Dahal wants to be prime minister. Does he stand a chance?
The Maoist supremo is trying to cash in on internal conflict in the Congress and to leverage his position as kingmaker.
- ANIL GIRI,TIKA R PRADHAN
Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Post File Photo
KATHMANDU, With the counting of both the first-past-the-post (FPTP) and proportional representation (PR) votes of the November 20 elections nearly over, leaders have intensified meetings and behind-the-curtain negotiations to form a new government and, above all, to decide the new prime minister. There are several claimants for the post. Incumbent Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress General Secretary Gagan Thapa, and Congress leader Ram Chandra Paudel, among others, have already staked their claims to the top executive job. And with no party getting a majority, there is no clarity on the shape of the new government as well as on its leadership. A section of the Congress establishment camp has already proposed Deuba for prime minister. “We should not seek an alternative to Deuba,” Congress Vice-president Purna Bahadur Khadka said on Thursday. “We went to the election under his leadership and got respectable results. So no one should doubt that Deuba is the undisputed candidate for parliamentary party leader,” he added. As per the charter of the Nepali Congress, any lawmaker aspiring to become prime minister should first be elected parliamentary party leader. Khadka, a lieutenant of Deuba, met Dahal on Thursday and discussed government formation. But as the new government will be a coalition one, the Congress needs the support of coalition partners to get Deuba appointed as prime minister. Maoist chair Dahal, who claims to have been cheated out of the post by CPN-UML chair KP Sharma Oli in the post-2017 government, is himself waiting in the wings to head the next government. Also, Dahal and Deuba reportedly have a gentleman’s agreement to lead the next government by turns; Maoist Centre insiders say Dahal wants to become prime minister for the first two and a half years. But Deuba is quietly making his own preparations to head the new government and is working to bring the Janamat Party and the Nagarik Unmukti Party, besides the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, on board. On Thursday Deuba separately met Janamat Party chief CK Raut and Loktantrik Samajbadi Party chair Mahantha Thakur. Raut also met Dahal on Thursday evening and discussed the possibility of joining the government. Maoist Centre leaders, meanwhile, are hoping that the ruling alliance would readily accept Dahal as next prime minister, arguing that he played a crucial role in unseating the Oli-led government and rallying support behind Deuba last year. “A section of Nepali Congress leaders also fears that Dahal can switch sides and join the UML camp,” a senior Nepali Congress leader said, adding, “Before Dahal takes such a drastic step, we have to accept him as next prime minister and save the alliance.” UML Chairman Oli, meanwhile, has already invited Dahal to sit for talks to discuss a new leftist government under the latter’s leadership. Oli has reportedly proposed heading the new government alternately for two and a half years each. But Maoist leaders doubt the offer. According to a senior Maoist leader, UML is a divided house with competing interest groups, and Oli’s offer may not be genuine. “We are getting patchy and mixed signals from the UML, so as of now the possibility of our party partnering with the UML is low,” said the Maoist leader. The leader said Dahal has already told some Maoist leaders in private that he will look for an opportunity to lead the next government. But the road to premiership will be a bumpy one for Dahal. Some ruling alliance leaders like Minister for Urban Development of the CPN (Unified Socialist), Metmani Chaudhary, have already announced that Deuba will be the next prime minister. Chaudhary, speaking in Kathmandu on Thursday, even claimed that under a new power-sharing deal, his party is likely to appoint the new Speaker of the House of Representatives while the Maoist Centre’s nominee may be the President. He rejected the possibility of a left coalition government involving the UML and said the current ruling coalition will most likely settle on a power-sharing deal with member parties sharing top posts including the President, Vice-president, Prime Minister, Speaker, Deputy speaker and provincial chief ministers. “A UML-led coalition is not possible now. The existing coalition itself will form the new government. And as the biggest party in the coalition, the Congress has every right to lead the government. The Maoist Centre is the second-largest in the coalition, so it will settle for President,” Chaudhary said. “We may also claim the Speaker’s post. I think talks will move ahead accordingly.” Though vote-counting in the three remaining constituencies—Bajura, Syangja and Dolakha—is under way, the counting of all proportional representation votes is set to be completed and a picture of the parties’ respective strengths is already clear. The Nepali Congress will be the largest party with around 90 seats, followed by the UML with 80 seats, while the Maoist Centre is headed for third position with around 31 seats. The Rastriya Swatantra Party, the new outfit led by journalist Rabi Lamichhane, with around 21 seats, will be the fourth biggest parliamentary party. While some think the chances of Maoist Centre chair Dahal heading the new government have diminished with the party’s ‘unexpectedly poor showing’ in the elections, others believe that Dahal is still a kingmaker and will make best use of his options to get to power. However, given the growing internal conflict within the Congress party with its general secretary Bishwa Prakash Sharma prepared to field Gagan Thapa, another general secretary, for prime minister, some observers say Dahal could take advantage of the infighting and become the prime minister for the first two-year term. Not only General Secretary Thapa, senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel and leader Shekhar Koirala are also eyeing the coveted post. Poudel too has already started lobbying with influential leaders across parties to back his own bid. “There is an intense conflict in the Congress to remove Deuba from the helm,” said Ramesh Malla, chief personal secretary to Maoist chair Dahal. “Although serious discussions on government leadership are yet to start, we cannot rule out the possibility of our chairman leading the new government with Congress’ support.” Meanwhile, Dahal on Wednesday went to Sukute in Sindhupalchok, apparently to seek a respite from Kathmandu’s hectic schedule. There he met his confidants including former speaker Agni Sapkota and expressed his readiness to lead the next government with the coalition’s support. “Our party’s first priority is to form a government from within the existing coalition and we believe our party chair should get to lead the government in the first go,” Maoist Centre’s Sindhupalchok district in-charge Madhav Sapkota, who won the parliamentary seat from Sindhupalchowk-1, told the Post. Dahal’s trip was arranged by Sapkota. As part of the coalition’s preparations to form new government, Dahal along with CPN (Unified Socialist) chair Madhav Nepal and Nepal Samajbadi Party chair Baburam Bhattarai recently met Resham Chaudhary, the jailed leader of the Nagarik Unmukti Party (which has won three FPTP seats in the lower house), at Dillibazar Sadarkhor prison. Meanwhile, two Unified Socialist leaders talking to the Post dismissed the possibility of the Congress supporting Dahal’s bid for prime minister. “The first priority of the Congress establishment faction is prime minister for Deuba and if not, it could propose Ram Chandra Poudel for the post. I don’t think they will back a communist to lead the government,” said a senior Unified Socialist leader asking not to be named. The leader also rejected the possibility of Dahal partnering with the UML to become prime minister. “I have also heard of Oli’s PM proposal for Dahal. But I don’t think they can muster a majority.”
Migration turning hill villages into ghost towns
Villages in Ramechhap, Dhankuta lie abandoned and fields fallow with residents leaving in search of greener pastures.
- TIKA PRASAD BHATTA,Ramesh Chandra Adhikari
Motimaya Tamang outside her house in Nagdaha of Likhu Tamakoshi, Ramechhap. Post Photo: Tika Prasad Bhatta
Ramechhap / Dhankuta Motimaya Tamang, a 73-year-old woman of Nagdaha, Likhu Tamakoshi Rural Municipality-5, in Ramechhap, lives alone. These days she works in her field from sunrise till sundown ploughing, harvesting millet and cutting hay. A mother of two sons, Tamang says the responsibility of running a household and taking care of the fields is becoming too much for her but as she has no one to help her, she perseveres. “My sons live in Kathmandu with their wives. They don’t want to come back to the village but I can’t leave the fields fallow and the house decrepit, so I keep working,” said Tamang. “My children ask me to move to the city with them but Nagdaha is my home, I can’t leave.” Tamang wakes up in the morning, gets busy with household chores and settles down for a meal. By afternoon, she’s out in the fields. “I’m not young anymore so there are aches and pains everywhere. But if I don’t take care of the house, it will start crumbling,” said Tamang. At present, every Nagdaha villager has a similar story to tell. With the days getting colder, the villagers are working hard in the fields to harvest millet. But like Tamang’s, almost every household in the village is empty of young people—only the elderly remain. “The temperature is dipping. It gets dark early and these old bones cry for rest,” said Tamang. “But the fields need to be tended to; meals need to be cooked. We get no rest.” According to the data of the municipality, the total population of the Likhu Tamakoshi-5, is 5,600, but the villages are mostly empty. Around 470 elderly people in the ward get social security allowance from the municipality. “There are around 200 households in the village and in most of the houses only elderly people remain as most of the young people have left the village in search of employment,” said Tamang. “Some older people have also left with their children. Their houses are on the verge of collapse and their fields fallow.” Laxman Shrestha, a 55-year-old man, lives in his ancestral village with his wife. His four children left for greener pastures and haven’t returned, says Shrestha. “It’s just me and my wife here. We have three daughters and one son. My daughters are all married off and my son went to Kolkata, India for employment. He died there,” said Shrestha. “The lack of young people in the villages becomes more evident during the harvest season. The elderly folks can be seen working in the fields from sunrise to sunset. My wife and I do the same.” Seventy-year-old Bir Bahadur Magar, former ward chairman of Likhu Tamakoshi Ward No 5, says he doesn’t want to work the fields anymore, but has no option. “The village has turned into a shell of its former self. Sorrow and sadness have taken over. Roads, electricity and schools have reached the village but for whose benefit, we don’t know. There are no children here to attend school,” said Magar. According to Magar, almost half of the houses in the villages are empty with the young people moving away and some convincing their parents to move with them. “Most of my neighbours have moved to Kathmandu to work in factories, construction sites and as drivers there. In most of the houses, one can see only old people. Agriculture has been the way of life in the villages for so long and those who have remained are carrying the tradition forward. But if the young keep leaving the villages, this way of life will soon become extinct,” Magar told the Post. Shrestha, whose son died in Kolkata, says making a living through farming is becoming difficult by the day. “We only have two ropani [0.25 acres] of land. Our harvest lasts us two to three months and then we have no income to see us through the rest of the year,” said Shrestha. “Earlier I used to make wicker baskets and sell them, but now there is no demand for such products in the local market, so I stopped.” The economic condition of the elderly population in the village is worsening by the day, says Aash Bahadur Tamang, a 65-year-old man. “Every week someone or the other is moving out of the villages. But they are young people and can restart life anywhere. The ones who are left behind can’t go anywhere to earn money so they work in the fields and make do with whatever grows in their fields,” said Aash Bahadur. Umesh Gurung, the chairman of Ward No 5 of Likhu Tamakoshi Rural Municipality, says that the youngsters are not to blame for leaving the villages. “Everyone has the right to choose the kind of life they want to live. Rural villages have nothing to offer to the youth. However, leaving their elderly parents to their own devices is also not good. To prevent the youths from leaving, we have to offer them employment opportunities, modern perks and benefits, and develop the rural landscape on par with the urban centres,” said Gurung. All of this is possible, but all three levels of government must work together and find a solution. The local government alone can’t bring major changes. According to Gurung, most development projects in the villages have remained in limbo in the villages for a lack of manpower. “We could hire labour from other places but that just adds to the cost. We are contemplating how to move forward,” he said. Aash Bahadur says people started leaving the villages in droves around 2007-2008. “The villages used to be quite populated until 10-15 years ago. The locals themselves would engage in development projects and even host public gatherings during social occasions,” he said. “But now the villages look deserted. Some older people are still here because they don’t want to go to the cities with their children while others don’t have anyone to offer them to leave.” A similar story is playing out across villages in Dhankuta district’s Chaubise Rural Municipality and Chhathar Jorpati Rural Municipality. Villages in both local units have become desolate with almost every second house locked. In the Kuruletenupa village that spans wards 3 and 4 of the rural municipality, hundreds of houses lay abandoned. Only five out of 50 houses in Kuruletenupa are currently occupied. Balananda Adhikari, a local of Kuruletenupa, says his village was one of the largest villages in the rural municipality but in the past decade, it has turned into a ghost village. “Until a decade ago, the villages were full of people and joy. Today many houses are empty; most have been abandoned and are crumbling with the doors and windows broken and hanging on one side,” he said. “The continuous migration of people from villages to cities is a sad reality. When you see a settlement from afar, it looks like a thriving place but when you go near, you’ll see the houses lay in ruins with no one to care for them,” said Adhikari. Gairigaun, Bajthala, and Thulagaun settlements near Kuruletenupa village are also mostly deserted. “Currently, out of the 22 houses in Thulagaun, all are empty except three,” said Adhikari. Similarly, in Dadagaun in ward 3 of the rural municipality, only two families out of 26 families still live there. In Andheri in the same ward, out of the 20 houses, only one is occupied. According to Gopi Krishna Bhandari of Kuruletenupa, people started leaving the villages after struggling with problems such as shortage of drinking water, basic health facilities, schools and such. Rajkumar Chemjong, chairman of the Chaubise Rural Municipality, said that 300 families have relocated from Wards 3 and 4 over the past decade. “We have been making efforts to stop the migration, but in vain,” he said. In ward 4 of Chhathar Jorpati Rural Municipality, out of about 150 houses, only 31 are inhabited. According to Shankar Ojha, facilitator of the rural municipality, people started deserting the villages more than a decade ago after the water sources dried up. “Perhaps people did not stay here because there were no economic activities or income-generating opportunities. The municipality has taken several steps to keep people back in the villages. We launched a programme to provide cattle for free to those who come back to live here, but there were no takers,” he said. Adhikari, from Kuruletenupa, says most of the traditional houses in villages are crumbling, which signifies the collapse of a way of life. “If these houses are not restored and protected as cultural heritages, and the people not recalled, we may lose an important part of history.”
KMC to discuss squatter problem with government agencies and stakeholders
Municipal police has charged 18 people from Thapathali squatter settlement with assault after staff injuries Monday.
- ANUP OJHA
Squatters at Thapathali chant slogans against the Kathmandu MetropolitanCity’s attempts to remove their settlement on Bagmati riverside. Post Photo: Angad dhakal
KATHMANDU, The Kathmandu Metropolitan City, which on Monday tried to forcefully remove the squatter settlement on the banks of the Bagmati river in Thapathali, has since softened on its approach. The city office has said that it would now be consulting with other government agencies for a solution. On Monday, Raju Nath Panday, chief of the city police, and a large number of city police personnel under the command of Mayor Balendra Shah had reached the settlement in Thapathali with two excavators. But as soon as they reached the settlement, they faced aggressive retaliation from the squatters, resulting in violent clashes between the two sides. Panday and over a dozen city police were injured as squatters attacked them with stones and brickbats. Three of them had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Centre in Norvic Hospital. The city police has lodged a First Information Report (FIR) at the District Police Range, Teku against 18 people who live in the settlement. Mayor Shah, who was praised by a section of the people for demolishing the illegally built structures, deployed the city police at the squatter settlement after the High Powered Committee for Integrated Development of Bagmati Civilisation (HPCIDBC) sought KMC’s support in clearing the encroachments. He allegedly didn’t consult other concerned bodies. The Committee had issued a notice to the squatters for a third time on November 11 to vacate the settlement by November 20. Because of the eviction notice, more than 900 squatters around the Thapathali settlement have been living in constant fear of being attacked by the city police. They chanted slogans against Mayor Shah and home minister Bal Krishna Khad. Since the clashes, the squatters have been protesting against the City. The committee’s report shows that at present, as many as 34,096 squatter families are living on the banks of the Bagmati river. Meanwhile, in an executive meeting of the City held on Wednesday, many ward representatives questioned Mayor Shah’s ‘immature’ decision and the consequences faced by the city police. They also sought the reasons behind a lack of cooperation among the security agencies. “The city has cooperated with HPCIDBC and is in a drive to remove the illegal structures, that’s why we reached the settlement,” said Bhoop Dev Shah, secretary to Mayor Shah. He said that the city will now go ahead consulting with the Urban Development Ministry, National Land Commission, Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA), HPCIDBC, National Land Commission, respective ward committees, representatives of squatters and other stakeholders. Two days after the clashes between the City and squatters, the KVDA, on Wednesday, issued a 35-day notice to remove illegal structures constructed on encroached public lands. The authority has even warned of charging the costs incurred on the demolition drive from the concerned individuals or organisations if they didn’t remove such structures on their own. “Sooner or later, we will regain the public land and no one will be allowed to encroach any public land,” said Shah, the mayor’s secretary. The KMC officials also expressed their dissatisfaction with the security agencies for not giving their full support to the city police. In Monday’s clashes, the squatters attacked the city police with stones, bricks and sharp weapons. They accused the Nepal Police and Armed Police Force who were deployed there in large numbers of remaining meek spectators to the violence in the area. “The Home Ministry should either support the KMC or should clearly tell us that they can’t give us security,” Shah said. “If that’s the case, we would move on our own.” Since Monday’s incident, the general public seems to be sharply divided. Some have applauded Mayor Shah, saying that he had taken the right decision to regain the public land by removing illegal settlers. Others, however, accused him of being ‘inhuman’, taking “immature steps without doing a proper study on issues like identifying the genuine squatters and the fake ones.” Earlier, in May 2012, the Baburam Bhattarai-led government had demolished 251 squatter huts at the same settlement by deploying over 1,000 security personnel. To relocate the squatters, the government had then built a settlement at Ichangu Narayan in Nagarjun hills, spending Rs230 million. The buildings have remained unused since the squatters have refused to relocate.
3 dead, 7 hurt in jeep accident
EAST NAWALPARASI: Three persons died and seven got injured after a jeep fell about 150 metres off a road at Hupsekot Rural Municipality, in East Nawalparasi on Thursday. The condition of three injured is critical. The jeep was heading for Dedhgaun from Daldale Bazaar. According to District Police Chief Bhubaneshwar Tiwari, all the dead were residents of Boudikali and Bulingtar rural municipalities. Police reached the incident site and rescued the injured, Tiwari said. Among the seven injured, three are in critical condition.
Re-polling held in 10 centres
DOLAKHA: The Election Commission conducted re-polling at 10 voting centres in the disrict Thursday after charges of ballot stuffing during the elections on November 20. According to the chief election officer Dilliratna Shrestha, there are a total of 8,514 eligible voters in the area. The re-polling was held at voting centres A and B of Putalikath, Baiteshwari Rural Municipality-2 and at voting centres A, B, and C at ward 3 of the rural municipality. Also, re-polling was held at A, B and C centres in ward 6 of the rural municipality, and voting centres A and B in ward 3 of Tamakoshi Rural Municipality.
Girl run over by earth mover dies
DHANGADI: A 14-year-old girl was killed after being run over by a grader in Dhangadi on Thursday. According to the local police, the grader owned by Kalika Construction was levelling the road near Hasanpur Pipal Chautara was on a reverse gear when it ran over the girl. The girl, an eighth-grade student of Hasanpur-based Panchodaya Secondary School, died on the spot, police said. Police have taken grader operator Bimal Kumal, 27, of Bharatpur Metropolitan City, Chitwan, into custody.
Dolphins sighted in Narayani
EAST NAWALPARASI: Dolphins were sighted in the Narayani river near Amaltari in Kawasoti Municipality. Tek Mahato, a nature guide, spotted two dolphins in the river on Wednesday. “We were searching for the dolphins for the past two weeks after the locals informed us about it,” Mahato said. “We saw two dolphins while we were boating near the Amaltari ghat.” Environmentalists have said dolphins are on the verge of extinction in the Narayani river due to increasing pollution.
Lawmaker-elects trying to act as executives even before swearing-in
Experts on parliamentary affairs say the elected representatives should instead focus on how to perform their roles in the House effectively.
- BINOD GHIMIRE
KATHMANDU, On Monday, Mahesh Bartaula, a newly elected member of the House of Representatives from Makwanpur-2, inspected Krishi Samagri Kendra in Hetauda and asked the officials why the farmers were not getting chemical fertilisers. He also directed Prakash Gyawali, director of the centre, to immediately start distributing fertiliser to the farmers in his constituency. Bartuala defeated Birodh Khatiwada, former minister and a Standing Committee member of the CPN (Unified Socialist), in the November 20 parliamentary election. He started directing the officials just a day after receiving the certificate of election. A day later, Deepak Singh, a newly elected member from Makwanpur-1, reached the Hetauda Hospital for inspection. Singh not just said he would work towards improving the health services in the district but also asked the hospital authority to improve its services right away. The vote count for the federal and provincial assembly elections is on the verge of conclusion. As of Thursday, 162 members like Bartula and Singh have been elected under the first-past-the-past system. Though they have received their certificates, they are yet to take the oath of office to formally become lawmakers. However, many of them have already started acting not just as lawmakers but more than that. Laxmi Prasad Gautam, joint secretary of law at the Parliament Secretariat, says those who have been elected to the House can behave like lawmakers only after they are administered the oath. Gautam says that every individual, not just the elected representatives, can seek updates from the authority on any development project or an issue of their concern. But as lawmakers they cannot directly instruct the government agencies to do something. “As the people’s representatives, they [lawmakers] can definitely take updates on every activity of public concern,” said Gautam. “However, I don’t think any law authorises them to issue directives.” MP-elects from the newly formed Rastriya Swatantra Party that has performed exceptionally well in the polls have left others behind in ordering government agencies. A few days earlier, RSP President Rabi Lamichhane visited a road section in his Chitwan-2 constituency with officials where he grilled them why the works hadn’t been completed. In a video widely circulated on social media, he is heard asking the officials to ensure the road section is completed within the deadline. “No excuse for further delay is accepted,” he is heard saying. Following in his footsteps is Hari Dhakal, a recently elected member of the lower house from Chitwan-1 for Lamichhane’s party. A few days earlier, he reached the construction site of a bridge over Pampha Khola in Rapti Municipality-7. From there he called the constructor not to delay the construction on any pretext. “I don’t want to hear anything. I want the bridge to be completed by the end of the current fiscal year, that’s it. Only thing I understand is you are completing the bridge in the next seven months,” he is heard saying in a widely circulated video. Experts on parliamentary affairs say the newly elected representatives must understand that they are not activists and their position demands some decorum. “Until those newly elected formally take responsibility, they should focus on studying how they should act in Parliament and what their roles and responsibilities are,” Som Bahadur Thapa, former secretary of Parliament told the Post. “They must demonstrate maturity in their actions.” Lawmakers’ role is policy formulation and scrutiny over government through Parliament. “Parliament is a proper channel to direct the government and its subordinates,” said Thapa. “Lawmakers should not try to function as executives.”
Utility seeks bids to supply solar power to grid
The electricity authority is buying solar power through competitive bidding, ending the fixed rate regime.
- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA
KATHMANDU, Nepal Electricity Authority has invited proposals from developers for setting up solar plants connected to the grid so they can sell power through competitive bidding. The NEA plans to buy a maximum 100MW of power from such solar plants proposed to be developed by the private sector at 16 locations across the country. Up to 230MW of solar power plants could be developed in those locations. This is for the first time that the state-owned power utility sought to buy solar power through bids. In January, the NEA board had decided to procure solar energy only through bidding, ending the fixed rate regime of the previous three years. The NEA said it sought to buy solar power through open competition to bring down the prices considering the significant cheapening of solar equipment in the neighbouring countries and global market. In March, the power utility had decided to cap the maximum rate to be offered to solar power generators at Rs5.94 per unit. Earlier, the NEA had been signing power purchase agreements with developers at a fixed rate of Rs7.30 per unit based on the Working Procedure on Grid Connected Alternative Electric Energy Development-2017. “Proposals were requested to select the bidders who want to develop power in the designated area and sell electricity to us at less than Rs5.94 per unit,” said NEA Spokesperson Suresh Bhattarai. “We will sign the PPA only with the developers who pass technical evaluation and offer competitive bids below the maximum price ceiling.” As per the notice issued on November 28, the bidders can submit RfPs by February 26. As per the bid notice, the solar project must be commissioned within 18 months from the date of PPA signing between the NEA and the developer. As per the notice, bidder(s) can propose a maximum capacity set for specific locations ranging from 10MW to 30MW based on the location. They cannot propose to deliver less than 1MW at the delivery point. The bidder can choose any solar photovoltaic power generation technology. The developer will also be responsible for evacuating power from the plant to the nearby NEA substation, according to the RfP notice. The power utility will sign the PPA with the developers for 25 years as per the Working Procedure on Grid Connected Alternative Electric Energy Development-2021. After that period, the developers have to hand over the solar plants along with the land used to the government. However, solar power producers say the price cap on solar power could make many solar plants unfeasible as the prices of solar panels have risen globally again amid supply constraints and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Investors may need to wait for 15 to 20 years to recover their investment,” Bharat Kumar Malla, senior vice-president of the Solar Electric Manufacturers Association Nepal told the Post in October. “The investors will rethink whether to invest in solar plants in Nepal.” Currently, the contribution of solar power in the country’s energy mix is minimal. According to the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, as much as 44 megawatts of solar energy has been connected to the national grid as of last fiscal year ended mid-July. This contributes 1.94 percent to Nepal’s total installed capacity. Nepal’s total power generation in mid-July stood at 2268MW, according to the energy ministry. The power monopoly made a move to buy solar energy in volumes as part of implementing the government policy of increasing the share of other renewable sources such as solar and wind to 10 percent of the total installed capacity. The government aims to increase the share of solar and wind power as a generation mix would bolster energy security considering that heavy reliance on a single source could be risky. Ram Prasad Dhital, former board member of the Electricity Regulatory Commission, told the Post in October that the country needs to diversify its energy mix to ensure energy security considering that Nepal is prone to earthquakes and landslides that could affect hydropower projects. The Department of Electricity Development has issued survey licences for 44 projects with a combined capacity of 1,238.7 megawatts. Major projects getting survey licences include the 300MW Jhapa SPV Power Plant and the 200MW Nepalgunj SPV Power Plant to be developed by GT Energy; 250MW Grid Connected Solar Project in Kohalpur; and Banganga to be developed by Risen Clean Energy Nepal. On top of that, the department has issued construction licences for 21 solar projects with a combined capacity of 133.56MW.
Nepal disease control body to study high dengue mortality
Sixty-two people died and around 54,000 have been infected by the deadly virus in Nepal this year alone.
- Arjun Poudel
This file photo shows a nurse tending to a dengue patient at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku, Kathmandu. Post File Photo: Elite Joshi
KATHMANDU, The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division has said that it has started a study on the cause of the high death rate from infection of the dengue virus. Since January, at least 62 people have died and around 54,000 others were infected by the virus, which has spread to all 77 districts of the country, according to the Ministry of Health and Populations. “Deaths from infection from the dengue virus is too high and we have started a comprehensive study to determine the cause of deaths,” said Dr Gokarna Dahal, chief of the Vector Control Section at the division. “A team of experts will analyse the cause of deaths from various aspects.” Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted by female Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. The same vector also transmits chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika, according to the World Health Organisation. Post-monsoon is considered a high transmission season for dengue, but Nepal has witnessed outbreaks of the deadly disease since the start of the year and in the pre-monsoon and monsoon seasons as well. Officials said that the deadly virus has become endemic, as cases of infection of the virus have been reported in all months throughout the year. Experts say reported dengue cases could be just the tip of the iceberg, as around 90 percent of the dengue-infected people do not show any symptoms. Those closely tracking the cases suspect many more people could have succumbed to the disease as not all deaths are reported, just like during the Covid pandemic. Negligence in the case of management, taking preventive measures, lack of awareness about the risks among the public, and delay in seeking health care services after infections could be among the reasons for the high death rate from infection of the virus, according to experts. An expert team is tasked to analyse the type of population, which have been severely affected by the infection. “We will also review, if the preventive measures taken by agencies concerned the three tiers of governments—federal, provincial, and local level, were effective or not,” said Dahal. Doctors say that many people infected with dengue have not been seeking hospital care, which is also the reason for the decline in reported cases. Dengue virus serotype 1 (DENV-1), 2 (DENV-2), and 3 (DENV-3) have been found responsible for the dengue epidemic in the country. Studies were carried out at the Tribhuvan University and the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, according to officials at the Health Ministry. Another extensive study jointly carried out by the National Public Health Laboratory and the Nepal Health Research Council has also been completed. Dengue cases have declined significantly amid dipping temperatures. But 15 to 20 people are still testing positive for dengue every day. Entomologists warn that dengue spread has gone down naturally but the risks are still there. They say that a new surge could start once the temperature rises, as no serious initiatives have been taken to destroy the eggs of infected mosquitoes. “All deaths from dengue virus should be analysed thoroughly and its underlying cause established,” said Sishir Panta, an entomologist. “Many other shortcomings could be responsible for a wide spread of the virus and high severity and death rate which should also be analysed properly and further plannings should be made accordingly.” Nepal has witnessed a dengue epidemic every two or three years. In 2019, at least six people died and over 17,000 were infected by the virus, which had spread to 68 districts.
IOC slashes petrol, disease prices and increases LPG rate
KATHMANDU: Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) on Thursday sent a revised rate of petroleum products to Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC). As per the latest rate, the Indian utility has decreased the price of petrol and diesel while increasing the cost of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). “As per the latest rate received from the IOC, the price of petrol has decreased by Rs2.38 and diesel by Rs11.26 per litre,” said Birendra Goit, director of supply and distribution department of the NOC. “The price of LPG has increased by Rs 45 per cylinder.” Nepali customers, however, will not benefit from the revised prices unless the NOC decreases the prices of the petroleum products accordingly in the domestic market.
US envoy Thompson meets Prime Minister Deuba
KATHMANDU: US Ambassador Dean Thompson met Prime Minister Deuba on Wednesday evening. This is the first meeting between Deuba and Thompson since the latter arrived in Nepal on October 13 to take up his new assignment. Foreign Relations Adviser to the prime minister Arun Subedi said that Thompson congratulated Deuba for holding successful elections to the federal and provincial parliaments. During the meeting, the US envoy said that the United States hopes that the recent elections would strengthen the democratic process in Nepal, according to Subedi. In response, Deuba thanked the US for its support in Nepal’s democratic transition, democracy, human rights and development endeavors, Subedi. He added that the prime minister expressed hope that the US will continue to support Nepal.
Deuba expresses condolence on Jiang Zemin’s demise
KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has expressed condolences on the passing of Jiang Zemin, the former president of the People’s Republic of China. Deuba took to Twitter on Thursday to extend his condolence. “I am deeply saddened by the passing away of former president of the People’s Republic of China Mr. Jiang Zemin. He was a great friend and well wisher of Nepal,” read the Tweet. “I would like to express my deepest condolences to the Government and the people of China and the bereaved family members.” Jiang Zemin (1926-2022) was the President of China from 1993-2003 and visited Nepal in 1996. He also met several Nepali leaders, including late king Birendra Shah in 2001 in Boao Forum for Asia, Hainan. In July 2022, Jiang met with former king Gyanendra Shah in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Jiang died on Wednesday at the age of 96 of leukemia and multiple organ failure, according to the Chinese state media.
Major parties are running out of excuses to deny election tickets to marginalised.
A fair number of young candidates winning the first-past-the-post (FPTP) elections for the federal Parliament is something to be celebrated. The sad bit is that the incoming Parliament is still going to be homogenous, with low representation of historically marginalised groups like women, Dalits and Janajatis. Only one Dalit candidate has won under the FPTP system. A total of 16 Dalit candidates will be represented after factoring in PR seats. Thereafter, Dalits will comprise 5.8 percent of the 275-member federal lower house, even as they make up 13.8 percent of the national population. Likewise, just eight women have been elected through the FPTP system thus far. Forget that there are more women than men in the country; even the constitutional requirement of 33 percent women’s representation in Parliament is likely to be flouted by exploiting procedural loopholes. The total representation of Janajatis will be slightly better—with 24 percent representation against the national population of 38 percent—but again far from satisfactory. The parties failed to field more candidates from marginalised groups under the FPTP system mainly because of the belief that such candidates cannot win elections. There is some truth to it. Women and members of the traditionally marginalised communities often lack the kind of money and muscle power that, for example, seasoned Khas-Arya male politicians bring to the election table. They are thus at a disadvantage right from the get go. Yet the results of recent elections also suggest the fast-changing electorate is more than willing to vote for clean and capable candidates, irrespective of their ethnic, gender or socio-economic backgrounds. The power of money and muscle, which have traditionally been instrumental in determining electoral outcomes in Nepal, is evidently on the decline. The major parties are thus fast running out of excuses not to give tickets to promising candidates from the marginalised groups. This phenomenon can also be seen as an extension of lack of internal democracy in political parties. Again, their top echelons are filled with upper-caste men who are reluctant to trust either women or members of other ethnic communities with important responsibilities. Yet they all talk big, as is evident in their high-sounding manifestos promising a more “inclusive and equitable” Nepal. In reality, they continue to view the idea of representation and affirmative politics through the lens of tokenism rather than as a matter of conviction. No political party that keeps away large sections of the society from important decision-making posts can be termed a democratic outfit; equitable representation is the bedrock of democracy. The hope again is that a third of the parliamentarians who have made it to the house for the very first time will lead this fight for more inclusiveness in all state organs, and in the political parties they represent. It should now be their responsibility to enact (and push for the implementation of) affirmative action policies to remove the traditional barriers members of the marginalised communities face on their quest for greater political representation. Only then will the national Parliament be a truly vibrant place for discussion of competing ideas and visions.
Power to the provinces
The provincial governments should be allowed to choose their own electricity future.
- BISHAL THAPA
Balen Shah, mayor of Kathmandu, and Rabi Lamichhane, newly elected Member of Parliament from Chitwan-2, did not cast their votes for the Provincial Assemblies. Both of them oppose the structure of the provinces in Nepal’s federal set-up. Lamichhane indicated he was not for scrapping the provinces, he just wanted certain reforms. Shah, who has been bulldozing illegal structures around Kathmandu, perhaps would like to drive a bulldozer over the part about provinces in the constitution. Exactly why or what they oppose or wish to reform is not clear. Both have won convincing victories, and are widely regarded as agents of change and symbols of hope. Their voice, or in this case, their symbolic protest by refusing to vote, matters deeply. But this is no time to doubt the relevance of the provinces. If utilised as the constitution intended, the provinces could be the most important component driving the systemic changes that Shah and Lamichhane are seeking to lead.
Lame arguments I draw upon a story from the energy sector to illustrate how the provinces could sustain positive long-term changes and invite the mayor and the MP to reconsider their opposition. This June, the provinces announced an annual budget of Rs305 billion, a 17 percent increase over last year. Approximately 15,000 staffers currently work in the provincial governments. Most of the key organisations and institutional arrangements have been established. But the provincial governments have yet to become truly meaningful. It is also important that change agents like Shah and Lamichhane not fall for lame arguments. One such claim is that this system is too expensive administratively for Nepal’s size and economy. This argument is fallacious. By this reasoning, a dictatorship would be the most cost efficient system. But I’m sure that is not the vision that Shah and Lamichhane are promoting. The federal government is yet to pass any legislation that empowers the provinces in the energy or environment sector. The Environment Protection Act 2019, for instance, provides some authority to the provinces and local governments; but contains ambiguities like an unfunded mandate to undertake unspecified activities. Assessing the failures of the provincial governments without recognising the fact that the federal government is dictating the terms is a bit like choking someone and wondering why he is not breathing. In the evolving landscape of Nepal’s federal structure, the provinces could play a critical role in driving positive change. To see how, consider this. In September 2022, the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation withdrew an amendment to the Electricity Act-1992 that had been placed for consideration before Parliament. The amendment attempted to introduce a wide range of reforms: Improve the corporate structure of the Nepal Electricity Authority; reduce licence requirements; open access in transmission; unbundle the utility into generation, distribution and transmission; retail electricity competition; and integrate renewable energy. These reforms are widely needed. But sensing a lack of broad-based political support, the ministry withdrew the proposed amendment from Parliament. This attempt to reform the Electricity Act may have failed for many reasons. One may be that there wasn’t enough support for these amendments. Since the Nepal Electricity Authority is now a profitable institution, electricity supply is abundant and new generating capacity is in the pipeline, the urgency for reform may have appeared weak. But this doesn’t mean the underlying basis for reforms proposed in the amendment isn’t necessary. On the contrary, they are critical to the long-term growth and continued success of Nepal’s electricity sector. But who will be the champion of these reforms? This is where the provinces have a special role to play as champions of reform and advocates for change. The provinces must be able to invoke the authority granted to them under the constitution. Schedule 9 lists electricity services, along with water supply and irrigation, under the “List of Concurrent Powers of Federation, State and Local Level”. Despite this authority, there is no real effort to understand or assess what that authority means, and more importantly, how it could be institutionalised. One way to move forward could be to establish a vision for the electricity sector. Besides unbundling the power utility, its ownership could be devolved into the provinces. Some provinces may then choose to privatise their power utilities. Some may decide to involve private sector players. Some may choose to open distribution to retail competition where customers can choose their own suppliers, enable open access and introduce other models for competition. All of this will require a strong regulatory foundation, akin to the amendments of the Electricity Act. If Nepal’s constitution allowed the provincial governments to pick their names and capitals, surely, they could be allowed to choose their own future on electricity.
