Nepali Times

Shifting gears

Sunday, May 29th, 2016
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Pic: Gopen Rai

Pic: Gopen Rai

In an effort to reduce the import of petroleum by encouraging sales of electric vehicles, the government in its annual budget announced Saturday has cut the custom duty on private electric vehicles to 10%, and brought it down to 1% for public electric transportation.

In addition to custom duties, the government is going to continue with zero percent excise duty on electric vehicles. In addition, the duty on machinery for recycling lead batteries has also been slashed to 1%.

“This is going to open up the segment much more, making it attractive for other global players like Nissan to come into Nepal,” said Cabinet Shrestha of Agni Incorporated, which represents Mahindra Reva electric cars in Nepal.

However, Ganga Bahadur Thapa of Nepal Economic Concern Society (NCES) feels that although the move will increase awareness among the public towards electric vehicles, it is not enough to bring down the demand for fossil fuel cars.

“Until the government reduces tax on battery and parts used for electric vehicles to boost the manufacturing of electric vehicles in the country, things are not going to change much,” said Thapa adding that the delay on part of the government to approve route permits for electric vehicles is another factor dampening demand for electric public transport.

Smriti Basnet


Deadline for surrogate babies

Friday, May 27th, 2016
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fjkRj4oSHREEJANA SHRESTHA

Supreme Court’s timeframe to allow the departure of surrogate babies ended on 25 May, and 247 offspring born in Nepal were taken by their foreign parents in the last two years.

The number includes the number of babies given exit permits after the Supreme Court’s decision to halt the surrogacy services in Nepal, but excludes babies airlifted to Israel after the last year’s earthquake of which the government has no records.

The Department of Immigration (DoI) and Ministry of Home Affairs on 29 October 2015, granted permission to foreign couples in Nepal to take home their babies conceived and born through surrogacy before the SC’s stay order on 25 August after legal complications over surrogacy surfaced.

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The DoI said it has provided exit visas to all babies, including those stranded and conceived before the decision of the SC. Director General Kedar Neupane said they would not issue visas to any babies conceived after the Sourt’s stay order.

However, he added that the DoI is ready to issue exit visas to any of such babies remaining in Nepal for whatever reason despite end of the nine-month period.  Couples from Israel, Australia, United States of America, Brazil, Canada, Spain and many others are among those who came to Nepal for surrogacy services.

The record at the DoI shows that Israeli couples took 125, the largest number, of babies while Australian and American citizen took 52 and 49 babies respectively.

Nepal became destination for commercial surrogacy in Nepal after the services was banned in Thailand and legal complications for gay couples and other couples who were married for less than two years. The DoI provided visa to first surrogate baby in February 2014.

In 2014 the government allowed foreigners to have surrogacy services in Nepal, but after reports of abuse and exploitation of Nepali mothers, banned them from 18 September, 2015.

 

Country No of surrogate babies
Israel 125
Australia 52
USA 29
Brazil 14
Spain 6
Canada 3
Netherlands 3
Mexico 2
GRB 2
Tunisia 2
Philippines 2
Serbia 1
Portuguese 1
Sweden 1
Venezuela 1
Ecuador 1
Total 247

Source: Department of Immigration

 


Mountain award to Peru scientist

Friday, May 27th, 2016
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Cesar-Portocarrero-Rodriguez-thumb1To commemorate the first ascent of Mt Everest on 29 May 1953, the annual Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal 2017 has been awarded to Peruvian engineer César Augusto Portocarrero Rodríguez.

The award is given every year by the Nepal-based group, Mountain Legacy to honour not just Hillary’s climb 63 years ago, but also his work with the people of the Himalaya.

César Portocarrero has directed projects to mitigate the danger of outburst floods from numerous glacial lakes in the Andes, saving thousands of lives and many millions of dollars, and he is now sharing his expertise with members of the High Mountain Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP), including Nepal, Bhutan, and several Central Asian nations. The award will be presented in Kathmandu on December 11, International Mountain Day.

The Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal is the world’s most prestigious award for mountain advocacy. Mountain Legacy was created in 2003 and authorised by Sir Edmund Hillary to administer the award, which is presented for remarkable service in the conservation of culture and nature in mountainous regions.The award is intended both to honor Sir Edmund’s remarkable record of development assistance and also intended to encourage its emulation.

Mountain Legacy President Dr. Kumar P. Mainali of the Department of Biology, University of Maryland said:  “Hillary remained an enthusiastic advocate of adventure as a means of opening the individual’s spirit to unexpected challenges and opportunities. In a time of rapidly escalating challenges, we all need such adventurers, and we are quite fortunate to have César Portocarrero on our side.”

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Blizzard hampers rescue

Thursday, May 26th, 2016
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Maria Styrdom with her husband Robert Gropel. Stardom died on Sunday high on Mt Everest of altitude sickness. Photo: AAP/Monash University

Maria Styrdom with her husband Robert Gropel. Stardom died on Sunday high on Mt Everest of altitude sickness. Photo: AAP/Monash University

Hannah Gee

Despite a season that saw record numbers of climbers reaching the top of Mt Everest, heavy blizzards are making the work of rescuing sick mountaineers and retrieving the bodies of some of the six mountaineers who died difficult.

