Wednesday, March 31, 2021

India hands over a section of Postal Highway

 India today handed over a section of Postal Highway to Nepal.

Indian ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra and minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Basant Kumar Nembang today jointly dedicated the Terai roads built with Indian grant assistance to the people of Nepal.

Indian ambassador and minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport dedicated 13 of the 14 packages, which have been completed and are already being used by the people of the areas since over a year, according to a press note. "These newly completed roads have been providing smooth travel experience to people of the Terai region," the press note reads, adding that the Postal Highway directorate has issued taking over certificates in respect of five of the completed packages and is completing the documentation in respect of the remaining.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Nepal regarding strengthening of road infrastructure in Terai region of Nepal, the government identified ten priority roads to be built under Indian funding of Rs 8 billion. "These Terai roads are also called as Hulaki Raj Marg and connect major towns located on the East-West highway with India-Nepal border," it reads, adding that these 10 roads are located in seven border districts of Province 1, 2 and 5 of Nepal and provide smooth travel experience to people of over 284 wards, 149 villages, 18 gaunpalikas, 18 Nagar Palikas and 1 sub-metropolitan city.

India funded 10 Terai roads in Nepal are built as per the specifications prescribed by the Department of Roads (DoR), the press note adds. "Each road has a seven meter carriage way and two meters of shoulders on both sides, the press note reads. The roads also include drainage, foot paths with railings in habitation areas, road signage boards, road markings and other road furniture." Under the project over 652 culverts and over 111 km of drainage network have also been built.

The project has been implemented under ‘Government of India funding and Government of Nepal implementation’ modality. "For contractual purposes the 10 roads were divided into 14 packages and the DoR awarded 14 contracts during the period October 2016 to November 2017 for their construction. "The specifications for construction of these roads were prescribed in the Detailed Project Report (DPR) finalised by DoR. It also engaged the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL), a Government of India undertaking as the Project Management Consultant for the project and the consultancy fee was paid by Government of India from the Rs 8 billion grant for the project.

India funded Terai roads project has helped strengthen road infrastructures in Terai region of Nepal and further boost people to people relationship between the border areas of the two countries. These completed Hulaki Roads also complement the other major border infrastructure developed by India in Nepal such as Integrated Check Posts (ICP) at Birgunj and Biratnagar and cross border railway lines. The India-funded cross-border railway line between Jaynagar in India and Kurtha in Nepal has also been completed and is ready for handing over to Nepal for running passenger train operations by of Nepal. "In this regard, both sides are working on completing the final preparations for passenger train operations," the press note reads.

During the handover ceremony, ambassador Kwatra and minister Nembang thanked officials of the Postal Highway Directorate under the Department of Roads and the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (India) and above all the people of India for their assistance and cooperation in completion of the project.

Names, length and location of the completed and dedicated Terai Road packages: 

Sl No Name of the Road Length (KM) District

1 Manmat-Kalaiya-Matiyarwa, Pkg-1 15.00 Bara

2 Manmat-Kalaiya-Matiyarwa, Pkg-2 11.66 Bara

3 Birendrabazar-Yadukuha-Mahinthpur, Pkg-1 17.00 Dhanusha

4 Birendrabazar-Yadukuha-Mahinthpur, Pkg-2  15.31 Dhanusha

5 Janakpur-Yadukuha 16.63 Dhanusha

6 Maisthan-Gaushalabazar-Samsi 26.94 Mahottari

7 Jaleshwor-Hardi 27.26 Mahottari

8 Lamahi-Koilabas 33.47 Dang

9 Kanepokhari-Rangeli 25.40 Morang

10 Kalyanpur-Barsain-Subhranpatti 17.28 Saptari

11 Tamagadhi-Simraungadh, Pkg-1  20.00 Bara

12 Tamagadhi-Simraungadh, Pkg-2  19.745 Bara

13 Birgunj–Thori, Pkg-1 25.60 Parsa

14 Birgunj –Thori, Pkg-2 – Work Ongoing 30.00 Parsa

Friday, March 19, 2021

Government, World Bank sign $24 million financing agreement

 The Government and World Bank today signed loan and grant agreements for the $24 million Forests for Prosperity Project ($6.1 million as grant and $17.9 million as concessional loan) that will help Nepal advance sustainable forest management.

The project will contribute to transforming Nepal’s forest sector by improving sustainable forest management and developing a strong forest-based private sector, according to a press note issued by the multilateral development partner. "These activities will result in multiple benefits for forest-dependent people in selected municipalities in Province 2 and Lumbini Province, including inclusive economic benefits, ecosystem services, and greater climate resilience," it reads, adding that it will help strengthen ongoing community-based conservation efforts while promoting inclusive sustainable use.

The agreements were signed by the finance secretary Sishir Kumar Dhungana on behalf of the government and by the World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos. Additionally, a project agreement was signed by the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Agriculture Development Bank Anil Kumar Upadhyaya and the World Bank country director. The Agriculture Development Bank, as a project implementation entity, will design and pilot a credit line for establishing and strengthening forest-based small and medium enterprises.

"Strengthening local communities, for whom forests are a traditional safety net during times of crisis, is especially important in the Covid-19 era," finance secretary Sishir Kumar Dhungana said, adding, "In that same spirit, the project will facilitate Nepal’s forest-based private sector to invest in jobs and reduce dependence on timber imports."

"The project will also provide timely support to the institutions at the provincial and local levels to strengthen natural resource governance," he added.

The project is a key part of the government’s Relief, Recovery and Resilience (3R) plan and Nepal’s committments to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Aligned with this 3R plan, development partners led by the World Bank and UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, coalesced around a 'Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development' framework to mobilise investments over the next three years to secure jobs and livelihoods, build resilience, strengthen social inclusion, enhance sustainability, and promote efficiency.

"The project will support 50 municipalities, which is a starting point for inclusive climate action and inclusive green economic growth based on Nepal’s comparative advantage," World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that the development partner is confident that if the project yields the expected outcomes, there will be opportunities to scale up the project and allow more people to benefit. "The project illustrates that the World Bank is honoured to be a trusted partner of Nepal as it faces three challenges at once: Covid, climate, and community opportunities."

The Forests for Prosperity Project is the first World Bank-supported forest sector investment project in Nepal in over 15 years, and the third part of a joint programmatic engagement on forest landscapes by the World Bank and Nepal. The Forests for Prosperity Project complements the ongoing technical assistance for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), as well as the recent signing of the Emissions Reduction Programme for the Terai Arc Landscape, the first performance-based programme addressing drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in the Terai Arc Landscape, unlocking up to $45 million through 2025 for verified emission reductions. Financing for the Forests for Prosperity Project is via the Forest Investment Program within the Climate Investment Funds (CIF). The CIF is hosted by the World Bank and funded by several development partners including Australia, Denmark, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Nepal Invests launched to accelerate investment in Nepal

 CDC Group, the UK’s development finance institution, FMO, the Dutch development bank and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC jointly launched a platform, Nepal Invests that will drive increased investment into the country.

The group comprising of Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and a development partner, will complement existing efforts to attract more investments and advance the development of the country, by channelling efforts to unlock the possibilities of investing patient, flexible capital to support private sector growth and innovation – helping to solve the biggest development challenges in Nepal, accortding to a press note issued by the SDC.

The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged the world, it reads, adding that for Nepal, it is clear that there will be significant economic pressure as a result of potentially volatile remittance inflows, and a surge in demand for finance at a time when the crisis has significantly reduced access and option of capital for SMEs. "Nepal Invests will support the economic recovery from Covid-19 in multiple ways; partnering to address business environment challenges, exploring innovative ways to finance SMEs and increasing the skills and capacity of local investment professionals."

These measures are designed to better prepare Nepal’s market for increased investment from development finance institutions, frontier players, and intermediate vehicles in order to support the medium-term economic recovery, it adds.

Nepal Invests represents a ground-breaking collaboration between DFIs and development partners in the country, reflecting shared objectives to support business growth, strengthen investment and accelerate Nepal’s economic recovery from COVID-19. The platform intends to mobilise additional supporting projects and contributions from other DFIs and development partners, whilst engaging closely with the needs of the Nepali private sector.

"CDC is an active investor in Nepal, we want to encourage more foreign direct investment (FDI) into the prospering nation," managing director and head of Asia at the CDC Group Srini Nagarajan said, adding that they are delighted to partner with FMO and the Swiss government in the unique collaboration between DFIs and development partners in Nepal that aims to attract foreign capital into the country. "The role of DFIs has been important in Nepal and will remain important after Covid-19, to support green growth and economic transformation."

"We hope to play an even stronger role in the future, he added. "I am hopeful this initiative will help us deepen our contextual understanding, forge partnerships and enable us to do more."

"FMO has played a pioneering role for development finance in Nepal," manager capacity development officer at FMO Andrew Shaw said, adding, "With our support to Nepal Invests, we hope to accelerate investment in the country and to support foreign investors to increasingly focus on Nepal."

"As part of Nepal Invests, FMO is committed to support the Nepali private sector to raise its environmental and social standards together with local stakeholders, and to facilitate the adoption of international ESG practices to create a level playing field between companies and improve access to DFI funding in the country," Shaw added.

Likewise,  ambassador of Switzerland to Nepal Elisabeth von Capeller, on the occasion, said that Switzerland is a long-standing development partner of Nepal and is committed to supporting Nepali small and medium enterprises to grow and contribute to Nepal’s economic development. "Attracting and mobilising private investments will be key in achieving the economic transformation agenda that Nepal has set for itself and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC is delighted to partner with CDC Group and FMO to support the Nepal Invests platform which will contribute to preparing the Nepali market for greater investments," she said, adding that the initiative also sets a precedent for future collaborations of this nature between development partners and development finance institutions to contribute towards Nepal’s economic advancement.

The platform is managed by Nathan Associates, in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The partnership was formed following a joint-DFI stocktaking mission to Nepal in January 2020. This mission was coordinated by SDC and SIFEM, and is a part of a collective effort by IFC and CDC (the DFI Fragility Forum) aimed at promoting private investments and jobs creation in fragile or politically complex contexts. Participation included DFIs such as CDC, FMO, Proparco, SIFEM, and IFC; as well as Development Partners such as the ADB, EU, FCDO, SDC, and the World Bank.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Nepal receives $75 million for Covid-19 vaccines and stronger response to pandemic

 The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved $75 million from the International Development Association (IDA) to support access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines and equitable vaccine distribution by strengthening Nepal’s health and vaccination system. The financing is expected to facilitate vaccination of at least one-third of the population through an equitable distribution plan.

"The pandemic presents immense challenges and an uncertain environment, particularly in the purchase, supply and distribution of vaccines," World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that it is a testament to the development partner's strong partnership with Nepal that the World Bank has been able to move quickly to support the government’s ambitious plans to vaccinate at least 72 per cent of the population.

The additional financing builds on the $29 million for the original Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project that was approved in April 2020, the existing World Bank-supported health programmes, and confirmed support of other development partners in the context of the government’s overall Covid-19 response.

Most of the new financing (90 per cent) will go to the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines and deployment for prioritised populations beyond the 20 per cent that will be vaccinated through COVAX. "The rest of the financing will help strengthen the health system to support the Covid-19 vaccination effort and procure other Covid-19-related supplies such as diagnostic tests, laboratory equipment and therapeutics, according to the press note. "The additional financing also supports community engagement and risk communication, and strengthening existing digital technology-based pandemic data, surveillance and monitoring systems."

"This support is critical for Nepal to safeguard the physical health of its people and economic health of the nation,” said World Bank practice manager for South Asia for the Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice Gail Richardson. "Providing fast and fair access to the approved Covid-19 vaccines for the most vulnerable people will expedite population-level immunity, which is central to resilient recovery from the devastating effects of Covid-19."

The additional financing for Nepal is one of three projects in a first phase of support for the Covid-19 vaccination effort across the South Asia region. Today, the World Bank’s Board also approved additional financing from IDA of $500 million for Bangladesh and $60 million for Afghanistan, complemented by $50 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) and $3 million from the Energy Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP). In addition to financing, the World Bank is also providing technical assistance and knowledge-sharing workshops for countries in South Asia on different aspects of designing and deploying fair and equitable vaccine strategies.

The World Bank, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries respond to the health, social and economic impacts of Covid-19. This includes $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, and strengthen vaccination systems. The financing builds on the broader World Bank Group Covid-19 response, which is helping more than 100 countries strengthen health systems, support the poorest households, and create supportive conditions to maintain livelihoods and jobs for those hit hardest.

Transport entrepreneurs call for adjustment in fare

 The transport entrepreneurs urged the government to hike transportation fare due to regular increase in prices of petroleum products.

During a meeting with minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Basant Kumar Nembang today, Nepal National Transport Entrepreneurs Federation (NNTEF) today asked the government to adjust the public transportation fare. The representatives of the NNTEF said the fare has not been adjusted since a very long time. "The government had decided to adjust the public transportation fare every year but it has not taken place since the past eight years."

The Department of Transport Management must adjust the public transportation fare by the end of March, according to a press note issued by the president of the Federation Yogendra Nath Karmacharya.

The adjustment of the fare should be based 35 per cent on the rise in price of petroleum products and 65 per cent on the inflation in areas concerning the transportation sector including insurance, tax, bank interest, spare parts, lubricants, the press note reads.

Prisoners forgotten in Covid-19 pandemic, as crisis grows in detention facilities

Prisoners around the world, including in Nepal, have been forgotten during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report from Amnesty International, as prisons have faced systemic challenges to prevent the spread of the virus, with control measures leading to serious human rights violations.

The organisation is calling for the millions of people languishing in overcrowded cells to be included in national vaccination roll-outs. 'Forgotten Behind Bars: Covid-19 and Prisons' reveals that, with more than 11 million estimated people imprisoned globally, prisons in many countries risk becoming hotbeds for the disease. Many inmates struggle to access soap, proper sanitation, or personal protective equipment, while physical distancing is difficult to achieve and only limited health care is available.

"As Covid-19 continues to rip through prisons across the world, measures introduced by governments to prevent the spread of the disease have led to human rights violations, including the use of excessive solitary confinement to aid social distancing and inadequate measures to reduce the detrimental effects of isolation,” said Amnesty International’s (AI) Research and Advocacy director Netsanet Belay.

The full scale of Covid-19 infections and related deaths in prisons is hard to assess as governments have failed to publicly provide up-to-date, reliable information. However, available data indicates worrying patterns of Covid-19 infections in prisons across the world. And as vaccine roll-out strategies and plans take shape, many governments remain silent on their plans to vaccinate prisoners who are particularly at risk.

Overcrowding is widely recognised as one of the most serious problems in prisons today, a press note issued by the AI reads, adding that around 102 countries have reported prison occupancy levels of over 110 per cent, with a significant proportion of prisoners charged with, or convicted of, non-violent crimes. "Though steps have been taken to release eligible prisoners, AI research indicates that current release rates are insufficient to address the huge risk posed by the virus."

"Many countries with dangerously high levels of prison overcrowding, such as Bulgaria, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nepal, have failed to address concerns over Covid-19 outbreaks,"  Netsanet Belay said, adding that in other countries like Iran and Turkey, hundreds of prisoners detained arbitrarily, including human rights defenders, were excluded from Covid-19-related releases.

Covid-19 has also laid bare the years of underinvestment in, and neglect of, health services in prisons, the press note reads, adding that prison authorities have been unable or unwilling to cope with the increased need for preventive health measures and medical services for prisoners. "During the early phases of the pandemic, AI found prisoners in many countries were unable to get a Covid-19 test due to acute shortages, while some detainees in Iran and Turkey were arbitrarily denied medical treatment."

Countries including Cambodia, France, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Togo and the USA were also unable to put in place adequate preventive and protective measures in prisons to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“No matter who you are, or where you are, people deserve access to face masks, adequate quantities of soap, sanitising items and clean running water," Belay said, adding, "In prisons, especially, personal protective equipment needs to be provided free of charge and governments need to increase access to Covid-19 testing and treatments to prevent and manage potential outbreaks."

In many countries, prison authorities have resorted to dangerous measures including excessive and abusive confinement and quarantining measures to tackle the Covid-19 crisis, leading to serious human rights violations. In some places such as Argentina and the UK, detainees were put in isolation for up to 23 hours per day, often for weeks or months.

"Excessive and abusive isolation and quarantine measures were used to contain the spread of Covid-19 in some prisons around the world," Belay said, adding, "In some cases, these could amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Humane measures to protect prisoners must be put in place now."

Some Covid-19-related lockdown measures in prisons also impacted family visits, increasing the risks to detainees’ mental and physical wellbeing. In some instances, these sparked widespread protests and unrest in prisons, to which authorities often responded with excessive force.

"While some prison authorities have retained visits by adapting conditions, others have resorted to banning visitors, effectively depriving detainees from their lifeline to the outside world and undermining their emotional and physical wellbeing,” said Belay.

At least 71 countries have now put in place a vaccination policy for at least one clinically vulnerable group. While some of these countries have included prison populations and staff among the priority groups to receive vaccines, AI’s research found that many others, including higher-income countries, are either silent or remain unclear on their plans.

"Prisons are some of the most at-risk settings for Covid-19 outbreaks and we cannot neglect the right to health of people in prisons any longer," she added.

Lack of clarity about vaccination plans, policies and treatment of incarcerated populations is a pressing, global concern,” said Netsanet Belay. “As vaccine roll-out strategies take shape, a failure to prioritize the health of people in detention will have catastrophic consequences for prisoners, their families and the public health care system.”

Amnesty International calls on all the states not to discriminate against those held in detention when developing vaccination policies and plans. Furthermore, it urges states to make every effort to prioritize prisoners in their national vaccination plans, particularly given that their confined conditions do not allow them to physically distance, and ensure that those at particularly high risk of Covid-19 (such as older prisoners and those with chronic health conditions) are prioritized for vaccination on a par with comparative groups in the general population.

CCMC recommends resumption of cross-border transportation between Nepal and India

 The Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) has recommended the government to resume cross-border transportation between Nepal and India.

A meeting of the CCMC held at the Office of the Prime Minister's Office and council of ministers (OPMCM) in Singha Durbar today decided to recommend the resuming of cross-border transportation bwteen Nepal and India, confirmed secretary at the CCMC Khaga Raj Baral.

"The CCMC meeting has decided to recommend to the cabinet to resume cross-border transportation between Nepal and India via various 12 routes," He said, adding that passengers travelling via land routes should follow the coronavirus protocols and produce a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test report conducted 72 hours before their journey. 

In March last year, the government has decided to suspend cross-border movement between Nepal and India as part of its measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

Though, the air services between the two neighbours -- closed after last March  -- has already been resumed, the cross-border transportation has not yet resumed.

Monday, March 15, 2021

No new project for next budget : Finance Ministry

 The budget for the next fiscal year 2021-22 is not going have any new project as the Finance Ministry is not going to entertain any projects that are not ready to start, and also to prioritise ongoing projects and programmes.

During a meeting with the secretaries of various ministries today, the Finance Ministry asked them not to include any new project and programmes for the next fiscal year due to lack of resources as the economy is tattered by the coronavirus pandemic, and also to prioritise the ongoing projects and programmes.

Due to resource constraint, the Finance Ministry also sought proposals for budget and programmes for the next fiscal year within the prescribed ceiling to the individual ministries. The National Planning Commission (NPC) has fixed Rs 1550 billion ceiling for the budget for the next fiscal year 2021-22. The secretaries, however, also complained of the tight ceiling, and asked to review the it.

Asking the secretaries of various ministries to present their proposal for the budget for next fiscal year 2021-22 by March 28, chief at the Budget and Programme Division under Finance Ministry Dhaniram Sharma said that the government is under pressure to manage resources. "Thus, present budget proposal not exceeding the ceiling given to the ministries by March 28."

The secretaries are also not very satisfied with procedure of the projects and programmes being incorporated in the fiscal policy. They complained of the adhoc system of including the projects and programmes in the budget, using the veto of ministers, but excluding the programmes and projects that have been prepared according to the format prescribed by the Finance Ministry and Planning Commission.

Due to resource crunch, the Finance Ministry has also asked the ministries to adopt austerity measures and control unnecessary expenditure.

The budget for the next fiscal year will be the last full-fledged budget for the incumbent government as it has already presented three budgets, and the another one will be election year budget. But it is still uncertain, whether the incumbent government will be able to bring the budget for the next fiscal year or new government will due to fast changing political scenario in the country in recent months.

Japanese assistance for child labour reduction project

 Japan has helped child labour reduction project in Makawanpur district.

The government of Japan has extended $265,576 (approximately Rs 30.85 million), to Shapla Neer – Citizens’ Committee in Japan for Overseas Support, under the grant assistance for Japanese NGO Projects Schemes.

Shapla Neer, an international NGO based in Japan, will work with a Nepali partner NGO, Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Center (CWIN-Nepal), to reduce child labour through strengthening the child protection mechanism in Makwanpur district, acording to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy.

A grant contract for this project was signed and exchanged on today by Charge d’Affaires ad Interim of Japan to Nepal Yoshioka Yuzo and country representative of Shapla Neer Nepal Office Katsui Hiromi, at the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu.

Shapla Neer Nepal Office together with CWIN-Nepal will closely coordinate with local government, stakeholders and community members to achieve a reduction in child labour through various activities to enhance the child protection capacity of local government, to support children at high risk of child labour, and to increase community awareness on child labour in Manahari Rural Municipality of Makwanpur district, the press note adds.

The Embassy of Japan in Nepal expects that the project will contribute to elimination of child labor, child trafficking, and will promote child protection in Makwanpur district. The embassy, according to the press note, is also confident that the project will strengthen the cordial friendship between the peoples of Japan and Nepal.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Reconstruction of Budhanilkantha Dharmashala starts

 The reconstruction of Dharmashala at Budhanilkantha Temple in Kathmandu started today.

Indian Embassy deputy chief Namgya C Khampa and chief executive officer of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) jointly laid foundation stone for the reconstruction of Dharmashala at Budhanilkantha Temple, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. 

The reconstruction of Dharmashala at Budhanilkantha is the third of 28 cultural heritage conservation and restoration projects being under taken with a reconstruction of Rs 5800 million committed by government of India for the cultural heritage sector, the press note reads, adding that all the 28 sites were identified by government and both India and Nepal signed an MoU in this regard in August 2017. "The Central Level Project Implementation Unit (Building) of NRA is the implementing agency."

The Dharmashala at Budhanilkantha is expected to facilitate visit of pilgrims and tourists visiting this sacred temple.

India has been working with Nepal for restoration of cultural heritage projects in past too. "We have long cultural similarities, cultural heritage to preserve for the future generation," the press note further reads. "Earlier in November 2019, the Mathadhish building for Budhaneelkantha temple built under India’s development cooperation scheme at a total cost of Rs 22 million."

Government of India is committed to work with Nepal government in the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage sites in Nepal to preserve the living cultural heritage sites to their past glory, the Embassy adds.

The event was attended by Mathadhish of Temple Swami Nigamananda, chairman of Budhanilkantha Management Committee Laxman Khadka, secretary of NRA Mani Ram Gelal, secretary at the Ministry of Land Reform and Management Tek Narayan Pandey, chief of Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Jay Bahadur Chand, mayor of Budhanilkantha Municipality Uddhav Pd. Kharel, chairman of the World Hindu Federation Chakra Bandhu Aryal, and officials from the Embassy of India, NRA among others.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Republic of Zambia opens an Honorary Consulate in Nepal

 Republic of Zambia appointed Nepali businessman Er Desh Bandhu Basnet as Zambia’s Honorary Consul to Republic of Zambia in Nepal.

The ambassador of Zambia to India Mrs Judith KK Kan’goma Kapijimpanga announced the appointment in a special ceremony held at the Embassy in India. Basnet’s jurisdiction will be over Kathmandu Valley and he shall handle the Consular and Economics issues on behalf of the Republic of Zambia, according to a press note issued by the Embassy. The envoy handover all legal and related items to operate an office, including national flag, official seal etc to Basnet.

The appointment will help to promote and strengthen bilateral relations between Nepal and Zambia, the press note reads, adding that it will also act as a catalyst in promoting and smoothing trade, investment and tourism. "New Honorary Consul Office will help in developing strategic partnership between two countries."

Basnet is associated with various national and international associations. He is an executive committee member at Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and chairs the Bi-National NRN Coordinator (FNCCI). He is also an executive committee member of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI).

India to promote sub-regional energy hub

 India is planning to promote a sub-regional energy hub.

"The sub regional energy hub comprising of Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and India will help meet its energy needs," according to foreign secretary of India Harsh Vardhan Shringla, delivering his remarks during the inauguration of the South Asia Group on Energy at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries in New Delhi today.

India is taking the lead to promote a regional approach to meet its energy needs, the Indian foreign secretary said, adding that it is natural for India to be the epicentre for any energy initiative in the region as it is the largest producer and consumer of energy in the region. "We have to make energy affordable, accessible and clean," he said, adding that India is promoting easier movement of hydrocarbons across the region.

Shringla, on the occasion, also mentioned that the the first South Asian cross-border petroleum products pipeline from Motihari in India to Amlekhgunj in Nepal was remotely inaugurated by Indian and Nepali prime ministers in September 2019. "The pipeline has helped save Indian Rs 1 billion for Nepal Oil Corporation."

India is now expanding the project to Chitwan, and also construct a new pipeline connecting Silguri and Jhapa in Nepal," he added.

Likewise, India supplied some 700 MW of power to Nepal in 2019 through more than 25 transmission interconnections, Shringla informed, hoping that Nepal may also start exporting power in the near future. "The first high capacity cross-border power transmission line, from Dhalkebar in Nepal to Muzaffarpur in India has been completed with Government of India-assistance and was upgraded to 400 KV capacity in November 2020."

"More cross-border high-capacity connections are envisaged," he added.

In the power generation sector, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVNL) is developing the 900 MW Arun-III hydroelectric project in northeast Nepal, the Indian foreign secretary said, recalling the Lower Arun project of Nepal has recently been awarded to SJVNL. "A consortium led by GMR is developing the 900 MW Upper Karnali hydroelectric project in western Nepal." 

Upper Karnali is an export-oriented project, where power is to be supplied to India and Bangladesh. "Private sector participation in the hydropower sector holds enormous promise," he said, mentioning that there is a wide variation in energy resource endowments and energy demand in the region. "While India and Bangladesh account for the major natural gas and coal resources, Bhutan and Nepal have large hydropower resources, and Sri Lanka has great potential for solar and wind power production."

All the South Asian countries, in fact, have vast renewable energy potential. "By harnessing complementarities in electricity demand, load curves and resource endowments, a mutually beneficial model of cooperation in South Asia could be developed," he said.

WEF selects Nirvana Chaudhary as a YGL 2021

 Chaudhary Group’s managing director Nirvana Chaudhary has been selected as a Young Global Leader (YGL) 2021 by World Economic Forum. The forum brings together, dynamic, diverse, and ‘new-age’ leaders, who have made an impact in the world through their contributions.

Since its inception in 2004, founder and executive chair of the World Economic Forum (WEF) by Klaus Schwab, this platform strives to be a way of help to the world to meet increasingly complex and interrelated challenges, according to a press note issued by the WEF that has become a global phenomenon celebrating leadership.

With 1,400 members and alumni representing over 120 nationalities, YGLs head governments and Fortune 500 companies, are recipients of Nobel Prizes and Academy Awards and serve as UN Goodwill Ambassadors, the press note reads, adding that this year over 10,000 candidates were publicly nominated. "To create a truly representative body, candidates were evaluated by a selection committee, which selected 112 new members from 56 countries."

“I am ecstatic to be chosen as a part of such an esteemed panel with equally remarkable personalities for this class of 2021," managing director of Chaudhary Group Nirvana Chaudhary commented shedding light on the moment. "The YGL platform has always inspired me with its unequivocally remarkable initiatives that have contributed immensely to reshaping the global entrepreneurial ecosystem," he said, adding that being an international platform, it has played a pivotal role in forging a community of responsible leaders to build bridges across sectors, regions, and identities, in making valuable contributions to our world. "I eagerly look forward to joining the class with such bright minds, hustling towards building a better future for the generations to come."

YGL as a foundation invests in enriching leaders’ insight and capacity to realise sustainable economies and societies. It shares their stories to illuminate what leadership could and should look like across the world. In turn, with enhanced knowledge, tools, and purpose, YGLs assume more high-impact leadership positions and have a more pronounced effect on the world. Drawing from trust-based relationships and peer inspiration, they develop ambitious, collaborative projects to tackle the global challenges that others shy away from. Together, they accomplish more than they might otherwise.

Based in Kathmandu, Chaudhary Group has over 100 companies under its umbrella and an investment outlay of over $1.6 billion. Being the first Nepali organisation to have a distribution network spanning the subcontinent, it has made a substantial presence in South Asia's fiercely competitive food and beverages market. Its Food and Beverages products have been a common household name in Nepal for decades. With ISO 9002 Its, providing the lead, its F&B products have crossed the borders to become a favourite in South Asian cities.

