None of the places I have lived I ever really leave. None of them are a source of much happy news. Despite my widely acknowledged sunny disposition. Must be the world goes to pieces. I do consume whatever antidote comes my way, from the Pinkers and Ridleys, and the Singers and Roslings of the opinion market, to anything that’s even marginally edible from the artistic, spiritual, and work-the-body offer. Ultimately it all feels like self-medication, but I digress. One of those places, Nepal, is certainly no exception. My near daily quickscan of the Kathmandu Post more often than not brings sadness. Some lows are so low that I would suspect a spoof if it were about anywhere else. Two random examples, I mean really random, plenty others could have been chosen. Let’s start with just sad, although very sad:
Oct 23, 2016- Stakeholders have urged the government to formulate concrete plans to utilise naturally stockpiled sand, gravels and boulders in Mustang, stating the district alone can suffice construction needs of the entire country.
Mustang consists of barren land and mountains of sand, gravels and boulders, which if utilised by the government for the extraction of construction materials, can generate huge revenues. Likewise, if the entire crusher factories are shifted to Mustang, it can solve the problem of depleting Chure range, according to the locals.
A few months ago, when the then Industry Minister Som Prasad Pandey visited Mustang, he had queried if crushers factories could be shifted to the region….
Around 50 percent area of Mustang, the second largest district of Nepal, comprises of mountains made of sand and boulders. “This is the greatest gift to us by the nature,” said Professor Ram Prasad Upadhayay, who has long been carrying out research in the region. “I believe the government must transfer all the crusher factories here. But it has not conducted a study yet.”
According to Mahendra Sherchan, a lawmaker from the region, the government has not allowed anyone to set up crusher factories here as it has signed United Nation’s Environmental Protection Guideline.
However, according to the stakeholders, such factories can be established remaining within the guideline. “In order to make the country prosperous and save the Chure Range, the government must utilise the construction materials available in the region,” said Sherchan.
Dunno why, but this seems an appropriate commentary:
And let’s now get on to comedy:
Oct 23, 2016- Prime Minister and Chairman of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) Consultative Council Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Sunday formed the development assistance coordination and facilitation committee.
A meeting of the council held on October 4 had charged PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal with the responsibility of forming the committee.
The committee to be headed by NRA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will have one each representative from Indian government, Chinese government, World Bank, and Asian Development Bank.
Likewise, the committee will have two members from Nepal-based International Development Partner Organisations, president or a representative from Federation of Nepali Chambers of Commerce and Industry, President or representative of Non-Governmental Organisation Federation, and chairman or representative of International NGOs.
NRA Secretary will be the member secretary of the committee.
The committee can also invite consultative council, director committee, office bearers or members of chief executive committee, and other stakeholders or concerned bodies.
The role, responsibility and authority of the committee will be to coordinate and facilitate the civil society and national international development partners involved in reconstruction works being run with the supporter of development aid.
Likewise, the committee will influence national and international development partners, civil society and private sector wishing to help Nepal for the reconstruction of earthquake ravaged infrastructure and rehabilitation of the people and families affected by the earthquake.
The scope of the committee also include monitoring and reviewing of the reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes in order to make them effective, and providing advises to the Nepal government, NRA, and concerned development partner organisations and bodies regarding the same.
Apart from doing other works assigned by NRA Consultative Council, Directive Committee and Executive Committee in a bid to make the reconstruction and rehabilitation work effective, the committee will also take initiatives to bring uniformity in the reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes run with development assistance.
Likewise, the committee can prepare its working guidelines and carry out its work by forming sub-committees and taskforces.
You may question the ‘comedy’ descriptor. In theory, some coordination body makes a lot of sense. In theory, a manifesto Duncan Green recently hosted on his blog (great resource!) is the way to go, not only for economic development but for any outside assistance.
However true the sentiment, aid taking its humble place as a sidekick won’t necessarily bring better results. You may notice that the manifesto is a bit fuzzy about the difference between the ‘local leaders’ and those they ‘lead’. Whatever one’s preferred perspective, I have trouble imagining anyone familiar with Nepalese politics to have any hopes for this committee to be anything other than the next example of local leaders not primarily interested in solving any other local problems but their personal ones. Admittedly, that is true for many ‘development’ contexts. So the ethos of the manifest, however important to always keep in mind, is not all one has to keep in mind when looking at countries like Nepal (or one’s own for that matter!). It’s not only about attitude, it’s also about interests and power (and plenty other things, but let’s keep it simple). And interests and power at all sides of the table. I digress again, but the below quick intro to a very extreme version of that interest/power perspective is just too juicy to not share. I can heartily recommend the machiavellian political science blockbuster that it is based upon, as long as you are aware that all social science perspectives reveal as much as they highlight. Social science only has spotlights, no floodlights. What’s foregrounded by one is in the dark with another.
So, back to Nepal, the highs of which – apart from the occasional ‘spoiler’, like the 2015 earthquake – are better known to the outside world than its lows. There is a reason that Lonely Planet just listed Nepal as its top value destination for 2017 (and fifth top country destination in general). From my personal perspective, a 2016 high is that trairunningnepal‘s Richard Bull and his new team, managed to keep Ramesh Battachan’s Annapurna 50 & 100 (also check the facebook page) going, despite Ramesh’ inability to be involved because of medical issues, and designed great new routes. I can bore you to death with Nepal as a trailrunner’s heaven, so just a couple of pics shot during route exploration and marking by Richard and others of the team to speak for themselves: