Nepal – the country of the Buddha and the Mt. Everest

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Analysis: When aid meets arsenic in Nepal

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 27, 2012

Photo: Marcus Benigno/IRIN A girl drinks from a public tap installed last year in Nepal's Nawalparasi District

27 January 2012 (IRIN) – After the discovery of unsafe levels of arsenic in Nepal’s groundwater more than a decade ago, government officials and aid groups are finally taking a critical look at whether their efforts have made a difference. 

“We didn’t raise money for broken filters,” said US-based geologist Linda Smith, expressing frustration during a recent visit to Nawalparasi District in the southern Terai region, one of Nepal’s hardest-hit areas by arsenic-contaminated groundwater, when she came across abandoned water filters. 

At one home, two broken cement water filters were being used as planters, while another filter distributed by the NGO she heads, Filters for Families (FFF), sat dismantled in the yard. 

At a neighbouring home, parts were missing from a two-bucket filtration system from Bangladesh known as a Sono. The filter stand had been converted to a clothes-drying rack. 

Smith retrieved unused filters and reimbursed families for the US$5 they had paid per filter, which has an actual cost of $70. 

“There are people who need filters, and they need to realize this,” she said. 

Some 2.7 million people in Nepal – nearly 10 percent of the population – are drinking water with arsenic concentrations above the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended 10 parts per billion (ppb), according to 2011 government estimates. 

In Nawalparasi District alone, a 2008 government survey of tube wells (shallow wells 14-24m deep controlled by hand pumps) found almost 4,000 wells had arsenic that exceeded national standards (50ppb). 

Another 4,418 met national standards, but not the international 10ppb threshold – altogether affecting nearly 140,000 people who depend on those tube wells for drinking water. 

Not a priority?

More than half of the country’s 33,000 tube wells that contain unsafe levels of arsenic have been addressed with the distribution of filters, but it does not mean the filters are used or maintained properly, said Madhav Pahari, water and sanitation specialist for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Kathmandu, which supports the government with arsenic containment.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Nepal’s Monsanto debate spotlights seed sovereignty

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 10, 2012

Kathmandu, 10 January 2012 (IRIN) – An effort by US donors and multinational agribusiness Monsanto to partner with Nepal to boost local maize production with imported hybrid seeds has met civil society opposition calling – instead – for home-grown solutions. 

“If an organization like USAID [US Agency for International Development] wants to help us with a company like Monsanto, we would hope that they would help us to actually develop our own hybrids instead, not to import their foreign seeds,” said Hari Dahal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, at a recent parliamentary hearing on food sovereignty, as reported in local media

USAID announced last September its intention to set up a pilot training partnership with Monsanto and the Nepali government, which promotes hybrid maize seeds to boost yields in a country where 41 percent of the population is estimated to be undernourished

Maize is a staple of the local diet, especially in the maize-producing hilly central interior of the country, which suffers from chronic food insecurity

In addition, Nepal grows only half of the maize demanded by the animal feed industry and imports the shortfall of 135,000 tons annually, according to USAID. 

Demand for hybrid maize seeds, used primarily in the animal feed industry, has increased as animal feed has constituted a growing source of income for commercial farmers. 

Opponents of the proposed partnership say it would substitute one form of dependence for another – from the currently imported maize to maize seeds from abroad. 

According to the government, the country required 22,656 tons of maize seed in 2011 for the animal feed industry, which uses primarily hybrid seeds – less than 1 percent of which was supplied by registered imports.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Future of Nepal

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 30, 2011

Let’s be optimistic that this future of Nepal will be fulfilled soon:

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Visit Lumbini Year from Jan 14

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 18, 2011


KATHMANDU: The government is all set to launch the Visit Lumbini Year 2012 on January 14 in a bid to spread Gautam Buddha’s message of peace across the world and develop the Buddha’s birthplace as a peace city and a global Buddhist centre.

According to the Ministry of Federal Affairs, Constituent Assembly, Parliamentary Affairs and Culture, the Cabinet had decided to mark 2012 as the Visit Lumbini Year about two months ago.

The government will launch the Lumbini year at the concluding ceremony of the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 on January 14, Rishi Kesh Niraula, undersecretary at the ministry, said.

So far in 2011, the country has received more than eight lakh foreign visitors against the NTY target of one million visitors, according to government sources. In 2010, some 600,000 foreigners had visited the country. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nepal: Parties agree on consensus government in two weeks

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 29, 2011



KATHMANDU, Nov 30: The major political parties have agreed to form a government of national consensus within two weeks and have authorized their top leaders to take a decision on the leadership of the next government.

Signing a six-point agreement committing them to implement all the components of the November 1 deal by December 15, top leaders of the major parties and the Madhesi alliance agreed to “immediately” form a government based on political understanding as well as reiterating their agreement to complete the remaining tasks of the pace process by December 15.

“A national consensus government will be in place by the end of Mangsir (December 15),” said Ram Chandra Paudel, vice-president of the Nepali Congress, following a meeting of the top leaders on Tuesday when asked what the word “immediately” meant.

