden mountaineering feat

5 women scale Everest together.

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, May 22[2008]:

For the first time in Nepal’s mountaineering history, five Nepali women scaled Mt Everest together. The five women are members of the 10-member First Inclusive Women Sagarmatha Expedition 2008, which comprises members from diverse ethnicities.

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation said Susmita Maskey, Maya Gurung, Nwang Phuti Sherpa, Pemba Diki Sherpa and Poojan Acharya scaled the world’s highest peak at 8.30 am today.

“This is the first time we have so many Nepali women on top of Everest on the same day. Among them, a Brahmin woman (Poojan Acharya) scaled the Everest for the first time. They have indeed made history,” said Ramesh KC, an officer at the ministry.
Before their departure, the members had said their main objective was to draw the attention of the world to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Five High Altitude Workers of the team — Pemba Dorje Sherpa, Kaji Sherpa, Phurba Tenzing Sherpa, Ang Gelu Sherpa and Karma Gyelije Sherpa — also scaled the peak. The team had set out to the Everest base camp on April 14.

The government had waived royalties amounting to $1 lakh for the team and also provided assistance of Rs 1 million.

Also today, 75 persons from seven expeditions scaled the peak. They are: Five-member team of David C Morton (USA), seven-member team of David Allen Hahn (USA), three-member team of Gu Hyung Jun (Korea), 18-member team of Ashok Abbay (India), eight-member team of James S Mc-Guinness (New Zealand), 12-member team of Vididnan Rojanapnich (Thailand), 22-me-mber team of Atul Karwar and Shridhar Pokhariyal (India).

Rescue efforts on
Kathmandu: Nepali and international mountaineers are making efforts to rescue a Spanish clim-ber from the base camp of Mt Annapurna I. The cli-mber is said to be in a critical condition. “We are making arrangements to rescue Inaki Ocho, who has been reportedly stra-nded at an altitude of 7400 m,” Nima Nuru Sherpa, managing director of the Cho-Yu Trekking Pvt Ltd, said.
[KATHMANDU, MAY 23, 2008, Jestha 10, 2065]

Monday, May 19, 2008

Shah dynasty ghosts haunt museum development

International museum day

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, May 18 [2008]:

Government-run museums have been used as a tool to please and glorify the monarchs since the establishment of the first museum in 1938, which has resulted in state-sponsored negligence towards the contribution of other people in the national history, believe experts.

That is why the contribution of Juddha Sumshere Rana, who established the National Museum, has little room there.

“The museums in Nepal have been used to praise the kings, therefore, we could not be fair to all the aspects of history,” Jala Krishna Shrestha, the joint-secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, who is also the president of Nepal chapter of International Council of Museums (ICOM), told this daily.

Prejudice and bias in establishment and management of museums hinder the efforts to develop international standard museums, he said adding that the museums were never considered priority area of the governments.

“The history of Lichhivi period is hardly portrayed in Nepali museums and the Malla period is depicted only as a period of art and culture but when it comes to Shah period all the kings are glorified as if they are messiahs and the Ranas are not given due space,” he said. The problem starts not only with one object on display but the policy makers have blocked the whole vision of museum development.

He was of the view that the Hanumandhoka Durbar should showcase the political and cultural development in Nepal from pre-historic times to the present instead of dedicating them for the glorification of king Tribuwan, Mahendra and Birendra.

“In the changed political context, we can hope that the museums will be neutral to all political and cultural ups and downs of the country,” he said.

Bhim Prasad Nepal, chief of National Archives, former head of Patan Museum, said the bias of the policy makers towards one or another historic character has hindered development of museums in Nepal.

“You may consider Junga Bahadur Rana as a dictator, but you cannot deny his contribution to the country. But we have not been able to do justice to him in museums,” he said.

While the government has been indifferent to development of museums, ethnic communities are working hard to portray their history and they are successful to some extent too.

Nepal’s history recorders
•National Museum of Nepal (Kathmandu)
•Museum of Natural History Nepal (Kathmandu)
•Tribhuvan Museum (Kathmandu)
•Patan Museum (Lalitpur)
•Bronze and Brass Museum (Bhaktapur)
•National Art Gallery Nepal (Bhaktapur)
•National Woodwork Museum (Bhaktpuar)
•Dhankuta Museum (Dhankuta)
•Hattisar Museum (Makwanpur)
•Mustang Eco Museum (Mustang)
•Tharu Cultural Museum (Bardiya)

[ KATHMANDU, MAY 19, 2008, Jestha 6, 2065]

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Swelling Imja lake puts Khumbu region in peril

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, May 14[2008]:

Imja, a fast-swelling glacial lake, is putting the entire Khumbu region in peril. The region,
a popular destination for mountaineers from all over the world, will be swept away
if the lake bursts.

Due to global warming, snow of the Himalayan region is melting faster and water is accumulating in southern valleys. Small piles of snow, hardly spotted in the 1960s, are melting and turning into big glacial lakes. Imja is one such lake.

