One question rises above all others on the 2-year anniversary of the earthquake in Nepal: how could it take so long to distribute the government reconstruction grant? Until now, less than 2,000 of the over 600,000 eligible households who lost their homes in the April 24, 2015, disaster have received more than the 1st instalment – a mere 50,000 rs. – an amount which can barely cover the costs of building the foundation for any new house.Shortly after the earthquake, the government high-handedly promised every victim household a total reconstruction grant of 200,000 rs., recently raised to even 300,000 rs., and yet hundreds of thousands of households still live in tin shacks unable to afford building a new house. The situation is more or less the same across the fourteen worst affected districts, as shown opposite. Many of these households – already badly tested by the elements summer and winter – will face a third monsoon under a tin roof. The official reason for the government’s delay in distributing the grant starts with problems of making an ”exact count” of the victims. Then comes difficulties in issuing ”victim’s ID cards” and a troubled procedure of releasing the grants only through local bank accounts. Along the way, political in-fighting over who was to chair the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) only made matters worse. Can these problems, though, explain the whole delay in distributing the reconstruction grant? Well, it’s hard to judge or know for sure. But it’s certain that the earthquake has proven to be a prolonged disaster:
Living under a tin roof will continue for the far majority of victim households for still some months to come!
Wild animals lurk as a real threat to villagers living near some of Nepal’s national parks and local forests. In some districts, the risk of animal attack even exists inside the local towns. These attacks are a tragic reminder of how difficult it can be to achieve peaceful coexistence where human settlements and animal territories overlap. Last month alone witnessed several attacks involving all of Nepal’s “big five”:BEAR. On January 30, a 54-year-old man in Salyan district was attacked by a bear just outside his home. He was the fourth villager in his area to be injured by the animal! Says one of the locals: “A bear along with a cub keeps entering the village in the evening after 5, attacking anyone it comes across”.
RHINO. On January 28, a 35-year-old woman in Chitwan was out on her daily routine, collecting cattle fodder inside the jungle area, when she encountered a rhino. Many villagers who live near the jungle collect fodder, and rhinos are a quite common site. But in this case the rhino charged – and the woman was killed.
LEOPARD. On January 8, four men were injured as a leopard was cornered and turned aggresive in a village in Kanchanpur district. Indeed, leopards are a real threat far beyond local forests and national parks. Last summer, a leopard attack occurred as a 61-year-old woman was stalked and killed just outside her village home at 10 at night.
TIGER. On February 7, one police officer and two other men were injured while trying to capture a tiger that had run amok in a village adjacent to the Parsa Wildlife Reserve. In fact, they were lucky. Last November, a 45-year-old man in a Nawalparasi village was killed by a tiger when out collecting grass for his cattle.ELEPHANTS. Wild elephants – the last of the “big five” – are in fact responsible for the highest number of fatalities as well as destruction of crops and houses. For example, just before New Year, a herd of elephants ravaged through a small town in Bardiya district, killing one man and injuring two others.
How big, though, is the risk of animal attack? Indeed, in the country as a whole it is quite low. One study shows that from 2010 to 2014, elephants – on top of the list – attacked 27 people a year on average, killing 18, while tigers – at the bottom – attacked 9 people a year, killing 5. So, the risk is relatively low.
But locally, the threat of animal attack can be a huge issue. In villages around the jungle reserves in Chitwan and Bardiya, villagers have struggled with elephant herds for decades. Using torches and loud instruments, they sometimes manage to scare the heards away. But every year entire villages are badly hit!
Two Tharu villages attacked by elephants last September lost loved ones, houses and crops but also their feeling of safety. Said one villager: “Elephants come at any time. They don’t care about day and night. This has stolen peace out of our lives.”