Founded by Dr Binod Kumar Chaudhary, Chaudhary Group's progress over the last sixty-seven years has been a trial-blazer on the Nepali horizon. Apart from also being a responsible socially responsible corporate house, Chaudhary Group forms an intrinsic part of every realm of life from biotech, cement, education, electronics and white goods, energy and infrastructure, financial services, FMCG, hotels and resorts, realty to retail. Since its inception, Chaudhary Group -- the only billion-dollar conglomerate listed in Forbes since 2013 -- has contributed to the upliftment of the nation's economy, equalizing the infrastructure and entrepreneurial capability of Nepal with other developing nations. As Nepal's investment potential progressively draws the attention of leading multinationals, Chaudhary Group continues to lead, harnessing global partnerships in core sectors and offering cost-effective procurement affiliation to corporate worldwide. The company offers its products and services through dealers, distributors, retailers, and suppliers.

Nirvana Chaudhary is the eldest scion of the founding Chaudhary family and is also the managing director of Chaudhary Group with special emphasis on group verticals such as telecommunication, FMCG, banking, amongst others.

Petro-pipeline extention to Chitwan to cost Rs 4 billion

 Some 62 km long petroleum pipeline extension from Amlekhgunj to Chitwan is going to cost Rs 4 billion, though, the entire project, including building associated infrastructure, is estimated to be around Rs 14 billion, according to a feasibility study conducted by the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC).

The government is planning to stretch the pipeline to Chitwan in the first phase, and to Kathmandu eventually. Currently, the 69-km cross-border pipeline from Motihari in India to Amlekhgunj is operational since last one-and-a-half year. 

A joint technical study team of NOC and its sole petroleum products supplier Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has prepared the feasibility study that has suggested the extension of the pipeline from Amlekhgunj to Lothar in Chitwan. The team submitted the feasibility study report to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies. 

The NOC has also started discussions regarding the investment and construction modality with the ministry as it doesnot have the technical expertise to build the project on their own. 

The ministry, however, said a decision regarding the construction and financial modality will be finalised next week by the cabinet.

According to the ministry, the same company that build the Motihari-Amlekhgunj pipeline could be awarded the project or it can be awarded to any other experienced company through an open bidding process.

The NOC, along with the pipeline, also plan to construct a modern depot in Lothar for oil storage. The depot in Lothar will have a capacity of more than 100,000 kilolitres. Currently, the NOC's total storage capacity across the country amounts to 71,000 kilolitres, enough to meet its requirement for less than a week.

The construction of the Motihari-Amlekhgunj pipeline has allowed NOC to save Rs 2 billion in freight charges so far. The NOC is able to save freight charges as it will not need to seek the services of tanker, after the construction of pipeline.

The pipeline currently brings diesel only, but the NOC plans to bring petrol too through the pipeline this year. The pipeline also helps in reducing petroleum leakage, theft and adulteration. According to the NOC, it spends around Rs 6 billion on transporting petroleum products through oil tankers annually.

Following the obstruction in petroleum supply during the four-and-a-half-months-long Tarai unrest in 2015, the government thought of expanding fuel storage capacity to meet domestic demand for at least three months.

Likewise, another team from Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), which built the Motihari-Amlekhgunj pipeline as a gift to Nepal, also conducted a survey for pipeline connecting Nepal Oil Corporation's depot at Charali in Jhapa with Siliguri, in West Bengal of India. The initial survey revealed that some 35 km of pipeline will be laid in Indian territory and 15 km on the Nepal side of the border.

Nepal imports petroleum products worth more than Rs 200 billion annually, except last fiscal year, when the entire country was under lockdown reducing the vehicular movement. However, Nepal's petroleum consumption has almost doubled in last five years, according to a report of the Central Bureau of Statistics. Nepal's total export receipt is not enough to pay for a single commodity petroleum product's import bill. 

Due to ever growing requirement, the government has also planned to extend the pipeline to Kathmandu.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Japanese assistance for livelihood improvement through agriculture

 Japan has helped implement a project to support earthquake-affected communities in Sindhupalchowk District to enhance livelihoods through agriculture.

The Charge d'Affaires of Japan to Nepal Yoshioka Yuzo signed a grant contract for $453,368 (about Rs 53 million) with country representative of the Japan Asian Association and Asian Friendship Society (JAFS) Nakajima Ayaka to implement a project to support earthquake-affected communities in Sindhupalchowk district to enhance livelihoods through agriculture.

The support was made under Japan’s Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects Scheme for the fiscal year 2020 and will be implemented by JAFS, an international NGO based in Osaka, Japan, in collaboration with its local partner NGO, AFS-Nepal, according to a press note issued by the Janapese Embassy in Kathmandu.

The project focuses on building irrigation and life water systems, and training local farmers on using the systems, the press note reads, adding that JAFS will also support the establishment of agricultural cooperatives to help farmers to collaborate with each other to add value to their products. "It will also provide opportunities farmers for learning how to grow varieties of fruits and vegetables, such as pineapples, lemons and mangos, etc."

The Embassy of Japan in Nepal hopes that the project will help towards improving the livelihoods of farmers in earthquake-affected areas, and believes that it will also enhance the friendly relations existing between the peoples of Japan and Nepal.

Chemical fertilizers procured from Bangladesh arrives

Nepal received the first consignment of the chemical fertilizer imported from Bangladesh on government-to-government (G2G) basis, though it has been too late for this year's planting season as the harvesting season has already started.

According to the Agriculture Inputs Company (AIC), some 2,500 tonnes -- of the total 50,000 tonnes of chemical fertilizers that the government of two countries reached a deal -- has arrived in Nepal today. The imported fertilizers will be kept at the depots of the company in Biratnagar, Birgunj and Bhairahawa, The AIC informed, adding that the company has now 40,000 tonnes of Diammonium Phosphate (DAP), some 7,000 tonnes of Potash and 10,000 tonnes of urea in stock.

During December planting season, every year the farmers face the shortage of chemical fertilizer, which has forced the government this year to procure fertilizer from Bangladesh on G2G basis. Earlier, Nepal used to procure the fertilizer from India on G2G basis, but the fertilizer arrives always late due to government apathy.

The government signed an agreement with Bangladesh to purchase 50,000 metric tonnes of urea fertilizer in December to maintain fertilizer supply mainly during the paddy plantation season as the farmers, as always, faced severe shortage. 

Indian envoy lays foundation stone for reconstruction of Kumari Chhen

 Indian ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra today laid the foundation stone for reconstruction and development of Kumari Chhen and Kumari Niwas in Patan of Lalitpur district.

According to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, the conservation and development work of Kumari Chhen and Kumari Niwas is second of the 28 cultural heritage conservation and restoration projects being under taken with government of India reconstruction grant of Rs 5800 million conservation, restoration and reconstruction of cultural heritage projects in eight districts of Nepal. "The 28 sites have been identified by Nepal government and the projects are being implemented by the Central Level Project Implementation Unit (Building) of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA).

The Kumari Chhen and Kumari Niwas will be conserved as per Ancient Monument Preservation Act, and Department of Archaeology’s Basic Guidelines and Manual for conservation and reconstruction of heritage affected by 2015 devastating earthquake. The scope of work includes restoration of the old building and conservation of the wall painting, which will serve as the ritual, and prayer building of the Kumari Goddess along with the construction of a new building on the vacant plot on the eastern side of the present Kumari Chhen to function as the new official residence of the Kumari goddess.

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has been engaged to provide technical support during the conservation and development work as per the Detailed Project Report approved by the overnment.

