Feb 132017
 

Scenic wildlife, here inside Bardiya, a potential threat outside the reserves.

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”:

Local threat to villagers and their livestock: the Himalayan Black Bear

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”.

Calm one second, charging the next: scenes from a rhino attack in Chitwan.

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.

The elusive leopard hunts even inside human settlements and sometimes attacks occur, as here in Kapan.

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.

The tiger can be observed in some safety on elephant back or motorbike like here in Bardiya, while encounters on foot can prove fatal.

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.

Elephant – darted with a sedative – after raiding a village in Bardiya.

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.

Growing animal populations and forest corridors are part of why animal attacks are going up.

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!

Another part of the problem: human activity moving closer to forest reserves, here locals with firewood from inside Chitwan National Park.

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.

Jan 312017
 

Was the budget shifted to some other district? The incomplete bridge at Kamala river, Sindhuli.

It’s just another example of local infrastructure projects that are left half completed for years, sometimes forever. We once witnessed a similar case in Chitwan where the government was said to have funded a dike project along a river to protect villagers from the annual floods. On inspection to the remote river bank, however, all we found was a bit of rock and iron in the water! In this more recent case, it’s a bridge across Kamala river in Sindhuli that’s still incomplete.

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.

Oct 092016
 

Charikot before the town was devastated by the earthquake in 2015

Charikot before the town was devastated by the earthquake in 2015

Charikot, the capital of Dolakha, was devastated by the earthquake in 2015, but it’s coming back to life – also when it comes to the local tourism sector. Situated just five kilometres from the epicentre of the second massive tremor, most hotels and guesthouses in this scenic town collapsed and were turned into rubbles. Indeed, the massive destruction left many locals with little hope to rebuild. But tourism entrepreneurs have started to pick up the pieces and to again turn Charikot into a growing tourist destination. Continue reading »

May 132016
 

Growth rates in 2015/16: many sectors in the economy were hit hard by the earthquake, the blockade, draught, wildfires and more.

Growth rates in 2015/16: many sectors in the economy were hit hard by the earthquake, the blockade, draught, wildfires and more.

It’s no surprise but now the numbers are out. This fiscal year was extremely tough on almost everybody! The earthquake aftermath, months of blockade, and widespread draught created the worst economic climate ever since the height of the Maoist conflict. The government spent a mere 20 percent of its capital budget, as against 60 percent in some previous years, and economic growth took a steep fall. Growth this fiscal year was below 1 percent, not least due to a staggering 10 percent drop in manufacturing, and in the agricultural and non-agro sectors the growth rate fell from 4.72 and 5.43 percent, respectively, to just 1.14 and 0.62 percent! Only fish farming and a few other sectors saw real growth. Can the economy rebounce? Well, recent data suggests it is already. But it is from a much lower level than before the downturn in 2015/16 began.

Here’s more:
Economic growth to slump to 14-year low at 0.77 pc.
IMF lowers Nepal’s economic growth
ADB report projects Nepal’s GDP growth lowest in South Asia

Like this article? Just click below to share:

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!

Like this article? Just click below to share:

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 »

Dec 132015
 

It takes dozens of hands plus a good amount of skill and experience to bring a typical electricity pole in a village to an upright position

How long time does it take to erect electricity poles in a village? Well, it depends in great part on whether the electricity department provides machinery and/or manpower. If they don’t, as is most often the case, it can take days, even weeks to connect a village. The electricity poles come in concrete or steel and are in either case extremely heavy – it typically takes dozens of hands plus a good amount of skill and experience to bring the poles up and standing. So, how is it done? Well, it varies – but watch this video (left) to see how villagers in Pahari village, Kavre, erected altogether three heavy electricity poles last September.

