Hans Andersen

May 102016
 

Land and forests

​Wildfires hit Dolpa hard as most community and leasehold forests in the district, as well as 3,200 hectares of forest land in a local national park, were left in ashes. More…

​Wildfires in Kaski consumed 50 ha. of forest – with smoke clouds obstructing air traffic in Pokhara – adding to the 1000s of ha. of forest already burned across Nepal. More…

​3 billion rs. worth of winter crop was lost in the Western Region this year due to lack of rain.​ More…

​Thousands of households in Bajhang district have lost most of their winter crop due to draught. More…

​Up to 33% of the land in Hill villages is kept fallow due to lack of manpower, as out-migration continues, and as a result of lack of irrigation due to persistent draught. More…

Earthquake

​The NRA spent only 5% of its budget this fiscal year for reconstruction of houses after the earthquake with no sign of urgency to spend ahead of the monsoon. More…

​The CDO’s office in Kavre district was the scene of demonstrations as locals from Panchkhal municipality complained about being left out of quake-victims reports. More…

​Water shortages due to draught hit local camps for earthquake-displaced families in Dhading hard as locals cut the water supply. More…

Solukhumbu families join the many who rebuild on their own as the NRA keeps registering earthquake victims but postpone reconstruction grants. More…

Politics

​Madhesi and Tharu associations announced fresh protests, pledging to start strikes from 15 May onwards unless the government agrees to their demands. More…

​A Canadian man – based in Lalitpur and working in Nepal for three years – was arrested for provoking social unrest in Terai and other places via Twitter. More…

​The Canadian man was later given two days notice to leave the country. More…

​Three advocates filed a writ petition to the Supreme Court in demand of local elections to be scheduled at once. More…

​There was straight talk about why local elections are not happening as the 20th anniversary of the last local election is soon approaching (coming up in 2017). More…

​Some things never change: villagers in Siraha fundraised to install electricity but have since come to face endless delays by the Electricity Authority. More…

Not to forget

​A new law passed last week permits contractors to mine river beds with next to no environmental impact assessment as well as to go into nature reserves. More…

​15,000 children in Kapilvastu district – or more than ten percent of the eligible children – remain out of school despite a massive school enrolment campaign. More…

​A 55-year old man in Rasuwa was killed by locals on charges of witchcraft, accused of having used “black magic” against neighbours in his village. More…

​Himalayan wolves – very different from the European wolf – have survived in upper Mustang, evident from tracks and excrements found in the mountains. More…

May 092016
 

Politics


Tharu associations – along with Madhesi – announce fresh protests last week with general bandh from 15 May onwards More…


Canadian man – based in Lalitpur and working in Nepal for three years – was arrested for provoking social unrest in Terai via Twitter.
More…


The Canadian was later given two days to leave the country, his visa revoked
More…


Some things never change: villagers had fundraised to install electricity only to face postponement by the electricity department.
More…


Some straight talk about why local elections are not happening More…


Agriculture and environment


Thousands of households in Bajhang district lost most of their winter crop due to draught and will soon face acute food shortage. More…


3 billion rs. worth of winter crop lost in Western region so far due to continuous draught in many districts More…


Wildfires hit Dolpa hard as most community and leasehold forest as well as 3,200 hectares of forest land in a local national park are left in ashes. More…


Wildfires are raging in the districts More…


Wildfires in Kaski consume 50 ha. of forest, smoke spreading far, adding to 1000s of ha already burned across More…


Contractors can now mine river beds with next to no environmental impact assessment and go into nature reserves too More…


Up to 33% of the land in Hill villages is kept fallow chiefly due to lack of manpower as out-migration continues More…

Earthquake


The NRA spent just 5% of its budget this fiscal year for reconstruction of houses after the earthquake More…


The CDO’s office in Kavre district was the scene of a demonstration as locals from Panchkhal complain about being left out of the quake-victims report.More…

Not to forget


15,000 children in Kapilvastu district – or more than ten percent – remain out of school despite a local enrolment campaign. More…


Himalayan wolves – very different from the European wolf – still roam in upper Mustang More

May 022016
 

It’s been a week of bitter realization that one year after the earthquake, tragically little reconstruction has been achieved. Tens of thousands of households are facing another monsoon under a boiling hot tin roof. Meanwhile, news in sectors like health and education are not that great either. Scroll it here!