'Kumari' refers to the living Goddess worshiped by people in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. The Kumari culture is central and unique practice among the Newar Buddhist community of Kathmandu Valley. The new Kumari Niwas incorporates traditional architectural features which are symbolic representations of the importance of the Kumari Goddess in the social, religious and cultural life of the Newar community.

"India is honoured to be associated with Nepal government in the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage sites in Nepal to preserve the living cultural heritage sites to their past glory," the embassy press note adds.

Japanese assistance for improvement of new born and child health project

 Japan has helped for improvement of new born and child health project in Banke district.

The Charge d'Affaires of Japan to Nepal Yoshioka Yuzo signed a grant contract for $448,618 (about Rs 52 million) with project manager of ADRA Japan Onishi Yuka for implementing a project to improve newborn and child health in Banke district.

The support was provided under Japan’s Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects Scheme for fiscal year 2020 and will be implemented by ADRA Japan, an international NGO based in Tokyo, and its implementing partner, ADRA Nepal, and its local NGO partner, ENRUDEC, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.

The grant has been used to repair and upgrade five health posts and one primary health care center in the district, and for installing medical equipment at 48 health facilities, including at the Bheri Federal Hospital, it reads, adding that the project also organised trainings and seminars for health service providers in coordination with Lumbini Province, the Health Office, Banke, and local government units. "The project focuses on enhancing the capacity of health service providers and it will raise awareness for local communities."

ADRA believes that understanding the importance of care is the first step to save the lives of mothers, new born babies, and children.

The Embassy of Japan in Nepal hopes that the project will enhance child health care services and the understanding of people about basic health care. It also believes that the project will further strengthen the friendly relations between the peoples of Japan and Nepal, the press note adds.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Asian Transport Outlook data to support larger and more sustainable transport sector

 The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has released a first batch of data as part of a new regional knowledge platform to guide sustainable transport development in Asia and the Pacific.

The Asian Transport Outlook (ATO) will support the planning and delivery of transport sector assistance by ADB, as well as transport policy and initiatives by Asian governments, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris Agreement, and other international agreements, according to a press note issued by the ADB.

"This first batch of information reminds us of the challenges faced by economies in Asia and the Pacific in developing the transport sector as they start to look at the period beyond COVID-19,” said ADB vice president for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bambang Susantono. "We are now getting data that detail the shortages in transport infrastructure and transport services experienced by ADB members," he said, adding that it will help ADB, its member governments, and other stakeholders to build back the transport sector in Asia and the Pacific in a more sustainable manner in the coming years.

The ATO collects, organises, and shares data on the transport sector in economies using more than 400 indicators. The first batch of information includes data for 234 indicators on the status of transport infrastructure, transport activity, access and connectivity, road safety, climate change, air pollution, and health, as well as socioeconomic conditions. The ATO will also document the institutional frameworks, policies, and financing of transport in these economies.

More batches of data on the transport sector will be released in the coming months, it adds.

The ATO is developed on behalf of ADB by the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLOCAT), the leading global multi-stakeholder partnership on sustainable, low carbon transport.

"The ATO will help ADB and SLOCAT in mobilising the transport community in support of evidence-based action on transport in Asia,” said SLOCAT secretary general Maruxa Cardema. “The coming years will be decisive in determining whether we are meeting the objectives of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. The manner in which the transport sector in Asia develops is key for both processes and the ATO will tell us whether we are on track."

The ATO is a multiyear programme with the potential to serve as the primary knowledge base on transport in Asia. To make this a reality, ADB will make ATO data freely available to all and is encouraging transport planners and policymakers to make use of ATO data in their work. To enhance the success of the ATO, ADB is calling on all organisations working on transport in Asia to freely share their data.

ADB approves about 40 transport projects per year, the press note reads, adding that over the last 3 years, the average combined annual commitments were in excess of $5 billion.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members, 49 from the region.

Achieving an equal future for women in Asia and the Pacific in the post-Covid-19 era

 A dialogue among women leaders in the Asia-Pacific region to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021 highlighted the need for governments to continue their efforts to promote and ensure equal participation and representation of women in decision-making in the region.

Held under the IWD 2021 theme, ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world,’ the event organised by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) provided a virtual platform to share experiences, and recognise the tremendous efforts by women and girls in the region in shaping an equal recovery from Covid-19.

A joint report launched at today’s event by ESCAP and UN Women The Long Road to Equality: Taking stock of the situation of women and girls in Asia and the Pacific for Beijing+25: A synthesis report, shows that, although levels of women’s representation in the region have increased, uneven progress, both within countries and regionally, indicates that achieving gender equality in decision-making is a significant challenge in Asia and the Pacific.

"Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved,” said UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana. "Within the context of Covid-19, it is now more important than ever to transform discriminatory gender-based social norms, legal frameworks and institutional structures."

"The effective representation of women in public life and decision-making needs to be recognised, not only as being of intrinsic value, but also as the primary way through which decisions, institutions and financing will become gender-responsive,” said UN assistant-secretary-general and UN Women deputy executive director Anita Bhatia.

This year’s IWD theme echoes the priority theme of the upcoming 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, ‘Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls,’ and the flagship Generation Equality campaign.

Participants at the regional event included representatives of governments, the diplomatic community, the UN system, other international organisations, civil society organisations, academia, and youth groups.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Nepal to have first flyover at Gwarko

 Nepal is going to have the first flyover at Gwarko in Lalitpur after two years of ‘safety audit,’ of the Kalanki-Koteshwor road section.

The Department of Roads (DoR) confirmed the plan to construct a flyover at Gwarko Chowk within a year to ease traffic flow and minimise accidents. The department plans to complete the construction of the flyover within a year, though not a single project has been completed in projected timeframe.

The Quality Research and Development Centre under the Department of Roads has approved the flyover at Gwarko as road structure is perfect for a flyover, after the recommendations of the safety audit. Initially, the Quality Research and Development Centre had planned a flyover or an underpass at two other junctions at Satdobato and Ekantakuna but it has not concluded the study. The flyover will be built using the grade separation method under which a junction of two or more surface transport axes at different heights (grades) are aligned so that there will be no disruption in traffic flow on other transit routes when they cross each other, the Quality Research and Development Centre further informed.

The flyover will be constructed on the north-south part of the eight-lane road and only four lanes will be used for the flyover, according to the department's plan. "After the flyover is completed, vehicles heading to Imadol from Patan will use the existing road, and those heading to Satdobato from Koteshwor  or the other way round will use the 35-meter flyover."

The final design of the new structure will be soon revealed, though the exact cost estimation has not been completed. The department will issue a tender to construct the flyover once the estimated cost is released by the Finance Ministry.

The flyover will be very helpful in reducing traffic jams. According to Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, Gwarko to B&B Hospital areas are prone to accidents. Though, constructing a flyover doesnot guaratee to reduce accidents, it will ease the traffic.

After the widespread criticism over accidents and deaths on the road, the department commissioned a ‘road safety audit’ in the second week of February in 2019. However, no significant changes have been made to the road section. The audit had also recommended the installation of traffic signals at 213 places along the entire road stretch, including Balkumari, Gwarko, Satdobato, Chapagaun Dobato, Mahalaxmisthan, Ekantakuna, Nakkhu, Manohara bridge, Kalanki, Dhobighat, Khasibazar and Sanepa Chowk. But two years have been passed, and the recommendation is not implemented.