Champions of reform Nepal’s constitution grants the provinces and local governments the authority and responsibility over the electricity sector. By staking claim to that authority, they could provide what the electricity sector currently lacks: champions of reform. Reform-minded, forward-looking emerging leaders such as Shah and Lamichhane, who embody the hope of many Nepalis, must also recognise this opportunity for system-wide reform. They must translate these opportunities into credible mass movements for reform instead of becoming just another cult of personality. The devolution of power from the centre to the provinces and local governments, and ultimately the people of Nepal, is the core philosophy of the constitution. In the energy sector, the provinces have the power to champion and bring about reform that has eluded it for decades. Prominent leaders, like the mayor of Kathmandu and the parliamentarian from Chitwan, must explore ways to mobilise the provinces to deliver what Nepal’s constitution truly intended for the Nepali people.
Thapa holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Maryland and currently works in the energy sector.
Blaming it all on climate change
Climate change brings many problems. But should all extreme events be attributed to it?
- SUBASH PANDEY
Post File Photo
A good understanding of a problem depends on one’s ability to ask the right questions. Asking the right question is paramount when it comes to extreme natural events and attributing them to climate change. Moreover, there is this saying: A problem well-defined is a problem half-solved. One of the greatest climate scientists and communicators, Professor Katherine Hayhoe shared on Twitter: “‘Was it caused by climate change?’ is the most common question when we hear about an extreme event. But when it comes to hurricanes, that’s the wrong question. The right one is, ‘How much worse did climate change make it?”’ Professor Hayhoe refers to hurricanes here, but this is equally applicable to other extreme events like flash floods, heatwaves, large-scale landslides, forest fires, and heavy downpours that strike Nepal every year.
Attributing extreme events to climate change In Nepal or elsewhere, attributing all these extreme events to climate change has become a norm for politicians, bureaucrats, and contractors to escape from their responsibilities and hide their incompetencies. Climate change might have accelerated those extreme events, but the root cause of disasters from extreme events could be the construction of roads in hilly regions without proper consultation with technicians, poor management of forests, not abiding by building codes and land-use planning, or events stemming from weak planning and policies. Climate attribution science, also known as extreme event attribution (EEA), is a new branch of climate science that tries to address whether climate change has influenced “the likelihood and/or severity of individual extreme events” based on longer observational records and advanced climate models. But there are a lot of challenges for this new science to evolve, especially in countries like Nepal, where there is a lack of trustworthy historical data on climate change. We have enough evidence to say that anthropogenic activities are responsible for the observed 1.2 degrees Celsius rise in the global average temperature. In Nepal, the rising temperatures are rapidly melting glaciers in the Hindukush Himalayan region, increasing the threat of Glacial Lake Out-Burst Floods (GLOFs). Rainfall has become too erratic and unpredictable here. However, we can’t confidently link extreme natural events and resulting disasters to only climate change because of its complexities and other additional management factors responsible for it.
Application of EEA It is difficult to find research; there’s not even one from Nepal on extreme event attribution to climate change on google scholar. Lack of research on EEA might be a consequence of poor records of historical and observational climate data in addition to lack of climate scientists who focus on advanced climate models for their research in Nepal. However, we can learn from the application of extreme event attribution in other countries, especially the US. The US is the most politically divided country regarding climate change, and people are sceptical of linking extreme events to climate change. As many as 43 percent of total Americans deny anthropogenic climate change at all. In this situation, EEA has become instrumental in answering the question of the contribution of climate change to extreme events like hurricanes, mega-drought, and large wildfires across the western US forests. In recent decades, forest fire in the US has been enabled by multiple factors, including poor forest management (fire suppression), human settlements, natural climate variability, and human-caused climate change. Extreme event attribution research shows that anthropogenic climate change accounted for an almost 55 percent increase in fuel availability by increasing aridity and contributed to an additional 4.2 million hectares of wildfires between 1984-2015. In the absence of human-caused climate change, this additional forest fire area would have been avoided. Similarly, another study finds that anthropogenic trends in “temperature, relative humidity, and precipitation” estimated from 31 climate models accounted for 47 percent of the 2000-2018 mega-drought severity in the US. Moreover, there is another significant study conducted in West Africa. Using a process-based crop model, one study shows that anthropogenic climate change caused regional average yield reductions of 10-20 percent, and 5-15 percent for millet and sorghum, respectively, over the period 2000-2009. Over the same period, the yield reduction accounted for $2.33-$4.02 billion loss for millet and $0.73-$2.17 billion, for sorghum. The authors of this study argue that similar research and findings could be a basis for the loss and damage, which was the primary agenda of many poor countries at COP 27 in Egypt this November.
What lessons can Nepal learn? Unfortunately, one has to cite findings on extreme event attribution from other parts of the world as there is no such study in Nepal. Therefore, Nepal should first invest in research on EEA and keep a good record of all climate variables (not only precipitation and temperatures). Similarly, responding to how anthropogenic climate change has contributed to extreme events in Nepal would not only help make our politicians, bureaucrats, and developmental contractors transparent and accountable for their work but also strengthen the position of countries like Nepal at the annual COP. The main agenda of developing countries at future COP will be the operationalisation of the loss and damage fund established under the UNFCCC at COP 27 in Egypt. Developed countries led by the US at COP 26 in Glasgow refused separate funding for loss and damage, citing insufficient scientific evidence for such a claim. Research on EEA will support developing countries in quantifying the loss and damage. We hear many activists and scholars in Nepal focusing more on climate finance, especially for loss and damage. Along with climate finance, they also need to raise voices on strengthening the research capacity that would answer questions related to climate change and extreme events, which would make our claim for loss and damage robust. Moreover, mainstream media reporting on such events should not hype the extreme events just by linking them to climate change. While interviewing climate scientists or reporting on extreme events, they should stop asking, “Did climate change cause this specific extreme event?” as the answer to such a question will always be “no”. Rather they should ask, as Professor Katherine Hayhoe asks, “How much worse did climate change make extreme events?” To answer this question, Nepal needs to invest more in climate attribution research.