Earthquake

It’s been hard for earthquake affected households to get money for reconstruction. Villagers in Dolakha are just a few of those thousands who have to walk far to apply for help. More…

How did the NRA plan for villagers to get the grant money for rebuilding their houses? Well, to get the money villagers need a bank account – which most villagers don’t have! More…

Thousands were injured in the earthquake. Now, one year later, many are still not fully recovered – and over 5,000 are permanently disabled. More…

The earthquake disrupted the flow in underground aquifers and thereby access to drinking water on the surface. Many villagers are facing worsening water shortages. More…

Even in Bhaktapur just outside Kathmandu, the NRA has yet to count the number of eathquake affected houses. But also here locals have started to rebuild on their own. More…

Electricity supply was cut in countless villages as tremors destroyed local hydro power stations and disrupted power lines. In Barpak, it took one year to get it back. More…

Sindhupalchowk was the hardest hit district in terms of number of lives lost and yet barely no houses have been built, few have seen resettled, and businesses are ruined. More…

The NRA is working at snail speed to start spending the $4,4 billion donor funding made available last June, and yet Deputy PM, Kamal Thapa, is asking for more. More…

Economy

The government will create one industrial zone per province which the Industrial Zone Management Ltd. under Ministry of Industries hope each will generate 100,000 jobs. More…

Many hectares of community forest are lost to wildfires these weeks due to drought. Recently, four districts in central Terai were hit. Now Dadeldhura forests are a ablaze. More…

As if the months of bandh last year were not enough, Karnali in western Terai is experiencing another bout of strikes as transportation company makes protests. More…

Education

Private/boarding schools are well-know as more attrative to whoever can afford sending their children. But in Nawalparasi community schools are taking the lead! More…

Health

Extreme shortage of medicine is jeopardizing health across the districts. Ministry og Health says they couldn’t purchase more than six percent of the planned medicine. More…

Apr 272016
 

Deputy Prime Minister, Kamal Thapa, gets to promise local elections twice in two months (in February, then April)

Deputy Prime Minister, Kamal Thapa, gets to promise local elections twice in two months (in February, then in April)

It is business as usual but stunning as always. Once again, a government leader has pledged to hold local elections “soon”. This time, it’s Deputy Prime Minister, Kamal Thapa, who just yesterday promised to hold local elections in November – and that promise can sound hollow considering that two months ago the same Thapa pledged to hold local elections in April! Indeed, since 2002 shifting governments have made the same type of promises at least once a year, only to postpone again and again. Will the government hold local elections before the 20th anniversary of the last local election, held back in 1997? Well, in light of the track record so far, it seems unlikely.

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Apr 192016
 

Cement hub about to grow bigger: another cement factory under construction in Nawalparasi (central Terai)

Cement hub about to grow bigger: another cement factory under construction in Nawalparasi (central Terai)

Nawalparasi is already firmly established on the map as one of Nepal’s most industrialised rural districts. Located between Rupandehi to the west and Chitwan to the east, it’s exactly on the half-way mark along the Mahendra East-West Highway. Major industries like Chaudhary Udhyog Gram (CUG), Bhrikuti Pulp and Paper Factory, and Lumbini Sugar Industry and Triveni Distilleries, are already there. But above all, the district is known for its large cement production sector – and that’s just about to grow bigger!

PM laying foundation stone for Pokhara International Airport: reconstruction, roads and more set to boost cement demand in coming years

PM laying foundation stone for Pokhara International Airport: reconstruction, roads and more set to boost cement demand in coming years

Earthquake reconstruction and projects like new airports and highways means that demand for cement is set to explode, and domestic as well as international companies are moving in for a share. Many producers prefer to set up shop – like in the past – in Nawalparasi. Sarbottam Cement is preparing to press the start-button on two freshly installed plants, aiming to fill 30,000 sacks of cement the first year already, while Shivam Cement – a private Chinese-Nepali joint venture – is in a rush to build a bigger factory geared to produce 120,000 sacks every year!

Cement boom is about to stimulate employment too: one of many job ads coming out of Nawalparasi cement sector recently

Cement boom is about to stimulate employment too: one of many job ads coming out of Nawalparasi cement sector recently

The investments are not small either. Sarbottam Cement, established by the domestic Saurabh Group, has already pumped 4 billion rupees into its factory, while Hongshi-Shivam Cement has invested 2 billion rupees with more to come, and those are just the most recent examples! In fact, in the last few years entepreneurs have poured in 65 billion rupees in new cement plants in Nawalparasi altogether, and that means jobs too. As a case in point, Sarbottam Cement now employs 200 people, and cement production stimulates other sectors too, like transportation.

So, why Nawalparasi? First of all, the short distance to India, where it’s easy to buy necessary implements, is attractive to many companies. Plus it’s a matter of the district’s location right on the halfway mark along the Mahendra Highway: access to markets both east and west can’t get much easier than that. The quality of the infrastructure is relatively good, too. Damodar Poudel, a chief executive in the business, explains in short: “As investors look for road access first, cement factories are concentrated near the highways”.

With demand for cement set to explode, even more companies might soon throw out the anchor in Nawalparasi. But at the same time, a few other districts are lining up in the race too. Will Nawalparasi keep the lead – and what’s the bigger picture in Nepal’s booming cement sector? Here’s more!

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Apr 042016
 

The NRA still moving at snail speed: most of the 600,000 households made homeless by the earthquake are now facing another monsoon in makeshift tin shelters.

The NRA still moving along at snail speed: most of the 600,000 households made homeless by the earthquake are now facing another monsoon in makeshift tin shelters.

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) just moved on to “phase II” in rebuilding houses post-quake. The NRA has decided to release the first installment of the house reconstruction grant – that is, 50,000 rs. out of 200,000 rs. per household – but only in eight of the fourteen worst affected districts and merely in one VDC in each! Why not more!? Well, officially yet a survey on the number of earthquake victims has to be completed first. To the over 600,000 victims that are now facing a second monsoon in a tin shelter, hope must be at its lowest…

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Apr 042016
 

Without the cooperation of strong local leaders, getting things done at local kevel often becomes very difficult: village politician

Without the cooperation of strong local leaders, getting things done at local level often becomes very difficult: village politician

It’s an experience as old as Nepali government, dating back to the Rana regime and the royal rulers before them who often had to struggle to establish a reliable and continuous tax collection system at local level. Without the cooperation of strong local leaders who enjoy a good deal of control with the local people, getting things done in small towns and villages often becomes very difficult, for any government. Now, officials in Kathmandu – this time in the guises of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) – are staring in the face of this inconvenient truth too.

Says NRA chief, Sushil Gyawali, as he recapitulates the reasons why his newly formed reconstruction authority is making such slow progress in rebuilding houses and local infrastructure: “The biggest challenge is to mobilise people. The lack of elected representatives has made it more difficult for us to work at the grassroot level.” Without strong local leadership, it is more difficult to do planned work such as counting and registering the earthquake victims, issuing victim IDs, distributing grant money, and simply getting reconstruction off it’s so far heavy feet. Elected local leaders who typically command greater respect than outside officials do would make a huge difference to reconstruction, Gyawali explains. He adds: Continue reading »

Mar 052016
 

It still happens: two women who were tortured by a mob, accused of casting spells on villagers

It still happens: two women who were tortured by a mob, accused of casting spells on villagers

It’s hard to believe that witch burnings and child sacrifices still happen. But they do! It’s also true, though, that these occurrences are relatively rare – maybe they happen just once or twice a year, although some say numbers are higher. It’s indeed ages ago that witch burnings and child sacrifices were common parts of religious practices in South Asia in general. But this “dark side” to traditional beliefs is still alive today! Why write about it, though, if it’s rare, not to mention blood shivering to talk about? Well, we have chosen to make a note about it simply because it does exist! Here are a few recent examples. Continue reading »

Feb 182016
 

"It is our practice that child delivery takes place on a tuft of the babiyo grass". Raute women

“It is our practice that child delivery takes place on a tuft of the babiyo grass”. Raute women

Is it ok to give birth at home? Well, government policy is to ultimately make all women deliver at the hospital or at least the local health centre. But women of the Raute tribe, who’s striving to uphold a traditional nomadic lifestyle in the mid-Hill forests, insists on giving birth in nature. “It is our practice that child delivery takes place on a tuft of the babiyo grass”, says tribal head of the Rautes, Mahin Bahadur Shahi. “Hospitals or birthing centres are for people like you. For people like us living in the jungle, the delivery is on grass.” Lately, some women’s groups in Nepal have started to issue fines to “home-birthers” among their members – home delivery increases the risk of fatalities, they say. But the Raute women argue that birth in nature makes the children stronger – plus: it’s their culture! If they could give birth like that for centuries, why not now?

Read the full story here

Feb 052016
 

Rojina Barcharya - co-founder of "Girls in Technology" and software developer - winner of Silicon Valley scholarship

Rojina Bajracharya – co-founder of “Girls in Technology” and software developer – winner of Silicon Valley scholarship

Who says computer programming is only for boys? Rojina Bajracharya, a young Bachelor student from Bhaktapur, just won a Toptal Scholarship for Female Developers! Who is Toptal? Well, it’s one of the fastest-growing companies to emerge from Silicon Valley in California in recent years, today connecting thousands of elite freelance programmers around the world with billion-dollar companies like J. P. Morgan and Pfitzer! The scholarship – launched last October – is designed to “empower and support the next generation of female computer scientists, software engineers and developers”. But how did Rojina, a young girl from a local community – seemingly so far away from the buzz of international software development – get selected?

