Nepali Times Asian Paints

Losing the Bagmati, and ourselves

Monday, June 5th, 2017


Rajani Maharjan

The Bagmati River holds huge cultural significance for the Kathmandu Valley because our civilisation started along the river. There are many cultural rites and rituals, festivals and jatras that involve the river and its tributaries. An important part of visiting the temple at Pashupati, for example, is doing ablutions in the Bagmati before worshiping at the temple.

But with river becoming increasingly polluted with raw sewage and garbage it is not just the riverine environment that has changed, but the desecrated river is no longer the site for festivals and rituals. If we’re losing respect for the Bagmati, then we are also on the verge of losing our self-respect and identity.

The transformation of the Bagmati is clear to anyone, but from speaking to elders it is clear that there is accelerated change on the river. The river used to be wide and shallow, its braids meandering across a clean and sandy floodplain. The river changed its course annually depending on the level of flooding. This allowed it to cleanse itself. As development and sand mining have restricted and confined its flow, we have lost the wetlands along the banks, and the natural regeneration of the river and recharging of ground water no longer occurs.

The weekly clean-up campaigns have cleaned up some sections of solid waste dumped along the river, but it is like treating the symptoms but not the disease itself.  The main component of river pollution is the that untreated sewage and industrial effluent as well as solid waste is being dumped into it. Just going to the river banks every Saturday to pick up the garbage is not going to clean up the river.

To revive the Bagmati we have to restore its natural flow, including the river bed, allowing it to shift depending on the water flow. By doing this we will revive the micro habitats required by the various plants, insects, birds and animals to return. There isn’t much sand left to mine at least along the urban stretches of the river, but the damage it did to the riverine environment persists.

Encroachment of the river banks is also strangling the river. Aside from the visible squatter settlements, the government is actively encroaching by building feeder roads on both sides of the river. The river is now a canal, stripped of its natural and spiritual value.

The Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited actually diverts a huge amount of water at the source of the Bagmati so there is very little clean water flowing in it, which is one reason why the volume is so low. Some clean water must be left to flow into the river at Sundarijal. Waste water treatment plants are planned, but it is anyone’s guess when that will happen. If the surface water is polluted, it is also going to contaminate the groundwater that all of us in the Valley rely on.

We own the river and we must clean it collectively. We need to take ownership of our rivers and not leave the cleaning to government. If we use it during our rituals and festivals it is up to us to clean it as well.

Rajani Maharjan is an environmental anthropologist


CJ exposes PM

Monday, June 5th, 2017

 From the Nepali Press


Chief Justice Sushila Karki in an interview with Nepal magazine

4 – 11 June

Nepal: How do you evaluate your term as Chief Justice?

Sushila Karki: I could not complete all the work that I set out to do. There were too many obstacles along the way.

Did you anticipate the extent of political pressure you faced in the Supreme Court?

I never thought the political leaders would go that far. Was it necessary for them to suddenly file an impeachment motion against me when I was in the middle of hearing a case? If they really needed to impeach me, was it not necessary for them to first have a public debate about my mis-doings?

They said you refused to meet their emissary, Maoist leader Barshaman Pun.

Why should I need to meet politicians? It is just not ethical for a judge to meet and consult politicians before hearing a case. Can Pun instruct me to do his bidding? Should I listen to him? If I do, what will society say?

How did you react when you heard about the charges against you?

They accused me of lacking good conduct. How? There is no explanation. They accused me of not allocating cases to some justices. But I never excluded any justices from the case lists.

Could it be possible that some justices were interested in some particular cases, and you did not assign such cases to them?

Cases are assigned to justices depending on their seniority, capacity and expertise. To decide which justices should which cases is within the jurisdiction of a Chief Justice. I just exercised my right. And none of the justices complained about it with me, so I don’t know where the politicians got the idea.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal publicly claimed several times that he had ‘a deal’ with Chief Justice. What really transpired during your meetings with him?

He called me over three times. I did not spend more than five minutes on any occasion. I saw it as a courtesy meeting between the heads of two state organs. But every time I met him, he told the media that he had a deal with me. During a chance meeting at a party organised by the Army, he raised the issue of the case against Balkrishna Dhugel and sought my help. I told him straight to his face that I would not want to see him again. I was cautious about meeting him. This is why I refused to meet him the last time. (Just days before the impeachment motion in Parliament.)

How did the PM want you to deal with the Lokman Singh Karki case?

Now that I am stepping down from the Supreme Court, I must tell people about it. A day after his return from India, the PM called me over. During his stay in New Delhi, I had ordered a review of the Supreme Court verdict on the writ against Karki’s appointment as the CIAA Chief. He told me: “You created problems by ordering a review of this case. Lokman has threatened me. I am in the PM’s seat only for seven more months now. Why don’t you postpone this case and deliver your verdict once I step down?”  I told him that the case was already set in motion, and it was not in my hands to stop it.

