The accepted measure of poverty is $1.25 per day. But this doesn't mean anything for the average Nepali who would perhaps grasp that figure better if it was in riyals instead of in dollars. But a better indicator than income is intake: the average daily adult kilocalorie consumption has to be above the cutoff of 2,709. One third of the population of Kaski has a caloric intake below that threshold, and this goes up to 65 per cent in Mugu, according to a World Food Programme study in 2006. More than half the children in Nepal are stunted, wasted and underweight because they don't get enough to eat.
Food is fuel for the body. But to fuel the nation's economy, we need energy from hydropower and petroleum. If Nepal was a human body, you could say it is on a starvation diet. Sixteen hours of power cuts and a severe shortage of petroleum supply means that this country is now even worse than conflict areas of the world like Iraq or Afghanistan. Nepal's rulers after 2006 don't have an autocratic monarchy or a war to blame anymore: it is a sign of incompetence and state paralysis of epic proportions.
Because of the rising number of vehicles and the rocketing demand for diesel for generators, our current fuel import bill of Rs 70 billion a year will soon rise to Rs 100 billion, provided world prices of crude remain constant. This is more than our total hard currency receipt from exports and tourism put together.
No need to be a genius to figure out that this is not sustainable. We are doomed if we continue with a fossil economy, our economic reliance on India will grow and will translate into political subordination. The answer always was hydropower, to spur domestic growth and for balance of payments equilibrium. But we are the laughing stock of the world for harnessing only 500 megawatts of our 50,000 megawatt generation potential.
Nepal is not poor, it is poorly governed. Things will only improve when the political class is less obsessed with power and more with energy. Only by generating hydropower to reduce our d ependence on hydrocarbons will there be enough carbohydrates for everyone.
BY THE WAY: Unintelligent intelligence, ANURAG ACHARYA
MY TAKE: Might is not right, DAMAKANT JAYSHI
REVIEW: Inconvenient truths, KUL CHANDRA GAUTAM