Well, it was not a difficult choice, explains Toptal’s Director of Engineering, Anna-Chiara Bellini, who is also leading judge on the scholarship selection committee: “Rojina’s application [for the scholarship] just blew us away. She is both brilliant and ambitious, and is not only working hard to develop her own Continue reading »

Feb 032016
 

A worn billboard until now, long-projected Pokhara International Airport might soon be under construction

A worn billboard until now, long-projected Pokhara International Airport might soon be under construction

While reconstruction after the earthquake has barely started, Pokhara International Airport – 40 years in waiting – now appears close to take-off! In fact, two years ago chances still looked slim. But now the USD 215 million project is just a signature-on-a-loan-document away from driving in the dozers. So, who’s providing the loan? Well, not surprisingly, perhaps, China – as opposed to India. Indeed, the southern neighbor has instead been suspected of putting pressure on the government till now to stall the project! Continue reading »

Jan 142016
 

VDC secretary at work a few years back: these days, attendance of secretaries is lower than ever before

VDC secretary at work a few years back: these days, attendance of secretaries is lower than ever before

Local government in Nepal is now suffering almost as badly as during the height of the Maoist conflict. In post-quake communities, where the need for infrastructure and local services has never been greater, some locals can hardly find a VDC secretary! Indeed, VDC secretaries – officially in charge of Nepal’s Village Development Committees (VDCs) since 2002 – were always hard to recruit, let alone make attend regularly. But now it’s much worse as only few VDC secretaries are present at all! Continue reading »

Jan 132016
 

The NRA just allocated 290 million rs. to create seven local offices under it - is that a "good thing" or...?

The NRA just allocated 290 million rs. to create seven local offices under it – is that a “good thing” or…?

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) which finally “took off” on December 26 after a six months delay has now allocated some of the USD 4,4 billion supposed to be spent as quickly as possible on rebuilding houses and public infrastructure. So, what’s the allocation going to be spent on – so far an amount of 290 million rupees? Well, in one word, “administration”: the NRA is setting up seven local offices which it needs to plan and implement the reconstruction. Continue reading »

Jan 122016
 

"Many students are down with the cold", says local principal, Ramji Shrestha, at typical TLC built of tin sheets in Ramechap.

“Many students are down with the cold”, says local principal, Ramji Shrestha, working at typical TLC (picture) built of tin sheets in Ramechap.

Students going to school in Temporary Learning Centers (TLCs) – built after the earthquake – have started to fall ill in worrying numbers. Most TLCs are built of tin sheets without any insulation, so wind and humid cold air easily get inside. As winter bites, going to school has become a health hazard! In Ramechap, scores of children are in hospital with the cold; in Bhaktapur the situation is the same. The need for reconstruction is acute – but work is slow! Continue reading »

Jan 112016
 

"I keep my baby wrapped around my back most of the time, so that she don’t get cold." Pisang Lama, Ramechap

“I keep my baby wrapped around my back most of the time, so that she don’t get cold.” Pisang Lama, Ramechap

Ramechap district is freezing and locals are struggling to keep warm as temperatures are dropping below zero. Pisang Lama, 31, is just one of thousands living in temporary shelters completely unfit for winter. Like in most of the earthquake affected districts, also in this area south-east of Kathmandu the ruins of the old mud and stone houses have been replaced with tin shelters. There’s no insulation and no real protection from the elements. Lama explains: Continue reading »

Jan 112016
 

Post-quake, many students are left to study in tin shelters or under tarpaulins

Post-quake, many students are left to study in tin shelters or under tarpaulins

Will this year’s SLC students have a better chance than, say, last year’s class? Well, it was always hard to get through the “Iron Gate”: 10th graders have had to struggle a lot – the pass rate is barely 35 percent – and this year it’s not likely to get better. In the districts hardest hit by the earthquake, thousands of schools still lie in ruins – many students are left to study in tin shelters or under tarpaulins – and in the Terai, bandhs and unrest over the constitution have locked down many schools for months on end! Continue reading »

Dec 292015
 

Waiting for the NRA: woman in front of a typical shelter (Kavre)

Waiting for the NRA: woman in front of a typical shelter (Kavre)

Out in the districts hit by the earthquake in April, locals have long-since started to build temporary shelters. How temporary – or permanent – those shelters are going to be is an open question. The answer, though, lies in no small part with the government and it’s National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). The government has already released 15,000 rs. (around USD 200) to every household whose home was destroyed – but they have pledged a lot more. Indeed, USD 4,4 billion are in the pipeline for reconstruction! However, the NRA, tasked with distributing all this money, has not really started working yet. Continue reading »