Did Lokman himself pressure you?

Those who knew me did not have the guts to be Lokman’s mediators. But lots of my own relatives tried to talk me out of this case. Some of them even wept in front of me.

Why do you think political leaders tried to impeach you?

I was not the first justice to face impeachment. Justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai had also faced it because he was an honest and competent justice. Why did they try to impeach him? To intimidate him. Our politicians think they are all powerful and everyone should fall in line. Just like the king. They accused me of overstepping my jurisdiction and interfering in the workings of the executive. But that is what the justice system is supposed to do – the Constitution mandates an independent judiciary.

Is the Supreme Court delaying its final verdict on the IGP appointment case because of the impeachment motion you faced?

This is one of the cases in which the Office of Attorney General has an interest. Government attorneys come and tell us that the bench should include this justice or should not include that justice. Justices are generally averse to hearing such controversial cases. This is also delaying the case.

What is your retirement plan?

Instead of being surrounded by corrupt and greedy people, I would rather spend the rest of my life feeding birds, in gardening and talking to flowers.

What if the state gives you a responsibility?

I will not accept any government appointment.

Any plan for social service?

I wish I could serve the society with my own money. I see no point in collecting donations and  distributing it. I would rather stay home, and read and write.

 Read More

Unimpeachable evidence, Binita Dahal

Exit, the crusader, Kanak Mani Dixit

Bharatpur repoll condemned

Sunday, June 4th, 2017
Milestone: Bharatpur Repolling Sidecar: Election Commission Rabin Sayami in Nagarik, 4 June

Milestone: Bharatpur Repolling
Sidecar: Election Commission
Rabin Sayami in Nagarik, 4 June

The Election Commission’s decision on Saturday to conduct fresh elections in a part of Bharatpur city has been greeted with widespread condemnation from media, civil society and the legal fraternity.

Bharatpur is one of the last constituencies from the 14 May local elections in three provinces to be counted, and is hotly contested because the Nepali Congress withdrew its sure-to-win mayor candidate to allow Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s daughter, Renu, a chance.

However, the UML’s Devi Gyawali had been leading in the counting till last week  by a narrow margin. When it looked like the ballots from Ward 19 were also going in   favour, Maoist cadre disrupted the counting on the night of 28 May, tearing up ballot papers. Ony Ward 19 and 20 of the 30 wards in Bharatpur were remaining to be counted.

Counting was suspended, two Maoist part members were arrested for vandalism and later released. The Election Commission sent an inquiry team, which interviewed eye witnesses, and it sent a second team which found out that only 90 ballot papers had been torn.

However, one week later, the Election Commission said “in accordance with the law” it would conduct a repoll in Ward 19. There was bitter debate within the Commission itself between Chief Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav and one of his colleagues Narendra Dahal.

Narendra Dahal had maintained that the decision to repoll would set a dangerous precedent for the losing side in future elections to tear up some ballot papers during counting to force fresh elections. However, Yadav is said to have rejected the dissenting note. The Commissioners were mostly in favour of continuing the count, but changed their minds overnight.

The UML’s K P Oli, whose candidate was leading in the Bharatpur count said the EC’s decision was “unacceptable” and threatened unspecified “political response”. He accused the EC of being under political duress and hinted that the UML may challenge the decision in the court.

On Saturday, the UML’s youth wing burnt effigies of Commisioner Yadav and student leaders said the repolling decision had “rewarded criminals”.

Constitutional lawyer Bhimarjun Acharya told the media that the EC had openly admitted to being swayed by political pressure and had lost its independence. “The act looks like a deliberate attempt to change the outcome of an election by forcing a recount, and is proof to others that they can do the same in the next phase and in future elections,” Acharya added.

Former Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Upreti tweeted: ‘Quarantining 90, ballots Vote should have been counted.’ He also said that flaws in electoral laws could be corrected by a court verdict as is done in other countries.

The social media was swept with mostly negative comments about the EC decision, most users ridiculing the EC. Sunday morning newspapers also had scathing editorials and critical page 1 coverage of the decision.

Meanwhile, UML member Gunjaman BK and advocate Tulsiram Pandey filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court on Sunday against the EC’s decision to re-conduct elections in Ward 19 of Bharatpur. The court is likely to give its verdict on the writ on Monday itself.

Who will be the new Chief Sec?

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017
Shanta Lal Subedi

Shanta Lal Subedi

From the Nepali Press

Ram Bahadur Rawal in Nepal magazine, 28 May-3 June

As Chief Secretary Somlal Subedi prepares to move to the Philippines to join Asian Development Bank (ADB) as its Alternate Executive Director, there is considerable speculation about who will succeed him?