With Rs 5.13 billion cost, the Kalanki-Koteshwor section of road widening project was funded by China. It began in June 2013 and was handed over to Nepal on January 29, 2019. But the traffic jams, and accidents have been been reduced, which forced the department to conduct the 'road safety audit'.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

India extends Rs 44.17 million grant assistance to construct new building

India is helping Nepal construct new school building of Shree Naharpur Secondary School in Butwal.

Head of Development Partnership and Reconstruction Wing of the Embassy of India, Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration and Butwal Sub-Metropolitan City, Rupandehi today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for construction of new school building of Shree Naharpur Secondary School at Butwal-11, Naharpur in Rupandehi.

The new school building will be built at an estimated cost of Rs 44.17 million under Nepal-Bharat Maitri Development Partnership as a part of High Impact Community Development Project scheme programme of government of India, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

Established in1971, Shree Naharpur Secondary School is affiliated to National Examinations Board (NEB). The school is providing education in the field of Education and Management at +2 levels. Currently some, 1,127 students are enrolled in the school and about 50 per cent of which are girls students. 

Since 2003, under High Impact Community Development Projects programme, earlier known as Small Development Projects (SDP), India has completed 446 projects in the areas of health, education, drinking water, connectivity, sanitation and creation of other public utilities in across all seven provinces of Nepal. Out of these, 41 are in Province-5, including ten completed projects in Rupandehi District and 9 projects are under various stages of completion in province 5 including one in Rupandehi district.

India is also reconstructing 71 educational institutions damaged during 2015 devastating arthquake in eight districts of Nepal under reconstruction grant of Rs 5800 million, the press note reads, adding that eight schools have already been completed, work on 62 schools is ongoing and the Tribhuvan University Central Library project is under tender process.

More women entrepreneurs borrowing from financial institutions due to pandemic

 Despite the Covid-19 crisis, the pandemic might emerge as the turning point for the women entrepreneurs as the figures suggest 85 per cent jump in the loans offered to the women-owned enterprises in the last seven months. 

By mid-July 2020 financial institutions’ lending to women entrepreneurs stood at Rs 4 billion, the amount has reached Rs 27 billion as of now, informed executive director and spokesperson of the central bank, Dr  Gunakar Bhatta at a webinar titled ‘Towards recovery: Women entrepreneurs coping with the pandemic’ oraganised by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE). 

He also pointed out that the number of female borrowers has also increased three-fold during the period. 

Highlighting the difficulty in access to finance experienced by the women entrepreneurs, senior gender, rights and policy specialist Chandni Joshi, expressed that investing in women should not be considered a charity but as a smart decision. She urged the private sector to invest in women-owned-led businesses as viable business decisions.

Likewise, vice president of Federation of Nepalese Cottage and Small Industries (FNCSI) Shobha Gurung pointed out the difficulty faced by their members as the economic activities shut-down but they also utilised the period to enhance the digital and financial literacy of the members. She pointed out that during disasters like these, small businesses need more support from the government to survive. Federation of Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Nepal (FWEAN) president Reeta Simha also seconded that suggestion. She also insisted along with the soft skills entrepreneurs need better support in the form of finances for their recovery and revival.

Chief executive officer at Enterprise for Management, Economic Reform and Gender Equality (EMERGE) Dr Mona Shrestha Adhikari said that women entrepreneurs need more support to help transition from brick-and-mortar setting to digital. She added more analysis is needed to examine disaster impacts through a gender lens.

The webinar was organised to disseminate the findings of a small-scale survey of women entrepreneurs engaged in the manufacturing sector conducted by SAWTEE to examine the impact of the pandemic on their ability to do business. The survey found that 61 per cent of the women-owned businesses reported having been affected severely by the pandemic and the lockdown measures; some 57 per cent of the respondent sought loans to cope with the pandemic; some 56 per cent of the respondents used e-commerce platforms for sales or promotion during the period. Further, some 92 per cent of the respondents were not aware of any support facilities offered by the government, revealed senior research officer at SAWTEE Dikshya Singh.

On the occasion, chair of SAWTEE Dr Posh Raj Pandey pointed out the lack of mentorship offered to women entrepreneurs, by private sector associations, government and civil society, during the pandemic to help them innovate and shift towards the digital landscape.

The participants in the webinar included women entrepreneurs, representatives from civil society organisations, policymakers and academia. They pointed out limited access to information for the women entrepreneurs that inhibits their ability to expand their businesses. Similarly, they also insisted that the difficulty in accessing finance needs to be addressed for enhancing women’s participation in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Covid bleeds economy red

 Hit hard by the corona pandemic, economy saw a negative growth of 1.99 per cent in the last fiscal year 2020-21, according to Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

Earlier in April, the CBS had projected economy to grow by 2.27 per cent in the last fiscal year, though the Finance Ministry had claimed the economic growth rate of the country stands at 0.02 per cent in 2019-20.

The CBS also projected the economic growth of the first quarter of the current fiscal year also to remain negative by 4.6 per cent. "But the economy is 'recovering at a V shape,' deputy director general of the CBS Hem Raj Regmi said, during a programme today.

This year the economic growth has been based on a rebasing of the economic indicators, which has been done on an interval of every 10 years. "The gross domestic product, based on the revised estimate, stands at Rs 3.94 trillion," according to the CBS.

Unveiling the data today, the CBS also revealed that the economic growth went down by 15.4 per cent during the last three months, between mid-May and mid-July in the last fiscal year compared to the same period a year ago.

The economy was largely hit after the government imposed a complete countrywide lockdown from March 24 last year for almost four months and partial lockdown again for almost another four months. However, the gross domestic product (GDP) has reached Rs 3.94 trillion due to change in the base year for the national accounts. "The GDP size has been estimated in the revised reference year as the government central data authority has switched the base year to 2010-11 from the previous 2000-01 to calculate the new macroeconomic figures.

With the revision in rebasing, the CBS reveals that the contribution of the service sector to the GDP has grown by 8.4 per cent while those of primary and secondary sectors declined by 9.4 per cent and 3.2 per cent, respectively. Likewise, the CBS has revised the weightage of service sector in GDP estimation from 48 per cent to 52.2 per cent. "The weightage of primary sector in the new reference year has been taken at 34 per cent from 37.6 per cent and that of manufacturing sector has been reduced to 13.9 per cent from 14.4 per cent."

The CBS also claimed that the country’s average income stands at  1,134 per capita, based on the new reference year. 

India extends Rs 44.17 million grant assistance to construct new building

India is helping Nepal construct new school building of Shree Naharpur Secondary School in Butwal.

Head of Development Partnership and Reconstruction Wing of the Embassy of India, Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration and Butwal Sub-Metropolitan City, Rupandehi today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for construction of new school building of Shree Naharpur Secondary School at Butwal-11, Naharpur in Rupandehi.

The new school building will be built at an estimated cost of Rs 44.17 million under Nepal-Bharat Maitri Development Partnership as a part of High Impact Community Development Project scheme programme of government of India, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

Established in1971, Shree Naharpur Secondary School is affiliated to National Examinations Board (NEB). The school is providing education in the field of Education and Management at +2 levels. Currently some, 1,127 students are enrolled in the school and about 50 per cent of which are girls students. 

Since 2003, under High Impact Community Development Projects programme, earlier known as Small Development Projects (SDP), India has completed 446 projects in the areas of health, education, drinking water, connectivity, sanitation and creation of other public utilities in across all seven provinces of Nepal. Out of these, 41 are in Province-5, including ten completed projects in Rupandehi District and 9 projects are under various stages of completion in province 5 including one in Rupandehi district.