The Everest region is one of the hotspots of glacial melting in the Nepal Himalayas. Out of 20 potentially dangerous glacial lakes in Nepal, 12 lie in this region. A study conducted recently by the United Nations Environment Progamme (UNEP) and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) states that Imja is the fastest-retreating glacier in the entire Himalayas.

Spotted as a group of small masses of snow in 1962, Imja has now turned into a one-square-kilometre lake.

“Imja is expanding at an alarming rate. It is growing by 74 metres a year,” says Basanta Shrestha, division head of the IKM-MENTRIS section of the ICIMOD.

“We ought to see how the lake is swelling and inform people about it,” he says.

To keep an eye on fast-swelling Imja, the ICIMOD has installed a pair of video cameras by the lake. These cameras take pictures of the lake every 10 minutes. Lake’s rising level is recorded on a website through wireless internet and satellite.

“After a year-long experiment, we have begun monitoring the lake through remote sensing. Now we can at least see what is happening there and make locals aware of any impending tragedy on time,” he says.

“The formation of glacier lakes and many other changes in the region may or may not be due to global warming, but we need to have some scientific database to predict possible accidents,” Shrestha maintains.

[KATHMANDU, MAY 15, 2008, Jestha 02, 2065 ]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

EC Mulls Action Against Disobedient Observers

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, May 12 [2008]

Over a hundred domestic organisations could disqualify for future election observation missions in Nepal for failing to submit their preliminary reports, Election Commission sources said on Sunday.

The EC directive for the observers states that those organisations which have received EC accreditation as observers should submit their preliminary reports within 15 days of polls and detailed reports within three months.

But according to the EC record, only 13 domestic bodies and five international bodies have submitted their preliminary reports to the EC till the date. In total, there were 178 organisations accredited to observe the election. Over 60,000 domestic observers from 148 organisations and 856 international observers from 30 organisations were assigned duty to observe the historic election.

Commissioner Dr Ayodhi Prasad Yadav said those organisations, which have failed to submit their reports, would be black-listed and their applications to observe any future elections would be rejected.

"We are making a list of the organisations that failed to meet the EC directive," he said, adding that the EC was not going to request them to submit their reports.

Yadav also said the organisations violated the EC directives by ignoring their responsibility to send reports. "It is their duty to submit reports. We had told this to them while awarding them accreditiaion," he said.

An officer at EC said the 18 reports submitted by the observers hardly had anything new that has not already been reported by the media. "The EC would soon study the reports and classify them," the officer said.

"It is difficult to understand why those organisations are not submitting their reports," he said.
[ KATHMANDU, MAY 12, 2008, Baishakh 30, 2065 ]

Friday, May 09, 2008

Convention report sees holes in FNJ account book

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, May 8:

The Federation of Nepali Journalists is not squeaky clean when it comes to handling its finances, a financial report of the umbrella organisation of journalists indicates.

For the first time in history, general conference of the FNJ ended without passing a financial report, due to irregularities. Now, a team has been constituted to dig deep into the financial lapses.

According to the report, the FNJ had provided hefty salaries to coordinators of four projects. For example, the EC-supported project for promoting freedom of expression and independent media hired a coordinator for a month, offering him Rs 774,112 as salary. The Danida HUGOU-supported project for capacity development of media persons was no exception. It paid monthly salary of Rs 497,142 to its project coordinator. The coordinator of CIDA-supported project on ‘Preparing Nepali media for New Nepal’ got Rs 36,000 monthly as salary. The IMS-supported project to investigate the situation in Tarai and media paid Rs 25,000 per month to its project coordinator. FNJ members do not know when vacancies were called, under which criteria candidates for lucrative positions were selected and who were the lucky project coordinators.

Seminars organised by the FNJ in districts were no less expensive. A national seminar was organised under the CIDA-supported programme at a cost of Rs 443,747 without journalists based in districts knowing much about the goings-on.

The Danida-supported project was found to have doled out as much as Rs 197,900 to a certain person for translating training manuals. The irony is that the EU-supported project has spent Rs 1.31 lakh under the same title. An IMS-supported project paid Rs 108,500 in translation works, excluding expenditure of Rs 90,000 as remuneration for a writer and Rs 45,000 as editor remuneration for two months.

The extent of expenditure would have been a non-issue if the high-level projects had brought the slightest of change in professional or social standing of media persons.

Kiran Chapagain, a journalist, claimed that the FNJ had not paid promised sum to consultants. “I was promised Rs 70,000 for working on a certain FNJ project, but I was paid just half,” he said.

Some journalists want to know why the FNJ hired a “C” grade Chartered Accountant. The report has urged the FNJ to “spend money only after setting norms.”

Travelling is one of the things FNJ office-bearers indulge in. From 2007 July to April 2008, the FNJ spent Rs 267,561 from its regular expenses kitty for transportation. Three FNJ projects footed travelling expenses of Rs 1,763,737.

The FNJ was found to have spent hefty money in meetings. According to the report, one meeting costs Rs 2,000 to 70,000, an astronomical sum for district committees of the FNJ that cannot collect enough funds to pay rent for office rooms. The central committee of the FNJ pays Rs 143,684 per month on rent.