Further specifying the meaning of “immediately”, CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal said that the parties held discussions at length during the meeting to avoid possible different interpretations of “immediately”.

“A national consensus government will be formed without delay,” said Khanal about the parties´ interpretation of “immediately.”

Emerging from the meeting, Vice-chairman of the Maoist party Narayankaji Shrestha, who is also deputy prime minister and foreign minister, told media persons that a national consensus government would be formed after holding discussions at the top political level soon.  Read the rest of this entry »

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5.2 Million Nepalese still Illiterate

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 29, 2011

NOV 29, BHAKTAPUR. The Informal Education Center, Sanothimi, has made the population of illiterate people public over 15 years of age.

Deputy Director of the Center, Keshav Prasad Dahal, said illiterate male population over 15 years of age across the country is over 1.7 million while the female one is over 3.4 million.

Sarlahi district has the highest number of illiterate population while Manang has the lowest population of illiterate population across the country. Sarlahi has 132,798 female illiterate population and 88,897 male whereas Manang has only 907 female and 499 male illiterate population.

Under-Secretary at the Center, Madhav Prasad Dahal said, the center has been running literacy campaign since October 18 targeting to make literate to 1,035,000 uneducated people of 15-60 age groups in all the 75 districts.

As per the target the center will run classes effectively and plans to make literate to 350,000 uneducated people in the first three months, he said. Similarly, the rest of the illiterate population will be made literate in the second and third phase within the end of the current fiscal year, he added. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nepal: Fungus Foragers Convicted Of Beating Deaths

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 17, 2011

KATMANDU, Nepal — A court in northwestern Nepal has convicted 19 villagers for the beating deaths of seven people from a rival community in a dispute over foraging for a rare fungus known as ‘Himalayan Viagra.’

The Manang district court said six of the defendants were sentenced to 20 years in prison, while the remaining were sentenced to two years.

Residents of Naar village attacked the seven rivals in June 2009 after they came to nearby mountainous areas to collect yarsagumba, a rare fungus that grows out of the corpses of caterpillars. It can fetch thousands of dollars per kilogram for its reputed effects as an aphrodisiac.

The court reached its verdict on Tuesday.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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NEPAL: Few resources for child drug addicts in Dharan

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 27, 2011

DHARAN, 27 September 2011 (IRIN) – Child drug users in one of Nepal’s largest cities, Dharan, near the border with India, lack access to

Photo: Marcus Benigno/IRIN Nagendra is chained to the family bed

proper rehabilitation and social services, and those from lower caste families are especially vulnerable.

“More than 50 percent of youth [in Dharan] are involved in drug use,” said Rajendra Bista, deputy superintendent of police in Dharan. “Most of their parents are abroad working, so the children are not given proper guidance, but they get a lot of money. Misguidance leads them to drug addiction.”

In contrast with other Nepalese cities, Dharan boasts well-maintained roads and good infrastructure, thanks to remittances sent home by Nepalis working abroad.

In the absence of decent social services, however, particularly for low-income and lower caste families, some parents have resorted to drastic measures to restrain their children. For Durga Bishwakarma, chaining her 10-year-old, drug-abusing son, Nagendra, to the family bed was her only option.

“While I was at work or asleep at night, he would run away. I would pay one of the street kids to find him and pay another child and another until I had no money left to give,” Durga told IRIN.

Durga and her family are Dalits, a marginalized caste in South Asia, and live in a single room off the squatter tenements in Dharan.

According to a 2006 survey by the Nepal Central Bureau of Statistics, 53 percent of hard drug users are aged 15-24 in Nepal. Buprenorphine, in the form of Tidigesic (an injecting painkiller illegal in Nepal) and considered a hard drug, is popular in Dharan, and available for as little as US$3. Dharan’s proximity to the Nepal-India border eases drug-trafficking. Read the rest of this entry »

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NEPAL: Gender discrimination fuels malnutrition

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 22, 2011

KHALANGA BAZAAR, 22 September 2011 (IRIN) – Gender discrimination lies behind much of the malnutrition found in under-five children in Nepal, say locals and experts.

In Khalanga Bazaar, the headquarters of Jumla District in Nepal’s remote mid-west, there is evidence of seasonal plenty – apples and walnuts in abundance – yet last month a three-year-old child died of malnutrition in the neighbouring village of Urthu.

According to the preliminary Nepal Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) released in August, 29 percent of children under five are malnourished, and the problem is chronic in remote parts of the Mid-Western Region. The most recent regional figures (in the NDHS 2006report) show more than half of the children are chronically malnourished.

“Girls are neglected because they are thought not to need strength,” Indra Raj Panta, programme officer for Decentralized Action for Children and Women in Jumla, told IRIN.

Women live hard lives from day one, born with no fanfare, contrasting starkly to the six-day celebration to mark the birth of a boy. Walking along the road from one village to the next, women and girls bear the weight of baskets of apples, rocks or bags of rice, while men and boys tag alongside unburdened.