Pandey is a graduate student of Climate Science and Policy at the Bard College in New York.
Stop fueling Ukraine conflict
Peaceful settlement of the crisis is the only way to end the sufferings of people in Ukraine.
For anyone wishing for an early end of the nearly 10-month Russia-Ukraine conflict, the message from the two-day NATO foreign ministers’ meeting that ended in Bucharest, Romania, on Wednesday was not very encouraging. This is because the world’s largest security alliance, rather than exploring the possibilities to realise a negotiated settlement of the crisis by trying to create conditions for peace talks at an early date, seems to be intent on prolonging the hostilities despite the sufferings in Ukraine and the fact the conflict-induced global food and energy crises are pushing more people around the world into extreme poverty and hunger. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday pledged to drum up support for Ukraine aimed at ensuring the defeat of Russia, “because we know that the only way to achieve an outcome of this war which ensures that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation is to strengthen its position on the battlefield”. He also said Moscow cannot stop the alliance’s expansion to include Ukraine. Given that NATO’s continuous eastward expansion has been at least partly responsible for the ongoing conflict, Stoltenberg’s remarks only serve to make a settlement at the negotiation table even more difficult. Moreover, NATO’s confirmation at the meeting that deliveries of more sophisticated missile systems such as Patriot missiles are being considered risks escalating the war into a direct military conflict between NATO and Russia. Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, said on Tuesday on his Telegram channel: “If, as Stoltenberg hinted, NATO supplies … Patriot complexes along with NATO personnel, they will immediately become a legitimate target of our armed forces.” Instead of prolonging and escalating the conflict by supplying Ukraine with weapons, the US, NATO and the European Union should conduct comprehensive dialogue with Russia with the aim of not only bringing an end to the conflict in Ukraine but also resolving their differences with Russia so that a stable security architecture can be established in Europe. All parties concerned should work to realise those goals no matter how dim the prospects are. Continuing on their present course risks turning a Cold War vendetta that is long past its sell-by date into an even broader and more catastrophic hot war. Most pressingly, peaceful settlement of the crisis as soon as possible is the only way to end the sufferings of people in Ukraine, and others around the world who have been impacted by the spillover effects of the hostilities. The conflict has devastated Ukraine’s infrastructure and economy, and forced around 6 million people to flee Ukraine in one of the fastest-growing refugee crises in recent history. Even Stoltenberg admitted, “the price we pay is in money, while the price Ukrainians pay is a price paid in blood.” That should be on his conscience, and all those who are intent on prolonging the conflict.
— The China Daily/ANN
Bridges yet to be built 3 years after road was completed
Lack of river crossings has made life difficult—and dangerous—for the residents of Dolpa, eastern Jajarkot and northern Rukum.
- HARIHAR SINGH RATHORE
Lack of a permanent bridge in the area has made freight charges extremely high. POST PHOTO: HARIHAR SINGH RATHORE
JAJARKOT, The completion of a road linking Dolpa and Jajarkot has brought little cheer to locals because of the absence of bridges. The 118-km road was completed three years ago, but the contractors are yet to build five bridges which means porters still have to carry goods on their backs. Lack of river crossings has made life difficult—and dangerous—for the residents of Dolpa, eastern Jajarkot and northern Rukum, three remote districts in western Nepal. One Bailey bridge at Chaukha in Ragda of Jajarkot district; three concrete bridges at Khadang, Kabargad and Tripurakot Bagar; and another Bailey bridge at Rupgad in Dolpa remain to be built. Workers have only laid a simple foundation at the construction sites. The completion of concrete bridges at Holu Khola, Rimma and Chisapani in Jajarkot, and Bailey bridges at Kaina Khola and Nalgad, has facilitated transportation immensely, but locals continue to face hardships because of delays at other sites. Transportation is expensive, and this has pushed up the cost of everything for residents who are mostly poor. “The price of cement in Dolpa is more than double what it costs in Jajarkot. Cement costs Rs3,500 per quintal in Dolpa while you can buy it for Rs1,600 in Jajarkot. The price of a bundle of tin roofing sheets costing Rs11,000 in Jajarkot goes up to Rs18,000 when it reaches Dolpa. Eggs cost Rs500 per crate, sugar Rs130 per kg, lentils Rs200 per kg and rice Rs100 per kg,” said Tej Prakash Buda, a local businessman of Dolpa. “Lack of bridges has made transportation tremendously difficult and expensive. Because of the high price tags of the goods, there is very little profit for traders,” he said. The government has awarded a contract to build a Bailey bridge at Tallu Bagar over the Bheri River. This bridge connecting Jajarkot and western Rukum is of vital importance because it links Dolpa with the national road network. Lack of a permanent bridge in the area has made freight charges extremely high. Residents of the three districts have to pay more for all their needs despite having a road connection. The government had awarded the Rs38.5 million contract to Him Sagarmatha Khadka Krishna JV last December with a completion deadline of June this year. But workers have only finished building the foundation at one end and erecting a pillar in the middle. “Because of the very slow pace of progress, the contractor was summoned to the office and told to finish the remaining work by mid-January next year,” said Ashutosh Karna, head of the Road Division Office at Chaurjahari. “The construction of Rupagaad bridge near Dunai, the headquarters of Dolpa district, has also been terribly slow. It was supposed to be completed by mid-April this year,” said Karna. “Locals have also been suffering due to the delay in the completion of a bridge over the Bheri River linking Nalgad Municipality-11 of Jajarkot and Aathbiskot Municipality- 6 of Western Rukum,” said Jayakrishna Hamal, a local of Thulibheri Municipality of Dolpa. “The road has been completed, but we haven’t been able to feel that we have a road because there are no bridges. There are nearly five dozen rivers on the road segment. There is no bridge even over the Bheri River. Porters have to carry the goods across the suspension bridges and reload them on the vehicles waiting on the other side of the river,” Hamal said. Vedanidhi Adhikari, chief district officer of Dolpa, said that locals have to take the vehicles across rivers over unsafe wooden bridges as a bridge at Rupgad of Thulibheri Municipality remains unfinished. “The bridge is important to connect the district headquarters Dunai with Jufal and the Bheri Corridor,” said Adhikari. “Market access for local products like apple, Himalayan aromatic herb and other herbs have been difficult, and local traders have been bringing in daily essentials by paying exorbitant truck charges.” According to Adhikari, it costs as much as Rs80 per kg to transport goods from Nepalgunj to Dunai. “Porters charge up to Rs40 per kg to carry goods across suspension bridges. All construction materials have to be transported over the same road, and delays in delivery and high costs are major problems,” said Harichandra Budha, a local trader of Dolpa. “The government has already awarded a contract to blacktop the road from Khalanga, headquarters of Jajarkot district, to Nalgad Municipality-11, and it is sad that the bridge is yet to be built,” Budha added. Local activist Rajendra Bikarm Shah claims that road improvement work has been moving ahead very slowly too, not only bridge building. “Delays in building bridges and upgrading roads have slowed down the construction of a service track for the Jagdulla Hydroelectricity Project,” said Shah. Karna, chief of the Road Division Office, said that the remaining four bridges in the Bheri Corridor would be completed by mid-May next year. “The construction materials have been stored in Surkhet and Nepalgunj, and the contractors have been told to transport them to the project sites and finish them as soon as possible.” The Dolpa-Jajarkot road is part of the Bheri Corridor. It was built by the Nepal Army and handed over to the Nepal government three years ago. The Road Division Office had then commenced the work of road upgradation and bridge construction. “The process of issuing the contract for blacktopping the remaining portion of the road was started after completing an Environmental Impact Assessment and other related tasks. Yet builders have already received the contract to blacktop the road,” said Karna. “It has already been a year since the contract was issued, but the contractor has not begun even the most basic job,” said local resident Bharda Bohora. The construction of the strategically important road connecting Pasagadh, Jajarkot with Dunai, Dolpa began in 2008. Work stopped for two years because of a design conflict, and resumed after it was sorted out.