Kiran Nepal, chairman of the Society of Economic Journalists, said, “The FNJ has broken all norms of transparency. We want to see a system in our FNJ.”

Life in Kathmandu is difficult, especially for those who have come from districts to give their career a boost. It can be severe when you have dozens of “cadres” seeking financial support. These things notwithstanding, those who have promised to keep journalism as a profession must keep the promise.
[ KATHMANDU, MAY 09, 2008, Baishakh 27, 2065 ]

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Major parties fall short on EC quotas

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, May 2[2008]:
Two of the oldest parties in the poll fray — Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML — became the last parties to submit their PR lists.
The NC submitted its list to the Election Commission (EC) at 5.15 pm, while the UML submitted its list at 6.15 pm. The EC had fixed 5 pm deadline for submitting the PR lists, but cadres of the two parties entered the EC office before the deadline and made the EC officials wait till their parties came up with the lists.
The NC rushed a party activist in a taxi to the EC to submit its PR list.
The CPN-Maoist had brought the list by 3.15 pm. Other newly-emerged parties also submitted their lists to the EC today.
Most of the fringe parties, with one or two CA seats in their kitty, had submitted their lists earlier. Nepal Pariwar Dal became the first among these 25 parties, submitting its one-member list on April 25.
The EC will examine the lists to see whether the PR lists have been prepared ensuring the inclusion of women, Janajatis, Madhesis and Dalits. The EC will send back the lists to parties concerned for correction if the lists are not inclusive.
“There is a formal process in the EC to approve names. It will take some days,” Dhruba Dhakal, an undersecretary at the EC, said.
According to the Election Commission, 11 political parties, which had submitted their closed lists comprising 30 per cent candidates under the PR system, should have 37.8 per cent Janajati candidates, 31.2 Madhesi candidates, 13 per cent Dalit candidates and four per cent candidates from backward regions in their PR lists. They should not have more than 30.2 per cent candidates from Bahun and other Hindu castes.
However, major parties failed to allocate legally required number of seats to Janajatis, Madhesis, Dalits and backward regions.
The Maoists have picked the largest number of PR candidates from the backward region (four
per cent).
Janajatis and others comprise 30 per cent of CA members picked under the PR system (the Maoists have picked 29 Madhesis and 30 Janajatis).
Nepali Congress PR list comprises 21 Madheshis (28.77 per cent), nine Dalits (12.33 per cent) and 27 Janajatis (36.99 per cent). Two NC nominees (2.74 per cent) are from the backward region. However, the party has increased the number in “others” quota, giving 24 seats (32.88 per cent) under this category representing Bahuns and other groups.
The UML PR list comprises 21 Madheshis (30 per cent), nine Dalits (12.85 per cent), 24 Janajatis (34.28 per cent), two candidates from the backward region (2.86 per cent) and 30 others.
TMDP has only Tarai castes like Sah, Yadav, Jha, Singh and Kedia on its list. MJF has picked 21 candidates from Tarai-based communities; only one MJF PR candidate is from a different community.
Among small parties, the Chure Bhawar Rastriya Ekta Party Nepal has picked Keshav Mainali, Nepali Pariwar Dal has Eknath Dhakal. Dalit Janajati Party and Nepa Rashtriya Party have picked Bishendra Paaswan and Buddha Sayami.
[KATHMANDU, MAY 03, 2008, Baishakh 21, 2065 ]

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Maoists bag 100 PR seats, says EC

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, April 25:

The CPN-Maoist bagged the most Constituent Assembly seats under the Proportional Representation (PR) system too by winning 100 seats out of the total 335 seats allocated for the PR system.

The Maoists had polled 3,144,204 (29.85 per cent) votes out of the 10,739,078 votes cast under the PR system.

The Maoists have already secured 120 seats under the first-past-the-post system. With the PR results, Maoists will have 220 seats (36.6 per cent) in the 601-member assembly.

Fifty-four political parties out of the 74 registered in the EC had taken part in the election under the PR system. Of them, only 25 parties have secured at least one seat in the CA through this system.

The NC, which stood second in direct polls by winning 37 seats, bagged 73 seats under the PR system. It polled 2,269,883 votes (21.79 per cent). The CPN-UML got 70 seats with 2,183,370 votes (20.90 per cent). The MJF bagged 22 seats under PR system. MJF got 6.57 per cent votes of the total votes cast under PR system. Another Tarai-based party, TMDP, got 11 seats with 3,338,930 votes under the PR system.

Both the CPN-ML and the RPP stand sixth in the hierarchy with eight seats each. They have won no seat under direct polls. The RPP polled 263,431 votes and the CPN-ML polled 243,545 votes. The Sadbhawana Party and the CPN-United have secured five seats each under the PR system with 167,517 votes and 154,968 votes, respectively.

The RJP and People’s Front Nepal have secured three seats each and the NWPP, Rastriya Janamukti Party, CPN-Unified, NSP-A, Nepali Janata Dal, Sanghiya Loktantrik Rashtriya Manch secured two seats each.