Jul 302015
 
Urbanisation stands out at night: Kathmandu Valley make up almost 25 pct. of the national economy

Urbanisation stands out at night: Kathmandu Valley make up almost 25 pct. of the national economy

Nepal’s economy is becoming steadily more urbanised, according to the government’s Economic Survey for 2014-15. Indeed, cities and towns make up 33.1 pct. of the national economy – Kathmandu Valley a staggering 23.4 pct. alone – and VDCs adjacent to the urban areas account for an additional 30 pct. of the economy. In other words, almost two-thirds of GDP is generated in and around the capital and local towns! This development is linked with demographics too. The urban population is growing while 77 pct. of the immigrants to city and district towns come from the rural areas! Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

Mid-hill Highway and the north-south corridor roads

Mid-hill Highway and the north-south corridor roads (in light red)

The Mid-hill Highway is flanked by a series of roads that lead north and south, known as the North-south Corridors. These “corridor roads” came on the drawing board several decades ago as a major key to economic growth and development in the Mid-hills. Construction work began in the 1990s, and by the mid-2000s several roads were opened. With the recent completion of the Surkhet-Jumla corridor, there now is a whole network of north-south corridors! Do they help the local economy: it appears so! Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

Textbook distribution: a chain of commission

Government is supposed to pay compensation to landowners

It’s not all rosy when the dozers plough through the land of the locals. Indeed, the value of the property may go up once the road opens. But in the meantime, the only way to avoid loss is by way of receiving government compensation. To be sure, the government usually pledges a formally calculated compensation – ropani by ropani – to affected land owners. However, this promise is not always kept. In one example from the Mid-hill Highway construction, several hundred locals – even ones displaced by the road – were left without any compensation at all! The funds were allocated, but nobody saw it on the receiving end. The local reaction? Protest and agitation, stalling construction work for weeks! Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

Over steep hills and across deep valleys: Mid-hill Highway

Over steep hills and across deep valleys: Mid-hill Highway

It can seem almost impossible considering the terrain of steep hills and deep valleys, but it’s nonetheless a fact. The Mid-hill Highway – going from East to West across the interior of the country – is getting nearer completion! The Mid-hill Highway is now bending its way from Chiyabhanjyang of Panchathar in the East to Jhulaghat of Baitadi in the Far-west – a distance of 1776 km. – through a total of 24 districts and 225 VDCs, directly affecting 7 million people! How near completion is it? Well, it remains a bit unclear, but large sections are already in use! Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

On public contract: road construction

Road construction on the way to Jomsom

Kunda Dixit from Nepali Times went up to Jomsom and Lo Montang to examine the new road and its effects on the local community. What he found? Well, both winners and losers. Indeed, the mule drivers were not all that happy for the road which was quickly undermining their business! Truck drivers, on the other hand, were content. After all, trucks are quicker and often cheaper than a mule back. But it was not only that. A whole culture – eovolved around the mule caravans for centuries – seemed set to disappear.

Kunda Dixit writes in his article: “Horses, mules and donkeys have always been a part of Mustang’s landscape and culture. Horses, in particular, have a prominent place in Tibetan lore and language, the animal not just a means of transport but also serving as a potent symbol of speed, certitude and good fortune. But all this is soon about to change with the arrival of the road from the south that will make it possible to drive from Pokhara to Lo Manthang in less than 12 hours, and connect to the road to the Chinese border at Kore La.” Read Dixit’s article on the effects of the new road here…!

Jun 132015
 
Longing for the pristine.

Longing for the pristine.

Imagine being on a hike along a seemingly pristine mountain trail, feeling light years away from the noise and smog of the city. Why did you go there? Well, not because you had to reach the market in town or the healthpost to see the doctor or buy medicine. No, you went there longing precisely for the pristine and isolated, hoping to connect with the silence of the mountains and feeling back in time to how Nepal once was. Then, unforgivingly, the roar of a truck breaks the silence and you are left in a cloud of warm dust and fumes as the heavy vehicle climbs on to the next bend. So much for pristine and isolated! Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

"Watch out or the Paharis will take you" - kids were told

“Roads and transport make many things easier and cheaper: boy porter

Roads is not a panacea, Irin Asia writes, but it’s an inescapable part of any national development. In many districts, poor transportation is automatically making price levels higher! It’s more expensive to bring goods and it’s equally costly to collect produce and bring it to town. Few well-qualified teachers want to settle at a remote school far away from the comfortable lifestyle of more accessible areas. Healthwise, lack of roads also means poor access to good health services. Indeed, the list goes on. Here is a lot more on why roads – according to many – are the question!