If Subedi resigns a week before joining the ADB on 16 July, Secretary Dhan Bahadur Tamang will be the senior-most bureaucrat to replace him. If not, Tamang’s five-year tenure as Secretary will be over, and he will have to retire without the ultimate promotion of a bureaucrat. But even if gets promoted to Chief Secretary, he will have to retire due to the 58-year age limit in less than four months.

If Subedi delays his move to Manila by one week, Tamang will have retired by then, and Secretary Rajendra Kishor Chhetri will be senior-most. But he, too, will have to retire due to the age limit in less than six months.

Shanta Bahadur Shrestha

Shanta Bahadur Shrestha

Next in line are Narayan Malego, Shanta Bahadur Shrestha and Shanta Raj Subedi who were all promoted to secretaries the same day, so have equal rankings. But Malego is turning 58 in two months, and the government is unlikely to pick a new Chief Secretary for such a short period. Tamang and Chhetri may also have little chance for the same reason.

So the race to the highest post in the bureaucracy boils down to just two candidates: Shanta Raj Subedi and Shanta Bahadur Shrestha. The two are not just namesakes, but are also backed by the same Maoist party but with the blessings from different leaders. While Subedi is closer to Maoist-Centre Vice President Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Shrestha is supported by party secretary Barshaman Pun.

But there is going to be a new prime minister from another party just as their appointment date nears. They will have to win confidence of the NC’s Sher Bahadur Deuba who seems to have his own favourite: the much more junior Lok Darshan Regmi.

The current Home Secretary Regmi is known for being in the good books of all politicians, and sources say he has already begun lobbying. If Deuba wants to give him the job, he will have to delay the appointment of the new Chief Secretary until both Subedi and Shrestha retire due to their age limits.

Administration expert Bhim Dev Bhatta says: “The ability to please the Prime Minister should not be a qualification. We need a Chief Secretary who is active, has leadership skills, can coordinate with all ministries and is nationally and internationally influential.”

Teaching Nepali in China

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

From the Nepali Press

Tufan Neupane in Beijing, Himal Khabarpatrika, 28 May – 3 June

As China’s influence and investment grows internationally, there is growing interest in learning English among the Chinese. However, while the rest of the China is learning English, Sing Yung has found herself drawn to the Nepali language.

Nepal China

Sin arrived in Santong Province 15 years ago to start college at the Communication University of China (CUC) in Beijing and decided to take up an additional foreign language as well. Her parents had learnt about a small Himalayan country that bordered China and Nepali seemed like an exotic thing to do.

“I found Devnagari script quite different from English letters and Chinese characters that I was used to, and I was drawn to learn the language,” says Sin, who is now a PhD student of Nepali language at Tribhuvan University under the supervision of Prof Madhav Pokhrel, who has given her the the Nepali name ‘Indira’.

Sin isn’t only passionate about learning Nepali language, but is equally interested to understand Nepali history, culture, society, journalism and religion. One of the papers for her Master in Journalism degree from CUC in 2012 was titled ‘Analysis of Chinese news in the Nepali media’. In 2013 she studied Nepali at the Campus of International Languages in Kathmandu under a Chinese government scholarship.

Sin has visited Nepal 16 times, and plays a role in the collaboration of CUC with Tribhuvan University and the Campus of International Languages. Seeing the rise in number of Chinese visiting Nepal for trade, tourism, volunteering and education, she is happy her efforts have paid off.

She became the head of the Nepali Language Department at CUC in Beijing from where 44 Chinese students have graduated under her tutelage. Her students are either working in Chinese Radio International or at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. The others have themselves gone on to teach Nepali at various Chinese universities.

Currently affiliated with Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), Sin recently had its Nepal Study Centre inaugurated by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal during his China visit. She now wants Tribhuvan University and BFSU to collaborate in educational exchange programs.

Yung is also actively involved in translating Nepali books, and is in the final stages of completing the Mandarin edition of Diamon Sumshere Rana’s historical novel, Seto Bagh. Her teacher has also translated Muna Madan, the Nepali classic by Laxmi Prasad Devkota of a Nepali trader who dies in Tibet, leaving behind a young wife in Kathmandu.

Says Sin: “Muna Madan carries historic significance for Nepal-China relations, and we need more government support for the translation and research of such books.”

Read also:

The Chinese are coming, Claire Li Yingxue

Supreme Court says no

Friday, May 26th, 2017

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the government to not implement its decision to create 22 new local councils in the Tarai. The government had announced the enlargement to appease Madhesi parties which had threatened to boycott the second phase of local elections on 14 June.