The Samajbadi Janta Party, Dalit Janajati Party, Nepal Pariwar Dal, Nepaa Rastriya Party, Nepal Loktantrik Samajbadi Party and the Chure Bhawar Rastriya Ekata Party bagged one seat each in the CA.
Though the CPN-United Marxist had fielded 100 candidates under PR system, it could not win even a single seat. The CPN-Unified, which had fielded 328 candidates, won only two seats. It is the fourth largest party after the NC, UML and Maoists in terms of the number of candidatesit fielded under PR system.

Announcing the PR results, chief election commissioner Bhojraj Pokhrel asked the political parties to submit by May 2 the names of candidates whom they want to send to the CA from their closed lists of candidates. The seats under the PR system were allocated on the basis of the proportion of the total valid votes to the votes polled by the parties, the EC said in a release.

Out of the 11,146,540 votes cast under the PR system, 407,462 were invalid. Over 63 per cent of the total eligible voters had cast their votes under the PR system.

267,448 votes wasted
KATHMANDU: 267,448 votes secured by 29 parties under the PR system went useless as the votes bagged by those parties failed to win any seat. It needed 23,512 votes for the Nepal Pariwar Dal to secure one seat, while CPN-Marxist failed to win a seat with 21,234 votes. For Maoists, they needed 31,442 votes to win a seat. On an average, smaller parties, which secured 0.22 to 0.38 per cent of the valid votes, won at least one seat. — HNS
[ KATHMANDU, APRIL 26, 2008, Baikash 14, 2065 ]

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Janajati first-timers send bigwigs packing

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, April 21:

Poll candidates from ethnic communities, sidelined by political parties for long, sprung a surprise this time around, defeating many iconic figures of Nepali politics.

Former Prime Minister and RJP chairman Surya Bahadur Thapa, who had won all three elections, was defeated in Dhanakuta 2 by Maoist Hriaraj Limbu with a margin of 6,867 votes.

RPP chairman Pahsupati Shamsher Rana was in the poll-fray in Sidhupalchok 1 and 3, but was routed by Maoist candidates Rajkumar Shrestha and Dawa Tamang.

Joining the league of newcomers, Lal Bahadur Susling beat former deputy prime minister and UML candidate Bharatmohan Adhikari in Morang 2.

No different was the fate of UML leader and former deputy prime minister KP Sharma Oli, who was in the fray in Jhapa-7. Oli was defeated by another new face, Maoist candidate Bishwadip Lingden.

Janajati leader Purna Singh Rajbanshi defeated Home Minister and central committee member of the NC Krishna Sitaula in Jhapa-3.

Minister for Water Resources Gyanendra Bahadur Karki was beaten by Padam Bahadur Rai of the CPN-M in Bhojpur-1.
Former finance minister and NC candidate Mahesh Acharya was beaten by Bhimraj Chaudhari Rajbahshi of the MJF. Another former minister and NC candidate Bal Bahadur KC was defeated by Gopal Kirati in Solukhumbu-1.

Former Minister for Physical Planning and Works Chiranjibi Wagle was defeated in Gorkha 1 by by little-known Maoist candidate Parbati Thapa with a record margin of 31,464 votes.

Defeat of some other well-known leaders of well-known parties by ethnic leaders is equally surprising. Jayapuri Gharti of the CPN-M defeated NC leader Madhav Acharya in Rolpa 1, Devi Lal Chaudhary of the CPN-M defeated NC leader Narayan Prasad Saud in Kanchanpur-2 and Akkal Bahadur Thing of the CPN-M defeated UML leader Keshav Badal in Kabhre-2. NC leader Udaya Shamsher Rana was defeated by Maoist Barshaman Pun in Lalitpur-2.
[ KATHMANDU, APRIL 22, 2008, Baishakh 10, 2065 ]

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Janajatis upbeat after poll showing; bag 82 seats

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, April 19:

Results of the Constituent Assembly (CA) polls have paved the way for a greater participation of the Janajatis in politics.

Out of 226 elected members of the CA, 82 belong to different ethnic groups. This means around 38 per cent members of the CA will be Janajatis. According to an estimate, Janajatis constitute 37 per cent of the total population.

In earlier elections, the ethic groups were either discouraged by the party leadership from coming into the central level or they themselves were indifferent to party politics. There were only 31 Janajati MPs in the earlier parliament, which had 205 MPs.

Of the total elected CA members, 50 belong to the CPN-Maoist, while the NC and UML each have 10 Janajati CA members. The remaining 12 members are from Madheshi-oriented parties like the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum, Tarai Madheshi Democratic Party and the Sadbhawana Party.

The Magars have won 14 seats, the Newars 13 seats, the Tharus have 12 seats and the Gurungs have won 10 seats. The Rais and Tamangs have won 8 seats each, while the Limbus have bagged 7 seats. Other smaller ethnic groups have secured remaining 10 seats.

Only 12 Newars, 7 Limbus and 6 Gurungs were in the former parliament. The Rais and the Tamangs had two seats for each of them, while two other seats belonged to other minor communities.

In comparison, the Magars have shown a drastic presence in politics by turning from non-present in the former parliament to 14 seats this time. The Tharus, which had no representation in the former parliament, have bagged 12 seats this time. The Tamangs, who held only 2 seats in the former parliament, have bagged eight seats. This time too, the Limbus have bagged 7 seats. Compared to the former parliament, the presence of the Newars has gone down by two seats.

Interestingly, the Janajatis have saved face of the two major parties — the NC and the UML — in this election. Both the parties had been criticised for discriminating against the Janajatis while distributing “tickets”.

But Janajati leaders, who got party tickets, secured almost one-third of total seats won by both the parties. Ten out of 35 CA members, who were elected on NC ticket, were Janajatis. Out of 31 CA members elected on UML ticket, 10 were Janajatis.
[KATHMANDU, APRIL 20, 2008, Baishakh 08, 2065 ]

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Counting begins amid disputes in Gorkha

Razen Manandhar
Gorkha, April 11
Vote counting in Gorkha Constituency No 2 of began this evening amidt dissatisfaction, complains and aggressions.Polling was continued in the district despite walkouts of agents of other political parties than the CPN-Maoist in many polling centres.Barkrishna Uprety, the returning officer, said that the counting votes in Constituency No 2 began this evening. He also said that the ballot boxes of Constituency No 1 have also been collected in the headquarters.

"Counting of votes in Constituency No 3 might take one more day as ballot boxes have to be collected by helicopter," he said.

"Hopefully, we will begin counting of the votes in Constituency no 3 tomorrow because all the ballot boxes have arrived in Sirdibas, the collection centre, and a helicopter will bring them soon here in the district headquarters," he said.

CDO Jiban Prasad Oli said that the election in Gorkha was a success because nothing untowards happened.Baburam Thapa, the UML contender from constituency 1 said that his party has nothing to do with the vote-counting. "We cannot accept this kind of election. We will not be present in this vote-counting," he said.Parvati Thapa Shrestha, the Maoist contender said that the election was fair.
[2008 april 12]

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Many applicants for observers rejected

Razen Manandhar/Madan Wagle

Damauli, April 8
Out of over 1,000 applicants for National Observers, only 650 were given identity cards here because the rest did not meet the requirements.

"We issued only 650 cards to the observers as others have not passed SLC and those who have passed are known to be political activists," said Ram Chandra Tiwari, the District Election Office of Tanahu.

He also said that even the issued cards could be scrapped as investigation was going on for those cards as well.
"We have asked all the observation organisations to return cards of those who are not fit to be observers. And some have obeyed us," he said. He added that many observation organisations could not educate the would-be observers and many could have applied for observes with some vested interests.

A meeting was held here today to discuss the duties and responsibility of the observers. According to him, though the international observers are here to express their goodwill and to ‘learn from our experiences’, some problems were seen in dealing with national observers.

All over the country, over 60,000 national observers affiliated to 148 organisations are being deployed to polling centres.

"The preparations for the election completed today," he said adding: "We have dispatched all election materials to 314 polling centres and also have deputed all the staffers in their respective areas of duty."

"The materials have reached the polling centres," he said.

Around 3,600 staffers are being deputed in the district. Among them, 1,900 are sent from district headquarters and they will hire an additional 1,700 volunteers at the local level. The team will be under supervision of the 700 polling offers and deputy polling officers, who had been in training of the Election Commission. The staffers today started putting election notices in all polling centres.

In Tahahu, 34 contenders are contesting for three seats. For this, 267,618 voters will cast their votes from 314 polling centres, out of which six are temporary. The district has one municipality and 46 village development committees. Chok High School of Rampuretar kha is the smallest centre with 348 voters, while the polling centre of Kalika High School of Dumre Kharka kha is the biggest, with 1,147 voters.

"The security management have been complete in the district," Chief District Officer of Tanahu Kashinath Marashini said. "Security teams have been deployed in all polling centres and other areas. We are confident of our security management," he said.
[2008 april 9}

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Legal remedy looks distant as poll violence goes on

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, March 29:

Though election-related criminal activities are taking place almost every day in different parts of the country, no legal solution has been sought to control them or bring the guilty to the book.

Five persons have been killed and dozens have been injured in the month of March alone; one among the dead being a candidate for the polls.

However, the government has not adopted the usual process of prosecution in any of the cases, says the Election Commission.

“The violence reported from many parts of the country cannot be taken simply as minor incidents of violation of election code. A crime is a crime, be it committed around the election time or at any other time. But we are yet to see any legal action taken against the guilty,” said Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Upreti.

According to him, finalising a murder case in two weeks in our context may not be possible, but steps should be taken to maintain the rule of law and discourage repetition of similar incidents to ensure an environment for impartial polls.
On the EC’s part, Upreti said those involved in criminal activities would be barred from taking part in any election activities, including contesting, for at least six years. The EC can do it only when a person is proved guilty by a court.

Bishwakanta Mainali, the chairman of the Nepal Bar Association, said neither the parties nor the government have been committed to find legal solution to the violent incidents.