Chinese farmers let cabbages rot as Covid curbs disrupt sales
Vegetable prices are likely to go up during the Lunar New Year holiday.
A file photo shows a woman buying cabbage at a street stall in Beijing, China. REUTERS
BEIJING, China's vegetable growers are ploughing their produce back into their fields or leaving it to rot, as widespread restrictions to curb the spread of Covid cut off distribution channels and close markets. Thousands of tonnes of vegetables are unsold in central Henan province, one of the country's top producing regions, according to local media reports, charities and farmers, while farmers in northern Shandong province, another top growing region, are also unable to reach markets. Despite a wave of unprecedented protests against tough measures to curb the spread of Covid, China has not relaxed restrictions on movement in many areas in response to record cases of the disease. "I feel so bitter whenever I go to the land and can't help bursting into tears," said a 36-year-old Henan farmer surnamed Wang, who has left his crop of yellow-heart cabbages in the ground to perish in imminent frosts. Wang's cabbage is usually sold in large cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin. This year, his merchant can't reach his farm, and he can only get 35 cents per half kilo compared with 80 cents last year. "I would rather not sell it and leave it there," he said. The situation is exacerbated by a fragmented supply chain, where small farmers sell to middlemen who purchase for large wholesale markets in cities. Many traders are unable to travel, restricted from leaving their homes and prevented from exiting motorways to reach rural areas or other cities. "It's not easy to get off the motorway, and then you're required to quarantine. The cost is too high, so no one dares to do it," said a Shandong-based vegetable buyer surnamed Cui. Cui typically sends up to 20 large trucks of cauliflower, cabbage, and lettuce to markets daily in this season. Now markets in major cities like Handan, Tianjin, and Shijiazhuang are all closed and growers in Shandong are also impacted, he said. "In Dezhou vegetables are all being ploughed into the ground, celery, kale, cabbage, nobody wants them," said Cui. In Henan, where tough Covid measures caused riots last month at the world's largest iPhone factory, more than 900 farmers entered their details on a document circulated online to seek new customers. Others shared videos on social media, showing them ploughing crops into the ground and comparing minimal prices for their produce with high retail prices in cities. Henan produced 76 million tonnes of vegetables last year, or about 10 percent of the nation's supply, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said on Tuesday it had launched an initiative to sell Henan vegetables at large wholesale markets, selling 4,677 tonnes last week. It also set up a hotline to connect farmers with sellers, and said it would find cold storage facilities to stock winter vegetables. Despite such efforts, vegetable prices are likely to go up during the Lunar New Year holiday next month, said Cui. "The local government is too busy with the epidemic. Who cares about vegetables?" he asked.
Finance minister denies economic crisis
The private sector urges the government to be serious, but the government says let’s not spread a false message.
- Post Report
Finance Minister Janardan Sharma (left) during a programme in Kathmandu. PHOTO COURTESY: Society of Economic Journalists Nepal
KATHMANDU, Finance Minister Janardan Sharma, on Thursday, said that the country is not passing through an “economic crisis” as portrayed by the private sector. On Tuesday, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the key private sector body, had warned that the country is in a financial crisis and the government is least bothered about the situation. “It’s not quite at that stage as is being said by the private sector,” said Sharma, speaking at a programme organised on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the Society of Economic Journalists Nepal (SEJON). He urged experts and stakeholders not to call the current situation a “crisis”. “The economic indicators are improving. The construction work will speed up which would increase the capital expenditure.” The central bank’s data also shows that the current economic condition of the country is improving, said Sharma, expressing his dissatisfaction with some individuals and experts who are vocal about the economic situation of the country. “Since the economy is facing various pressures and challenges rather than a crisis, let’s think and discuss the solutions now. Let’s not spread a false message,” said Sharma. Nepal Rastra Bank governor Maha Prasad Adhikari said the world’s economies are under stress. “But, Nepal’s situation is not that bad.” “Compared to other countries in South Asia, except India, Nepal’s economy is stable. But there are challenges too,” said Adhikari.In its 55 years of history, the country for the first time encountered foreign exchange pressures with reserves depleting by $2.34 billion within a year due to external reasons, he added. Adhikari said the central bank is always ready for discussions to find solutions to the problems. Adhikari said the restrictions on imports are not for forever. Though the import ban on certain goods has affected revenue earnings, in many cases, it is positive. Gagan Kumar Thapa, general secretary of the Nepali Congress, said the incoming leadership should have courage to face the economic situation of the country. “We are in an unprecedented crisis and the problem would be resolved, only if we work with determination,” he said. “It is important for the next prime minister to understand the seriousness of the current situation,” said Thapa, adding that the government should conduct open and transparent discussions with different private sector players and shouldn’t ignore them. Shekhar Golchha, president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said that he had not seen any leader who is willing to cooperate with the private sector. “Why is there a trend of being afraid and hesitant to cooperate with the private sector even though it is known that economic development is not possible without the participation of the private sector,” Golchha asked.
Sri Lanka hopes for tourism revival next year
Country to end this calendar year with 750,000 tourist arrivals and about $2 billion in earnings.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka hopes to double tourist arrivals to 1.5 million next year and bring in $5 billion in vital foreign exchange, the tourism minister said on Thursday, as the island nation seeks ways to tackle its worst financial crisis in seven decades. The country of 22 million people, famed for its beaches, ancient temples and aromatic tea, has been struggling for months to pay for essential imports of fuel, food and medicine because of a lack of foreign exchange. "Tourism can play a major role in Sri Lanka's recovery and this is what we are aiming for next year," Tourism Minister Harin Fernando told reporters in Colombo. Sri Lanka would likely end this calendar year with 750,000 tourist arrivals and about $2 billion in earnings, Fernando said, adding his ministry would be targeting high end tourists and introducing new products in 2023. The Indian Ocean island is also rolling back night-time power cuts in tourism zones, as the overall electricity situation improves from 13-hour power cuts earlier in the year, Power Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said on Wednesday. Months of protests, political turmoil, power cuts and fuel queues dampened tourism in Sri Lanka just as it was recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic in mid-2022. An estimated $4 billion loss in tourism revenue over the past two years also contributed to tipping Sri Lanka into the financial crisis, according to former ministers. Sri Lanka signed a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $2.9 bailout in early September but has to get prior financing assurances from private and bilateral creditors, including India, China and Japan before disbursements can begin.
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Pakistan’s consumer price inflation slows to 23.8 percent
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