A joint bench of justices Ishwar Khatiwada and Sapana Pradhan Malla issued the interim order in response to a writ filed by three advocates. The government had recently increased the number of local units to 766 by creating 22 new municipal and village councils in 16 Tarai districts.

The main opposition UML opposed the government’s decision, saying new local councils cannot be created when the first phase of local elections is already over and before the second phase. The Election Commission had also said it was difficult to conduct polling in the newly added constituencies half-way through elections.

The government had created new local units to convince the Rashtriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), the new united Madhesi force. But the RJPN also rejected the government’s offer anyway on Friday, saying new units were created haphazardly and were not sufficient.

Balananda Poudel, who headed the Local Body Restructuring Commission, pointed out that new local units cannot be created with elections are just around the corner. It should be done at least a year before elections.

Meanwhile, RJPN has announced a series of protest programs to disrupt elections. On 1 June, political parties will have to nominate their candidates in four provinces. But the RJPN announced a general strike across these provinces for that day.

The RJPN was formed by six fringe Madhesi parties after their unification in April. The party then reached a deal with the NC-Maoist coalition to take part in local elections after the government agreed to hold polls in four provinces sharing border with India only on 14 June.

But the RJPN had a precondition: the government would have to amend the Constitution and create more local councils in the Tarai.

The government failed to amend the Constitution after one of the ruling parties, the RPP, nearly split over the issue.

The other Madhes-based party, Upendra Yadav’s Federal Socialist Forum, has already participated in the first phase of elections, and is proposing electoral alliances with the RJPN in the second phase, which the latter has so far rejected.

Timely climb

Friday, May 26th, 2017
KEEPING WATCH: A Gurkha soldier in kilts and playing a bagpipe at Mt Everest Base Camp this month sporting a Loomes watch that will be auctioned to raise money for earthquake survivors in Nepal.

KEEPING WATCH: A Gurkha soldier playing a bagpipe at Mt Everest Base Camp this month sporting a Loomes watch that will be auctioned to raise money for earthquake survivors in Nepal. Sixty four years after Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Sherpa took a Smiths watch to the summit of the world’s highest peak, a British Gurkha expedition to Mt Everest has taken two hand-made watches to the top so they can be auctioned to raise money for earthquake relief in Nepal.

Sixty four years after Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Sherpa took a Smiths watch to the summit of the world’s highest peak, a British Gurkha expedition to Mt Everest has taken two hand-made watches to the top so they can be auctioned to raise money for earthquake relief in Nepal.

The exclusive Loomes watches will be auctioned in London in the next few months and the money handed over to Mountain Trust, a charity based in England and working in Nepal, and Gorkha Welfare Trust, a charity working for families of Gurkha soldiers in the British Army. Mountain Trust will use funds collected from the auctions to help earthquake victims in Gorkha by rebuilding their houses and supporting a radio educational project called Radio Guru. The Gurkha Welfare Trust, meanwhile, plans to use the money for the welfare pension of Gurkha retirees.

The expedition was planned for 2015 to mark the 200th anniversary of the beginning of Gurkha recruitment into the British Army after the end of the Anglo-Nepal War in 1816. However, the team had just made it to Camp II when the earthquake struck, triggering an avalanche at Base Camp that killed 18 climbers. The expedition was stuck above the Ice Fall and members later helped in the rescue effort when they eventually got down to Base Camp.

The watch summiteers took with them in 2015 has already been auctioned for £7,400. After that the expedition spent two years training in Scotland and the Alps for this year’s climb.Mt Everest Loomes

On 16 May, the 13-member team that included nine Nepalis and four British soldiers became the first expedition to summit Mt Everest this season (pictured, above). This is the first time serving Gurkhas has made it to the top.

Milan Rai of British Gurkha Riffles reckons climb and the watch auctioning idea is an opportunity to use the challenging of climbing the world’s highest mountains while at the same time helping Nepali people who are in need.

Lt Chris Boote of Britsh Army, one of the summiteers, said: “As I am passionate about climbing, it was a happy moment. But what made me happier was that I could help earthquake survivors in Nepal while doing the climb.”

Loomes specialises in handsome hand-made timepieces and donated two watches costing £9,850 each, to be taken to the top of Mt Everest to be auctioned. Bentley believes that the watches which summited Everest, could be sold for up to £20,000 each.

Asked about the reason behind idea of sending watches to the summit, Robert Bentley of Loomes said: “I always have a feeling of connection with Nepal, it is an honour that our watches reached the top of the world.”

Adds Charles Malcolm-Brown of Mountain Trust: “The British Gurkha team were not to be defeated by the two most devastating earthquakes in recent Nepali history. They worked intensively to raise the funds, to get the top military brass to support a second attempt.”

Shreejana Shrestha

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