“The government can file cases against the accused, whether the case is an election-related violence or not,” he said.

The government is too timid to file cases against the accused, as it fears a negative impact of such a move on the polls. “But this will only encourage a culture of impunity,” he said.

March Details of violence

12: 12 UML cadres and candidate Dev Shakar Paudel beaten up in Ramechhap
13: Six hurt in NC-Tarun Dal clash in Itahari
16: Shooting at NC poll rally in Okhaldhunga
17: 11 NC, 3 UML cadres hurt in Chitwan
18: Police post attacked in Rasuwa
19: Maoist cadres Tek B Gharti and Bhakta Bahadur BK shot dead in Rolpa
- RJN candidate Kamal Adhikari was shot dead in Banke
20: 12 hurt in UML-YCL chash in Dhading
21: Janamorcha Nepal poll campaign disrupted in Khotang
22: Maoist cadre Shivapujan Kurmi shot dead in Kapilvastu -Maoist candidate Sushma Sharma Ghimire attacked in Dang
24: KP Sharma Oli attacked in Jhapa
-Election meeting of RPP-N disrupted in Pokhara
25: 25 hurt in clashes with police in Rupandehi
-UML candidate Rajendra Pande detained in Dhading
26: Maoist cadre Ganga Bhujel died in a clash in Solukhumbu; NC candidate Bal Bahadur KC and others injured
27: 15 NC cadres injured in Dhading
28: 18 injured in NC-UML clash in Dhangadhi

[KATHMANDU, MARCH 30, 2008, Chaitra 17, 2064]

Saturday, March 22, 2008

50,035 can bet their votes won’t go waste

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, March 21:

At least 50,035 voters from Kathmandu constituency no 1 will not have to worry about rigging or booth capturing during the CA polls. The reason: For the first time, these voters will be voting through an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

The small equipment, which has a board with list for the parties and their signs along with buttons, guarantees zero per cent error. Votes can be cast every 15 seconds. EVM, is now being introduced in Kathmandu constituency no 1, which comprises ward nos 10, 11, 32 and 34 of the KMC, for the first time. Rigging and booth capturing will not occur because nobody will be able to make any change in the booth once the vote is cast and recorded in the computer, officials at the Election Commission said. India has provided the EVM.

“Voting starts when the machine gives you a green signal. Unlike the conventional ballot papers, a voter does not affix the stamp on the chosen symbol. He will have to push a blue button next to the symbol of his choosing. The machine will give a sound, making sure that the vote has been counted,” said Ishwari Prasad Aryal, EC’s section officer. Aryal said the polling officer does not have to sign on the ballot paper; he just pushes a button to let a voter cast his or her vote.

Seventeen groups have launched a door-to-door campaign to educate the voters and to test how effective the EVM is among the voters. The campaign will go on till April 7.
An EVM has two units — a ballot unit and a control unit. Both are linked with a five-metre cable. Each of the ballot unit can record 2,000 votes. It has space for 16 election symbols but when there are over 16 contenders, up to four such units can be joined.
[ KATHMANDU, MARCH 22, 2008, Chaitra 09, 2064]

Monday, March 03, 2008

CA election will see a sea of observers

Razen Manandhar
Nepal Sadbhawana Party President Anandidevi Singh submitting the closed list of the party’s candidates at the Election Commission in Kantipath, Kathmandu, on Sunday.
Nepal Sadbhawana Party President Anandidevi Singh submitting the closed list of the party’s candidates at the Election Commission in Kantipath, Kathmandu, on Sunday.
Kathmandu, March 2:

Close to 93,000 volunteers will be mobilised as Election Observers (EO) all over the country during the April 10 Constituent Assembly election. The number is 30 times higher than the number of volunteers observing Nepal’s third general election in 1999.
A total of 92,245 Nepalis affiliated with 148 non-government organisations and around 500 foreign observers from seven international organisations will inspect the voting in 9,801 polling centres and over 20,000 polling booths, according to the Election Obeservers’ Resource Centre (EORC) at the Election Commission.
The National Election Monitoring Alliance (NEMA) also plans to mobilise a quarter of the observers. The smallest number of volunteers was offered by the Women Development Self-Employment Training Centre (WDSETC) which has only three observers.
Subodh Raj Pyakurel, head of observers’ group from National Election Monitoring Alliance, said that the observers were selected from 14 federations affiliated to NEMA and they cannot be cadres of any party.
The National Election Monitoring Alliance so far has decided that each of the observers will get Rs 150 for their day-long work.
Usha Khadka, who heads the WDSETC, said that her organisation could offer only three persons because of lack of funds.
Asian Network for Free Elections is mobilising 100 foreign observers, while others are undecided about their numbers.
Dhruba Dhakal, under secretary of EC, said that the number of observers is natural because the interest to be part of the election is growing all over the country.
Asked if the groups of observers could pose problems at polling centres, he said that the returning officers would regulate observers.
“The officer may send them out or ask them to be present following time table if the number is found to be too big to handle,” he said.