Tuesday was the last official climbing day of the spring mountaineering season, and the world’s highest mountains has been battered by severe pre-monsoon storms after two weeks of clear weather during which a record 400 climbers from 34 countries reached the summit at 8,848m from the Nepal side.

There was heavy pressure to climb Mt Everest this year because it was closed for two years after an avalanche in 2014 that killed 16 Nepali guides on the Icefall and another big avalanche triggered by the 25 April 2015 earthquake that killed 18 people at Base Camp.

Fourteen Nepali guides are trying to bring down the body of Australian climber Maria Strydom, 34, who died of altitude sickness on Sunday. Her husband, Robert Gropel, is also not well, but is determined to bring his wife’s body back to Australia despite the costs involved. Helicopters that were supposed to rescue them have not been able to go up the mountain because of blizzards.

A helicopter operator said the heavy snow meant that the recovery mission will take longer. “Snowing makes recovering the body difficult,” he said, “the Sherpas will have to carry their own gear as well as her body. It is no mean feat.”

Strydom’s body lies at Camp III at 7,200m, and Gropel is said to be determined to bring her body home. The Melbourne-based academic was a seasoned and experienced climber who had already summited several of the world’s highest peaks.

The group’s ascent went without incident until Strydom reached what is known as the ‘Balcony’ on the southeast summit ridge of Mt Everest at around 8,400m where she fell ill. She was able to descend back to the South Col at 7,900m, where it appeared she was making a recovery. Strydom recommenced her descent, but succumbed to her illness at 7,800m and died.

The body of Dutch national Eric Arnold who was from the same expedition, and died on 21 May is expected to be brought to Kathmandu airport on Thursday afternoon.

The Australian Embassy in Kathmandu is providing consular assistance to the return of Strydom’s body to Australia. Financial aid has been granted to Gropel, as family back in Australia scramble to raise the required total to fund the rescue operation.

(Hannah Gee is a journalism student at the Western Sydney University.)


Solar subsidy for quake survivors

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
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Photo_solar

Nepal has announced solar subsidy for those who lost their houses during last year’s two deadly earthquakes.

Issuing a press statement on Monday, the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), the government institution responsible for promoting clean energy in Nepal, unveiled its new subsidy policy.

“Previously, only the families headed by women, endangered indigenous people, and Dalits were entitled to solar subsidy,” said the AEPC Executive Director Ram Prasad Dhital. “We have now decided to provide solar subsidy for earthquake survivors, too.”

The new subsidy policy was made public after being approved by the Finance and Infrastructure Committee of the Cabinet, according to the AEPC statement.

Nearly 400,000 houses were badly damaged by last year’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake followed by a 7.3 magnitude aftershock. One year later, the earthquake survivors are still living in temporary shelters due to the delay in distribution of the Rs 200,000 reconstruction grants.

“When the earthquake survivors start rebuilding their houses, they can apply for solar subsidy,” said Dhital. “The details of the new policy will be out very soon.”

Three years ago, the AEPC had started solar subsidy for people living in urban areas. Last year’s five-month Indian blockade prompted many in Kathmandu Valley to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels using subsidy provided by the AEPC.

Nepal has a target to provide clean, reliable and easily available energy for its entire population by 2030.


In the name of the people

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016
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dhan

Dhan Bahadur BK’s family in Khalanga after being evicted from their own land.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Pics: Hari Gautam

HARI GAUTAM in RUKUM in Himal Khabarpatrika, 15-21 May (Centre for Investigative Journalism)

Afer the end of the Maoist war most displaced familes returned to their villages, but Dhan Bahadur BK had to abandon his village in Rukum district not because of the war, but because it ended.

One morning in 2010 four years after the ceasefire, BK was harvesting his wheat crop when his neighbour Tauke Kami stopped him, claiming to be the rightful owner of the land he had been tilling for the last six years.

In 2004, BK had bought the land for Rs 173,000 from Rane Kami. The sale was not registered at the local Land Revenue Office, but at the local Maoist parallel government. With the signing of the peace deal in 2006, all the land transfers authorised by the Maoist government became invalid. Rane Kami was still the owner of the land he had sold to BK, and he sold it again to Tauke Kami. This time, the transfer was duly registered at the government office.

When BK refused to leave the property, Tauke Kami lodged a case against him at the Rukum district court. The court declared Kami as the rightful owner, and BK left the village and lives as a landless squatter in Khalanga.

BK repeatedly requested Baburam Bhattarai, who was the chief of the Maoist government, and Janardan Sharma, a top Maoist leader from Rukum, to help him regain his property. “But they did not understand my problem,” he says. “I regret trusting the Maoists.”

dhan 4

The land Man Bahadur Khatri (second from left) purchased from Padam Bahadur Batha was registered with the Maoist Janasatta in 2003. The district court invalidated the transaction under the Maoist ‘People’s Government’ and ruled against Man Bahadur, but he refuses to give up the land and claims that his family has been victimised.