Animal attacks have become more frequent over the last two decades or so. Animosity towards these beautiful wild animals is part of the result. Villagers have staged retaliatory attacks sometimes deep into the reserves, killing 17 elephants in the last few years, as a case in point, just as many locals demand of the government to take action.But why has the number of wild animal attacks grown? One cause is that more people have settled near to where the animals live; another that animal populations have grown, pushing more animals outside the natural parks in search of food and territory; and a third is an increase in forest cover which is allowing animals to scatter over wider areas.
It is necessary to keep animal populations down now, said Krishna Acharya, former head of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, back in 2013. The number of animals is not huge – tigers count around 200, elephants not more than 125, rhinos around 650 animals – but the habitat avilable is limited, so there’s not space for many more!Conservationists are celebrating Nepal’s success in protecting its endangered mammals. The population of tigers, elephants and rhinos has increased sharply over the last ten years. But the flip-side of the coin is, paradoxically, that this very success may lead authorities to deem culling of the populations necessary to protect human lives.
Has the authorities, though, started culling the populations? Not to our knowledge. Instead, it has pledged to double the tiger population by 2022! One study says electrical fences around livestock and houses, proper storage of food items that attract elephants, and better tools for scaring off the animals, may help. But will that be enough?
Says Krishna Acharya on Nepal’s animal conservation: “The time has now come for us to determine how many such wildlife species we can have in our protected areas.” The attacks just last month involving all of Nepal’s “big five” underlines that the question of how to solve the intensifying conflict between humans and wild animals is as acute as ever.
“The numbers of rhinos and tigers are increasing in the national park and they are moving out in search of food and space. Meanwhile, the increasing human population needs more of the natural resources available, and that competition creates conflict.” Krishna Acharya, former head of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.
“We are used to the elephant menace. People have died even earlier. The recent incident has only added to our losses and refreshed our sorrows and fears. The government cannot provide security and we can’t evacuate our ancestral place. This has complicated the problem.” Shyam Chaudhari, Suryapatuwa VDC, Bardiya.
PS: Wild animal attacks are tragic and the risk extremely scary. But even if taken together, Nepal’s “big five” are a much smaller threat compared to the country’s venomous snakes. No certain data is available, but health authorities estimate that 20,000 mostly villagers are bitten every year and 1,000 do not survive.
The last word from the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) is that they can’t go ahead with local polls whatsoever unless the Maoist-NC government’s proposal for amendment of the constitution – which is in favour of Madhesi demands – has been passed. The Madheshi Morcha (SLMM) even pledged just a few days ago that if local elections are announced without meeting their demands with respect to the constitution, they will return to violent protest.
The pillars were erected four years ago and the bridge project was off to a good start. But then nothing happened. Was the budget shifted to some other district or project after another party came to power; was it misused, perhaps even siphoned off by politicians, bureaucrats and contractors involved; or was the money simply not enough to complete the project in the first place? We don’t know. But those are typical questions, and locals along Kamala river are still waiting for an answer.
Huge obstacles in the way of local elections still exist – at least last time we checked – such as the dispute over delineation of provinces under the new constitution and the restructuring of local units. Will Dahal somehow make local elections happen now, nevertheless? Indeed, promises of local elections have been notoriously broken in the past. But optimism with a dash of caution could seem in order… (another update will follow soon).
She is the only woman to have ever been accepted into the highest order of shamans in Nepal – and she was even selected for a trip recently to meet with other shamans in Africa. Her residence is inside Kathmandu valley, but she orginates from a Hill district where she learned her insights and skills from old village shamans. At her clinic, she receives locals as well as foreigners every day – and in this video, she prescribes remedies to a young mother and her baby. Is it “witchcraft” or ancient healing knowledge?! Well, watch to have a glimpse of a shaman’s craft, centuries old.
The video was shot by Arun Chalise at LocalNepalToday.
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The new constitution provides for three tiers of government: below the central level is the “provincial level”, the boundaries of which are still undecided, and the “local level”, undecided too. All that’s agreed is that the local units must be fewer and bigger than the current VDCs.