Nepali organisations
• National Election Monitoring Alliance (NEMA) - 23,000
• Nepal Election Observation Committee Nepal (NEOC/N) - 20,000
• National Election Observation Committee (NEOC) - 12,700
• Democracy and Election Alliance Nepal (DEAN) - 12,000
• Common Movement for Human Rights Preservation and Peace (CHRP) - 7,500
• CA Election Observation Joint Forum (CAEOF) - 5,000
• General Election Observation Committee (GEOC) - 1,900
• Nepal Bar Association (NBA) - 1,000

International organisations
• The Carter Centre
• Asian Network for Free Elections
• Forum-Asia
• Universal Human Rights Network
• European Observation Mission
• The Asia Foundation
• Socialist International
[ KATHMANDU, MARCH 03, 2008, Falgun 20, 2064]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Handing over of NWSC on February 13

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, January 22:

The long-awaited handing over of the assets of Nepal Water Supply Corporation (NWSC) to an “autonomous” body, Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL), will take place in three weeks. Coincidentally,Timila Yami Thapa, Physical Planning minister Hisila Yami’s sister, was nominated as its chief on January 13 .

The government is now set to hand over those portions of NWSC, which belong to sections of the valley, to Kathmandu Valley Water Supply Management Board (KVWSMB) on February 13 and the board will transfer those assests to the KUKL to facilitate the process of reformation of Kathmandu Valley’s water management.

“The handover will take place on February 13. By handing over the assets of NWSC to the board, we will open gates for further development in water management for the Kathmandu Valley,” said Suman Sharma, joint-secretary at the ministry.

He added that the ministry is working to make it happen on time, as lots of processes have to be gone through before the handover.

Earlier, the handover was scheduled for October 1 but it was delayed due to the lengthy process of valuation of the NWSC assets and political changes.

The handover was one of the conditions set by the donors for a loan of US$ 500 million to the Melamchi Water Supply Project. The donors, mainly Asian Development Bank, had demanded that the water distribution body in Kathmandu Valley be handed over to an autonomous body before the loan for Melamchi project is sanctioned, so that it could be kept away from political intervention.

Before the handover takes place, the property of NWSC has already been sent to the ministry, following a cabinet decision, so that it would now be authorised to hand over the government property to the semi-government institution KVWSMB.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

EC to educate voters in 17 ethnic languages

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, January 19:

For the first time in the Nepal’s election history, the trainers of the Election Commission are visiting around 4,000 villages with an offer to educate about the process and technicalities of the constituent assembly election in 17 ethnic languages.

According to Central Bureau of Statistics of Nepal, there are 102 languages spoken in the country by 61 ethnic communities, besides the official Nepali language.

“We are going to the voters with a wide variety of mother tongues, to educate them about the technicalities of the election process for the first time,” said Laxman Bhattarai, the EC’s spokesperson.

He said that teaching the voters in mother languages has become necessary in the present context. “It is a necessary move. Even in villages around the Kathmandu Valley, members of many Newar communities do not understand Nepali. The situation is even more difficult in the Tarai and mountain regions,” he said.

The major languages, which are being included in the list of voters’ education are Newar, Tamang, Gurung, Magar, Tharu, Maithali, Bhojpuri, Rai, Limbu, among others.

The contents of the instructions will include brief introduction of the constituent assembly, its significance, the methodology of the election, the need of voting and how one is qualified or disqualified for voting.

“The trainers will basically tell the voters what the election is about and why it is important to cast a vote in the election,” he said.

The voters’ education will formally begin by February 27, for which two Voters’ Education Volunteers from local community schools will stay in villages for 45 days and they will deliver training in around 4,000 villages. The training for the volunteers will begin by February 4 and they will move to their destinations following the training. The total number of trainers for the voters’ education will be around 9,000.

“The training materials are being printed. We have posters, pamphlets, stickers, flip charts and other materials for the trainers,” he said. According to the EC schedule, the materials will be prepared, produced and transported by February 13.

Chairman of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities, Pasang Sherpa, welcomed the EC’s step with caution.

“We welcome the government step to recognise the local languages and also to teach them about the election thorough their mother tongues,” he said, adding that the real implication of the step, however, will be appreciable only when the efforts are implemented.

ABC of CA polls:
• EC trainers are visiting 4,000 villages to educate people about the process and technicalities of the constituent assembly election
• Even in villages around the Kathmandu Valley, members of many Newar communities
do not understand Nepali. The situation is more difficult in the Tarai and mountain regions
• There are 102 languages spoken in the country by 61 ethnic communities, besides the
official Nepali language

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Melamchi water project-hit seek aid [in Kabhre]

Razen Manandhar
Kavre, January 9:

While the families affected by the Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP) in Sindhupalchowk are getting various assistance, those who live in neighbouring district Kavre are still left unattended.

The project had identified five VDCs of Kavre — - Gairibisaina Deupur, Mahadevsthan, Chandeni Mandan, Jaishithok and Panchkhal — as affected areas. But the residents in the VDCs are given peanuts and their demands have been neglected, locals said. These villages are the gateways in order to reach the MWSP’s main site.

