The country's only gene bank is in danger of closing down because of power shortages. The government invested Rs 80 million to set up a state-of-the-art gene bank under the Nepal Agriculture Research Centre (NARC), Khumaltar. It was inaugurated only last September by the president. Says bank chief Madan Bhatta, "Although a lot of investment went into the bank, loadshedding has meant it is not operational."
Bhatta explains that the bank was set up to support Nepal's long-term food security by preserving samples of the seeds of various species of grain, fruit, lentils, and other vegetables. But without an uninterrupted power supply, the tissue preservation section, the DNA test section, the seed test and refinement section, and other sections have all been gathering dust.
"Without a stable power supply, this gene bank may have to close down," says bank director Bharatendru Mishra. The preservation room needs a total of 400 units of electricity daily in order to maintain temperatures. The seeds stored in the short-term preservation room, which has the capacity to house 15,000 species, can be cultivated for up to five years. "We have asked the ministries of finance, energy and agriculture for help, but in vain," says Mishra. Various organisations are now trying to come up with the Rs 2.4 million needed to power the bank through a different feeder line.