Jun 132015
 

Lukla at Everest: destination of new road

Lukla at Everest: destination of new road

Government has announced a plan to built a 100 km. paved road from Jiri to Lukla. Tour organisers have been longing for such a road for many years. Reason? Bad weather often disrupts flights to Lukla, making trips to Everest chaotic and more expensive. Indeed, some trekkers might also like the new road for allowing them to skip the four days walk up to Lukla. But what about the loss of quiet mountain ambience? Well, nothing mentioned about that. It’s all about getting tourists to Everest and making money on it. All understandable of course. Work is set to commence now! Read more…

Only 12 percent of Nepalis, including those living in urban areas, consider the roads where they live “good”. IRIN Asia

Jun 132015
 

There’s only one highway from Kathmandu directly to the Indian border – and it’s often a hassle taking it. Congestion can cause major delays and even when it doesn’t, the trip easily takes 7-8 hours. But now those troubles may soon be gone. A four-lane freeway – with miles-long tunnels – it set to cut through hills and rocks from Hetauda to the capital. New travel time: one hour! The company behind it is NPBCL or Nepal Burwadhar Bikash Company Ltd and the project title: Kathmandu-Kulekhani-Hetauda Tunnel (KKHT) Highway. The video opposite is in Nepali but shows an animation that tells the story. Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

Until the roads come: traditional transport

Until the roads come: traditional transport

Highways, bridges, tunnels – all are crucial to Nepal’s economic growth and development. That’s the government view and that of major donors like the World Bank. Indeed, it’s going to transform the country in many ways – once it happens – and you might miss the quiet of the past. But it’s hard to argue with: few countries have achieved strong economic growth and development without fairly good infrastructure. As illustrated here with excerpts from an article in World Highways, common arguments go like this:

“Nepal’s road network is growing but there is an enormous need for more investment. A study in 2007 revealed that the country had 10,142 km in all of surfaced roads and a further 7,140 km of unsurfaced roads. Nepal has 75 District Headquarters and up to 15 have no direct connection by road, while 33% of the population live at least two hours walk from a road, presenting a major challenge to economic growth as well as for other factors such as education or health… Because Nepal is landlocked, it relies on its transport links with China and India for trade and the nearest port is in Kolkata (Calcutta). But there is only one dependable road link between the Kathmandu Valley and India at present and the development of a new route will bring enormous economic benefits.”

So, what are the plans for highways, bridges and tunnels? Well, here’s the article with latest details…

“Nepal has 75 District Headquarters and up to 15 have no direct connection by road, while 33% of the population live at least two hours walk from a road…” In World Highways

Jun 132015
 

Jungle in jeopardy: proposed plan for highway and railway

Jungle in jeopardy: proposed plan for highway and railway

It’s one of the most successful conservation initiatives in Asia: the Chitwan National Park! Sure, many tourists go there without seeing a trace of tigers, still calling Chitwan home. But rhinos are a common sight and poaching has become steadily less common, according to conservationists. Indeed, the quiet and unique jungle atmosphere is a treasure of its own! But if the government has it’s way, it won’t remain so for long! The government plans to lead a highway and railway track through the park. Will it happen? It’s not certain, but it just might. We love the jungle of Chitwan – once the biotop of most of Terai – so we have signed a petition against the project. Or is the encroachment on the reserve worth the income and employment that a highway and railway might create? Well, guess it all depends…