“Earlier, the MWSP has assured that villagers would be compensated. But now, we are left high and dry,” said Krishna Prasad Dotel, a local of Sipaghat who is to receive compensation for his over one ropani of field.

“We should get over Rs 1.2 million as per the land valuation price of the project. But it refused to give us compensation because our land was excluded from the Department of Road’s documents,” he said.

Villagers, after their demands were ignored, have started seizing the vehicles belonging to the MWSP. A project vehicle is now under the local people’s control.

“We were forced to do this as officers at the project never listened our voice,” said Yognath Dotel, the vice-chairman of the local Prabhabit Chhetra Mandan Upatyaka Bikas Samiti.

He said the MWSP has identified a total of 53 VDCs as possible affected areas by the project and demand that the project provide necessary relief for the residents of the five VDCs in Kavre. Of over a 100 affected families, only 45 has received compensation, he said.

He said the MWSP should provide them the due compensation to the residents of the five VDCs and black top the 26km road linking Panchkhal Zerokilo to Melamchi Bazaar.

“Various programmes related to health and education should be launched in the areas affected by the project,” Dotel said.
[ KATHMANDU, JANUARY 10, 2008, Poush 26, 2064 ]

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"Meet" revival in Melamchi

Razen Manandhar
Melamchi, January 8

Two young men sat opposite and offered tika on each other’s forehead, while family members and neighbours clapped their hands. It was not marriage, has nothing to do with homosexuality. They were tying themselves with the knot of “meet”, the sacred friendship.

Yubraj Khadka and Netra Narayan Sharma, both of 24 years, met almost accidentally a year ago in business. They became friends and it eventually turned into lifelong relation of meet.

The ritual of tying in meet relation, said to be legendary, has already vanished in the modern and urban life-style, but they can still be found occasionally in villages.

In a hilly village of Chanaute Bazaar of Melamchi, some five hours drive form the capital, it was a matter of curiosity for the neighbourhood as it takes place once in a blue moon. Even elderly people do not know the exact process of the rituals. But they managed to do it.

An oil-lamp was placed on a bowl with rice, a plate with red tika, a tray of fruits and some gifts were spread on the floor. A group of spectators were waiting eagerly how it would be done.

The two men stood up, a red shawl stretched between them separated to two friends – to that they cannot see each other’s face - to that and the ritual began. The two greeted each-other for three times and offered tika. Then the wives followed the same rituals – to show that it was not only the interpersonal relationship but it is the knot between the two families. In the third round, one greeted his meet’s wife. In this round, they were careful; they did not step on the same mattress.

After the completion, exchange of gifts took place and a reception followed. The neighbours and other guests congratulated the friends and wished for their long-lasting and legendary friendship.

“Let their friendship be as that of the legendary meets Krishna and Sudama. They did not forget their friends even in the most difficult situations in the life,” said Bir Bahadur Khadka, an elderly relative, who joined the reception. He added that the two meets are not supposed to sleep in same bed and eat in the same plate, though they can cross all limits of intimacy. “Meets are like twins. They are allowed to share family secret and even can inherit parental property too,” he added.

The meet-friendship between singer Narayan Gopal and Gopal Yonjan is remembered here among the literary circle.

Khadka and Sharma lived so far away – first from Sindhupalchok and the second from Parbat. They belonged to different castes, had different professions and lived in quite different social backgrounds. But no barrier could stop them from turning into life-long friends.

“Its like a dream. I never though that our friendship would turn into a meet,” said Khadka, talking with the guests. And Sharma added that he would pray to the god for sincere maintenance of the sacred relation.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Only 2 pc of tube wells in Tarai have arsenic

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, January 5:

Only two per cent of the tube wells in the Tarai region have arsenic-contaminated water. Arsenic is a natural mineral which is found in underground water and is suspected to cause cancer if consumed for a long duration.

“It is a good news for the Tarai people that water from only a few tube wells were found to have arsenic contamination,” said Abadh Kishor Mishra, the chief of Water Quality Improvement and Monitoring Section at the Department of Water Supply and Sewage (DWSS), talking to this daily today.

He was citing the preliminary results of tests of arsenic contamination in water from some 735,000 tube wells across the country. The study shows that tubewells in Nawalparasi have the highest concentration of arsenic, while other districts like Siraha, Kapilbastu, Rupandehi, Bara and Rautahat also have concentration of this element.

The government, with support from various international donor agencies, is conducting arsenic test in water from around 1.1 million tube wells in 20 southern districts by the end of this fiscal year.

The project has completed testing tube wells in most districts except in Jhapa, Morang, Mahottari, Chitwan, Dang and Bardiya. He further said that precaution should be taken to avoid drinking water containing arsenic. “Even a single tube well with arsenic contaminated water is a national problem. We are fully aware that it is the state’s duty to raise awareness among the people,” he said.

He further said that the residents of the locality with arsenic-contaminated water have been requested to avoid consuming such water.
[ KATHMANDU, JANUARY 06, 2008, Poush 22, 2064]