India is also reconstructing 71 educational institutions damaged during 2015 devastating arthquake in eight districts of Nepal under reconstruction grant of Rs 5800 million, the press note reads, adding that eight schools have already been completed, work on 62 schools is ongoing and the Tribhuvan University Central Library project is under tender process.

Japan constructs classrooms for specialised courses in agriculture

 An official of the Embassy of Japan handed over a school building for specialised courses in agriculture to the Shree Nepal Rastriya Tribhuwan Secondary School in Gulmi district.

Approximately 90 per cent of the population in Gulmi district is engaged in agriculture, but productivity has remained low. The low productivity is also among the reasons that has caused the younger generation seek employment abroad. According to a report in 2018, Gulmi district generates the largest number of migrant workers.

In order to address this situation, the Shree Nepal Rastriya Tribhuwan Secondary School planned a curricula of specialised courses in agriculture, according to a press note issued by the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu. "The curricula offers full-time courses for students of Grades 9 and 10," it reads, adding that the courses are designed to include subjects such as animal husbandry, sericulture, farm land management, and agricultural processing. "With the implementation of the project, the school also aims to interest the younger generation in agriculture."

Youth in rural areas generally tend to think that farming does not guarantee a stable income, which however, can change if it is done with the necessary knowledge and skills, it adds.

The Embassy of Japan expects the project to contribute to improving the lives of local farmers in Gulmi district and also promote the Nepal's rich agricultural resources. The Embassy also hopes the assistance will further strengthen the bilateral relationship between Japan and Nepal,

Monday, March 1, 2021

Japanese assistance to improve quality of education in quake-affected areas

 The Government of Japan has extended $877,008 (about Rs 102.82 million) to Shanti Volunteer Association under the grant, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.

The assistance for Japanese NGO Projects Schemes. 

Shanti Volunteer Association, a Japanese NGO based in Tokyo, will work with Nepali partner NGOs Samunat Nepal and READ Nepal, and targeted local communities to improve library and learning center services in four districts and to provide improved teaching methods, the press note reads, adding that a grant contract for tghe project was signed and exchanged today by charge d’affaires ad Interim of Japan to Nepal Yoshioka Yuzo and country director of Shanti Volunteer Association Nepal Office Miyake Takafumi. "This project, now in its second year, aims at improving services provided by community libraries and learning centers in Makawanpur, Lalitpur, Solukhumbu, Syangja and Sunsari districts."

It will also provide teaching methods and install library corners at 53 schools in Makawanpur district to improve the learning environment, adds the embassy of Japan in Nepal that expects that the project will build disaster resilient libraries and learning centers in earthquake affected areas and will contribute to improve the quality of education. "It is also confident that the project will strengthen the cordial friendship between the peoples of Japan and Nepal."

International rights bodies demand withdrawal of ordinance

 Global rights bodies asked the government to withdraw ordinance that undermines the independence of constitutional human rights bodies and rescind recent appointments.

Issuing a joint press note today, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, and Amnesty International asked the Nepal government to immediately withdraw an ordinance that undermines the independence of constitutional human rights bodies and rescind recent appointments that were made without consultation or parliamentary approval.

These government  actions undermine public trust and confidence in the integrity of the judiciary and other constitutional bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission and the Election Commission, it reads, adding that the illegitimate appointments process is not simply an abstract irregularity but will lead to ineffective and weak implementation of critical mandates to protect human rights and other rule of law objectives.

"The government’s actions are a severe dent in Nepal’s long struggle for a rule of law-based constitution, which was finally adopted in 2015 to guarantee human rights," South Asia director at Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly said, adding that it is sad to see some of the same politicians who drafted the Constitution playing fast and loose with the charter just a few years later.

On December 15, 2020, President Bidya Devi Bhandari endorsed an executive ordinance to amend the law governing the Constitutional Council, which makes appointments to the judiciary, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and other constitutional bodies including the Election Commission. Under the Constitutional Council Act, five out of six members must be present, but under the ordinance a simple majority is sufficient. Because one seat on the council is vacant the quorum has been reduced to three.

The Constitutional Council met the same day with a newly reduced quorum. Three council members made 38 nominations to vacant positions on constitutional bodies at that meeting. They included all five seats on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), as well as nominations to bodies established to protect the rights of Dalits, women, and marginalised minorities, and to investigate corruption allegations.

Under the Constitution, appointments to these key institutions are supposed to be vetted by parliament. However, parliament was abruptly dissolved  on December 20, five days after the appointments were announced. The nominees were sworn in on  February 3, 2021,  despite legal challenges in the Supreme Court  to the constitutionality of the nominations and the dissolution of parliament. On February 23, the Supreme Court ruled that the dissolution of parliament was unconstitutional.

"In a context where repeated calls for institutional reforms have gone unheeded for decades, this move by the government further weakens the effectiveness of constitutional bodies that are supposed to be beacons of hope for victims of human rights violations and abuses,” senior international legal adviser at ICJ Mandira Sharma said, adding that independence, impartiality and legitimacy are preconditions for these bodies to effectively and efficiently deliver their mandates. 

The Human Rights Commission, until recently, had played an important role in calling for accountability, including by releasing the names of people allegedly responsible for serious human rights violations such as torture and extra-judicial killing and recommending that they should be prosecuted. It is currently graded ‘A’ by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) for its compliance with the Paris Principles, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly as the basic standards governing the mandate and operation of effective national human rights organisations. Core among the Paris Principles is that a national human rights institution must be independent and that its independence must be guaranteed by law. The organisations are concerned that following the new appointments the commission no longer meets those standards.

Among the other constitutional bodies to which new commissioners have been appointed in the same manner are the Election Commission and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), Nepal’s anti-corruption agency. The Election Commission is seen by many people as playing an important role in efforts to achieve a society based on the rule of law and respect for human rights , while the CIAA has the authority  to bring corruption cases against politicians.

Numerous appointments have also been made to commissions with mandates to protect the rights of people from vulnerable groups, including the National Women’s Commission, National Dalit Commission, and National Inclusion Commission. Many of these positions had lain vacant for years.

At least two Supreme Court petitions have been filed challenging the ordinance amending the Constitutional Council Act, and the new appointments to constitutional bodies. The chief justice, Cholendra Shumsher Rana, who sits on the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court, participated in the three-member Constitutional Council meeting that made the disputed nominations, and he administered the oath of office to the new commissioners on February 3.

"The doubts over the independence and integrity of the NHRC and other commissions will endanger the protection of human rights in Nepal,” deputy South Asia director of Amnesty International (AI) Dinushika Dissanayake said, adding that the government must immediately reverse these appointments and start a new process in consultation with the civil society and rights holders in Nepal.

The Accountability Watch Committee, a group of prominent human rights defenders in Nepal, issued a statement on February 12 announcing that they would not 'cooperate and engage with the NHRC and other constitutional bodies until the Supreme Court's decision.' Accountability Watch also called upon 'the United Nations, diplomatic missions in Nepal and international organisations not to give legitimacy and cooperate with this appointment process which is currently sub-judice at the Supreme Court of Nepal.'

Foreign development partners that have previously engaged with the NHRC, and with the other commissions affected by this process, should stand clearly for a proper, open, and transparent appointments process that is based on international standards, Human Rights Watch, ICJ, and Amnesty International said.