In Rukum district alone, at least 3,500 families are in danger of losing their land titles of property bought during the war. “The court doesn’t recognise land titles given by the Maoists,” explains advocate Yakka Bahadur Pandey.

People throng the local Maoist party office every day, complaining that they have lost their land titles. Gopal Sharma, a local Maoist leader, admits that people are suffering because land ownership certificates distributed by their war-time ‘parallel-government’ are not considered valid.

dhan 1

Locals from Khara picket the UCPN-M office in Khalanga, Rukum. The fifth of the nine points of a deal that Prime Minister KP Oli signed with UCPN (M) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal early this month is about this issue. In return for Dahal’s renewed support for his government, Oli has agreed to validate land transfers made during the war.

The fifth of the nine points of a deal that Prime Minister KP Oli signed with UCPN (M) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal early this month is about this issue. In return for Dahal’s renewed support for his government, Oli has agreed to validate land transfers made during the war.

Gopal Sharma says: ‘The party failed its people. It is up to the leaders at the centre to find a solution.”

The District Development Committee of Rukum formed an all-party taskforce to solve the problem, which failed because most of those who had sold their property during the war denied the transactions.

dhan 3

A land entitlement paper signed and approved by the then ‘People’s Government’- Janasatta.

In January 2012, the Maoist government led by Baburam Bhattarai decided to validate registration of conflict-era land transactions his party made. But the Supreme Court, acting on a writ petition, quashed the government’s decision. Ironically, the UML, which has now agreed to validate conflict-era land transactions to save its government, had disrupted Parliament to oppose the Bhattarai government’s decision back then.

Says UCPN(M) district member Birkha Bahadur Bista, who was one of the chief land transfer administrators of the Maoist parallel government in Rukum. “The locals who trusted us are now in big trouble. It is the fault of our leaders who took the decision and are now unable to implement it.”

District in Distress

The number of house/land transfers under the Maoist Janasatta in Rukum

  1. No  VDC                           Number

1          Duli                             353

2          Pipal                            324

3          Garayala                      242

4          Purtimkanda                231

5          Magma                        230

6          Arma                           200

7          Kholagaun                   198

8          Khara                          198

9          Banfikot                      169

10        Simli                            153

11        Gotamkot                    145

12        Syalakhadi                   121

13        Rungha                        117

14        Athbiskot                    115

15        Nuwakot                     101

16        Kotjahari                     92

17        Chunbang                    91

18        Athbisdandagaun        82

19        Sankh                          74

20        Jhula                            62

21        Bijayshwari                 56

22        Chaukhawang              51

23        Syalapakha                  39

24        Mhat                           23

25        Chhiwang                    21

26        Bhalakcha                    19

27        Muru                           13

28        Rukumkot                   10

29        Pwang                         9

30        Pokhara                       8

31        Jang                             7

32        Ghetma                       7

33        Morawang                   6

34        Peugha                         4

35        Kol                              2

TOTAL          3,573

Court case losers

  1. No.             Name                           Address                        Price when bought

1                      Til Bahadur Kami                   Syalapakha -7, Rukum            Rs 30,000

2                      Hari Bahadur Malla                Gotamkot-2, Rukum               Rs 52,000

3                      Khale Bhandari                       “                                                    Rs 42,000

4                      Kali Kami/Dhan Bdr BK        Garayala-5, Rukum                 Rs 173,000

5                      Maite Kami                             Khara-7, Rukum                        Rs 700,000

6                      Man Bdr/Bishnu Khatri          Khara-8, Rukum                     Rs 14,000

7                      Lile Khatri                               Kholagaun-7, Rukum                Rs 30,000

8                      Yam Bdr Sunar                        Kotjahari-3, Rukum                Rs 1,000,000

9                      Chitra Bdr Oli                         Khara-8, Rukum                        Rs 350,000

10                    Padam Bdr Khatri                   Khara-6, Rukum                       Rs 180,000

11                    Dal Bdr Bohora                       Nayakbada-3, Jajarkot              Rs 165,000

Read the original story in Himal Khabarpatrika  and www.cijnepal.org.np


UK travel advisory on Nepal

Friday, May 20th, 2016
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The UK government has cautioned its citizens against participating in political activities while in Nepal.

In a newly-updated travel advisory, the UK has warned its citizens that they ‘may be liable to penalties including deportation and/or a fine’ if ‘involved in any political activities’ in Nepal, where Madhesi and Janajati parties have been spearheading an agitation to exert pressure on the ruling coalition and the main opposition to rewrite the constitution.

The UK updated its travel advisory on Nepal after the arrest early this week of a British national for ‘participating’ in a political rally organised in Kathmandu by the Federal Alliance, which is a coalition of Madhesi and Janajati parties. Martin Travers, 44, was later released after immigration officials concluded that he was just a bystander.

Early this month, a Canadian man, Robert Penner, was deported from Nepal for posting ‘a provocative tweet aimed at spreading social discord in Nepal’.

On Friday, Kantipur daily quoted Kedar Neupane, the Director General of the Department of Immigration, as saying: “Previously, we used to deport only those foreigners found involved in serious crimes. Now, even those foreigners who are found involved in Nepal’s internal political affairs will be deported or/and fined.”


 

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