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.

Oct 202016
 

Still waiting for the LBRC and the first local election since 1997: local politicians, here in Chitwan.

Still waiting for the LBRC and the first local election since 1997: local politicians, here in Chitwan.

Ever tried to contact a ministry by email and never get a reply? Well, many have, and now the chairman of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission (LBRC) has too. Trying for a second time to write the Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs to get data on Ilakas – the areas supposed to form the territorial basis of Nepal’s future local bodies – without getting a reply, the LBRC is about to give up on time frames and deadlines. We can’t set a deadline with such lack of cooperation from the government, says an LBRC official. So, Continue reading »

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 »

Oct 072016
 

Balananda Poudel, chief of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission, was just about to release the commission's report

Balananda Poudel, chief of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission, was just about to complete its assignment when… (pic: myrepublica.com)

It’s decided with the new constitution that the VDCs – the local bodies at village level – have to be replaced. But exactly when and how is still unknown. The only certain thing is that there “will be a delay”, says Balananda Poudel, chief of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission.

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. Continue reading »

Sep 092016
 

Ashmin Parajuli - aka FlowPilot - is just one of many young artists on the rap stage in Hetauda.

Ashmin Parajuli – aka Inkie – is just one of many young artists on the rap stage in Hetauda.

What’s the rap stage like in Hetauda? Well, we didn’t know there was one until Ashmin Parajuli – aka Inkie – told us about it. Just 15 years old, Ashmin has already recorded a few singles at his local favourite studio, HTD productions. “This year I have to focus on my SLC, so maybe I won’t be recording a lot of songs, but next year I will release my first album!” says Ashmin. Studio time is 2-3,000 rs. per song, which is even low, and it’s the rate if you want good sound quality. Uploading his tracks on youtube, Ashmin performs at the local music venues too! Continue reading »

Sep 022016
 

The Karorias - one of the last free-roaming hunting tribes of Nepal - come to central and eastern Terai every winter to hunt for birds, the way they have done it for centuries.

The Karorias are one of the last free-roaming hunting tribes of Nepal. It’s one of the least documented too – their history, traditions and way of life remain largely unknown. Were they to be settled and forced to give up their age-old livelihood as bird hunters in the wetlands and jungles along the India-Nepal border, few would ever have known about them in the first place! In fact, the Karorias may not exist a few years from now as a hunting tribe. Already banned from their old hunting grounds in India and forced to join modern-day developing society of “education” and “work”, their last refuge is in southern Nepal. Arun Chalise at LocalNepalToday had a chance to spend a day with them last November, and here’s a presentation of his unique footage. We hope to bring their full story to light in a near future – but until then, enjoy this rare glimpse of their tribal everyday life!

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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

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May 112016
 

Medical and aromatic plants (MAPs), collected in the wild for centuries, are now fetching small Hill and Mountain farmers unprecedented income - a recipe for motivating young men to stay at home, says TMI.

In Nepal’s hill and mountain communities, food insecurity and lack of income sources continue to drive thousands of young men abroad as migrant workers in low-paid and often dangerous jobs. Women and children are left behind in villages where vast areas of agricultural land are left fallow as nobody is home to farm it. Out-migration is transforming many hill and mountain villages into communities in gradual disintegration! But in recent years, TMI – the Mountain Institute – has succeeded in slowing down this process in some districts. Their recipe? Training farmers in production of medical and aromatic plants (MAPs). Collected in the wild for centuries, these plants are now cultivated on a commercial basis and exported to India, China and beyond, fetching household farms annual incomes of USD 5,000+, thanks to a TMI programme started in 2002. This video – produced by LocalNepalToday – tells the story and how it can grow.

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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 »