Despite the physical demands of a woman’s daily life, boys and husbands eat first and are offered the most nutritious food, often leaving girls and women with leftovers.

Pregnant women still labour

The role of a woman as labourer does not ease while pregnant either: The same work is done, the same weight is borne. And the local belief that leafy, green vegetables are bad for babies, results in a seriously restricted diet contributing to the puzzling chronic malnutrition found in the remote Karnali Zone. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Global Health Initiative’s Missing Piece In Nepal

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 15, 2011

Needs to do a lot there in health sector as well.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Nepal Prime Minister Bhattarai expands cabinet

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 4, 2011

Prashanta Jha

A week after getting elected as Prime Minister, Dr Baburam Bhattarai expanded his cabinet on Sunday evening with representatives from both the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and key coalition ally, the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) which includes five Madhesi parties.

The PM appointed Maoist vice chairman, Narayan Kaji Shrestha ‘Prakash’ as the deputy prime minister and foreign minister. Barshaman Pun ‘Ananta’, an influential young leader and close aide of the party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, is the new finance minister. Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Democratic) leader Sharad Singh Bhandari will take charge of the defence ministry, while Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Republican) chairman J P Gupta is the new information and communication minister. MJF (D) chairman, Bijay Kumar Gachhedar, had been appointed deputy prime minister and home minister last week. Read the rest of this entry »

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PM Bhattarai praised for choosing Nepal-made Mustang

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 31, 2011

By Sanjaya Dhakal

The Mustang has a reputation for being basic but ideally suited to Nepal's roads

New Nepalese PM Baburam Bhattarai has spurned the opportunity to travel in a luxurious car and instead chosen an unglamorous vehicle assembled in Nepal.

Dr Bhattarai, who was sworn in on Monday, has chosen an unfancied Golchha Mustang as his official vehicle.

Not to be confused with its namesake in the US, the Mustang is made from parts imported from India and China. Fewer than 1,000 have been sold in Nepal.

His decision to choose a Nepalese-made vehicle has won praise from the media. Read the rest of this entry »

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Baburam Bhattarai, Nepal Maoists Deputy Chief, Sworn In As Prime Minister

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 29, 2011

Congratula­tion and all the best Dr. Bhattarai.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Deputy chief of former rebels elected new Nepal PM

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 28, 2011


KATMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s parliament elected the deputy leader of the former Maoist rebels as the new prime minister on Sunday, halting the Himalayan nation’s latest political crisis.

Baburam Bhattarai of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) received 340 votes in the 601-seat parliament with the backing of several smaller parties. That was more than the simple majority needed to be elected.

Bhattarai’s only opponent, Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress party, received 235 votes.

The political crisis was triggered by former Prime Minister Jhalnath Khanal’s resignation on Aug. 14 after he failed to make process in drafting a long-delayed constitution. It had taken Khanal 17 rounds of votes in parliament over seven months to be elected in February, while Bhattarai was selected in the first attempt.

Bhattarai, 57, is the second-highest leader of the Maoist group which fought government troops until 2006 demanding political reforms and an end to the centuries-old monarchy.

Bhattarai remained in hiding during the 10 years of fighting. The bloody revolt began in mountain villages in western Nepal in 1996 but spread to most of the country by the time the rebels gave up their revolt and joined a peace process under United Nations supervision. Read the rest of this entry »

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NEPAL: Reintegration challenges for displaced women, girls

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 26, 2011



KATHMANDU, 26 August 2011 (IRIN) – Nepal’s efforts to help conflict-affected women and girls gain a stronger footing in society may not be enough for the widows, rape victims and former Maoist combatants now tainted by social stigma, activists say.

“Because women have held guns and left their homes, because they were sexually assaulted, people won’t accept them so easily back into their communities,” said Susan Risal, director of Nagarik Awaz for Peace, a local NGO working for sustainable peace.

“It’s not so easy to just reintegrate… We expect that the widows and victims of sexual violence will get shunned from their communities,” she added.

About 100,000 people remain displaced in Nepal following a 2006 ceasefire and peace accord with communist Maoist fighters. Many observers believe women were disproportionately affected by the decade-long conflict and its aftermath: Sexual violence was prevalent during rebel attacks, war widows were subjected to violence and discrimination, and national insecurity led to an increase in trafficked women.

Efforts to address the problem are now drawing foundational support from two UN Security Council resolutions – 1325 and 1820 – acknowledging the vulnerabilities of women and girls in post-conflict societies and their right to representation, and the adoption of a National Action Plan, the first of its kind in Asia, in February 2011 (10 years after 1325 was passed, and three years after 1820 was approved).

Many are hopeful the five-pillar plan, if executed and funded sufficiently, could deliver prompt and free legal services, more residential homes, social services and access to relief and recovery packages for women and girls. But local peace and reconstruction campaigners predict obstacles due to a lack of support and ongoing discrimination.

IRIN Asia | NEPAL: Reintegration challenges for displaced women, girls | Nepal | Conflict | Gender Issues.

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