Locals in Nepal take direct action

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Police use a water cannon to push back protesters on the streets of Kathmandu. Photo: Nepali Times

The jury is still out on federalism in Nepal, which was put in place in 2017, after elections to three levels of government – local, provincial and federal. But there is no doubting that local people are getting more vocal about their frustrations at the slow pace of road building and other infrastructure works. I wrote the following in this week’s Nepali Times:

Think locally, act locally

  • In May, residents and traders burned tyres to block the Chabahil-Jorpati road, signalling their frustration at long-delayed construction on the dusty, crater-filled stretch. They succeeded in sparking action, but after upgrading work stalled, protests erupted again last week in a bid to force the contractor to finish the job.
  • The road blocking trend morphed into poster protests, where the faces of delinquent road contractors were plastered to poles and vehicles. This included Nagarkot, where contractor Sharada Prasad Adhikari, also the landlord of Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was targeted. The tactic spread further, with Mayor Bhim Parajuli of Biratnagar being publicly shamed last week.
  • Residents attempting to stop road-building in Baitadi in October were turned on by an excavator operator, whose shocking attack with the machine injured eight people. Attempted murder charges are pending.
  • In Udaypur last week, locals clashed with police after seizing more than a dozen dump trucks and an excavator that were being used to gouge sand and rocks out of a local river.
  • Residents of Charikot of Dolakha District took to the streets last week to protest the lack of progress in repairing the Jiri Highway. They blocked the main intersection to vehicular traffic for hours.

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Asia to go dry – or be submerged

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Bhutanese politician Tshering Togbay holds up a copy of the ICIMOD assessment that predicts 2/3 of glaciers in the Hindu-Kush mountains will melt by 2100 if current global warming continues.

This short TED talk is a short, clear description of why everyone in the world should care that Mt Everest and its neighbours are melting.

Hint: the Hindu-Kush mountains are also known as the 3rd Pole, and the water that flows from them nourishes the lives of more than 2 billion people in Asia.

Tshering Togbay, a politician from Bhutan, presents a scary scenario here but as he makes clear, inaction is not an option.

His suggestion is to create a new body of all the governments in the Hindu-Kush, with particularly active involvement from giants – and major greenhouse gas producers – China and India. It’s easy to dismiss yet another government ‘talk shop’ but if the leaders of countries at risk won’t take action, who will?

Shorter, not fatter

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A child eating at a Mother’s Group meeting devoted to nutritious feeding, in Nepal’s Achham district in 2018. Photo: Marty Logan

A study finding that infants in Kathmandu are getting 25% of their calories from junk foods was a major talking point in Nepal last week.

Looking at the article in The Journal of Nutrition, it is also surprising that among the 700 or so kids studied, the group who ate the most junk food were shorter than the average, not fatter as might be expected.

Shorter than average is a description of stunting, a major marker of childhood malnutrition. Decades ago Nepal had extremely high rates of stunting, which is also an indicator of a country’s development, but managed to reduce it greatly. Still, the country is not on track to meet the 2030 target of the Sustainable Development Goals: 15% of children under 5 stunted.

Below is my article published today in Nepali Times, online.

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Nepal has greater heights to scale than Mt Everest

WASH_Achham_Marty_Logan_2018As the ‘custodian’ of Mt Everest, the Nepal Government must make changes to how it manages the precious global resource. But far below, leaders are struggling to overcome other obstacles that block the country’s graduation from least-developing country status.

Earlier this month a National Geographic team set up the world’s highest weather station, very close to the peak of Mt Everest. Its purpose is to monitor the Central Asian Jet Stream, to see how winds and moisture move above 29,000 feet and affect the warming climate. In effect the multinational team has also opened a window to the land where glaciers are born.

With great potential for gleaning information about this much celebrated, increasingly exploited, but little known environment, the weather stations are a exciting advance. Yet you get the feeling that the die is already cast: like its neighbours in the Himalaya Hindu-Kush (HKH) range, Everest is melting.

2/3 of glaciers could melt by 2100

The worst-case scenario in a recent assessment predicts that two-thirds of glaciers in the HKH, which spans from Afghanistan to China, will melt by 2100. Earlier last week another team of scientists announced  they found the internal temperatures of the Khumbu glacier on Everest to be higher than expected, just -3.3C. They predicted accelerated melting in the short term, followed by flooding, droughts and unstable, dangerous conditions for climbers.

This climate peril illustrates the double-barrel challenge facing countries like Nepal: they must provide the basics expected from an increasingly wealthy, globally-savvy population — such as infrastructure, health and education — and at the same time confront global threats like the climate crisis and deadly non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that bedevil rich and poor countries alike. Continue reading

Nepal must ensure students’ WASH

WASH in schools

This photo was taken by Sushma, 15, from Sindhuli district in Nepal as part of a participatory photo project, organised by WaterAid UK. She said: “This is the girls’ toilet at our school. It doesn’t lock properly. If someone is inside, someone else has to wait outside, pushing the door. This is why we need more girl-friendly toilets.”

WASH stands for water, sanitation and hygiene. It doesn’t sound sexy, but when you think about it, those things are fundamental to our lives.

The link between WASH and education is not so evident, but it too is essential, this time for keeping students in school — especially girls and particularly when they reach the age of menstruation.

Nepal’s WASH statistics have been improving but it’s important that we don’t confuse facilities with functioning WASH systems, because in many cases water taps and bathrooms are on site but are not useable.

Here’s the column I wrote about this for the current issue of Nepali Times:

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Nourishing post-natal mothers and babies in Nepal

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A child eats during a feeding session of a mothers’ group in Achham district, Nepal, February 2018. Photo: Marty Logan

Here’s a short update on my recent post, New mothers get rice, rupees and a rooster!

A municipality in Bara district, 60 km south of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, is distributing chickens to new mothers and pregnant women. The local initiative to add protein to families’ diets is part of the national Multi-Sector Nutrition Plan, which I’ve written about previously.

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New mothers get rice, rupees & a rooster!

Bhojpur doo-to-door health campaign

Officials from Arun Rural Municipality in Nepal’s Bhojpur district give a rooster to a new mother on 29 March 2019. The programme to support new mothers started in January.  Photo: The Himalayan Times

Time for me to walk my talk.

Following up on my last post about not dwelling on the negative in Nepal, I’m highlighting a very small but positive development. Municipal officials in Bhojpur district in the country’s east started a programme in January to visit new mothers.

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