Nepali Times

All together now

Monday, April 24th, 2017


milijuli nepali

Milijuli Nepali broadcaster Bhawana Gurung interviewing an earthquake survivor. All Pics: BBC Media Action

Sashi Shrestha

After his village was devastated by the earthquake two years ago, killing 15 of his neighbours, Bir Bahadur Tamang needed an engineer to tell him about seismic-resistant designs.

But like many other families in earthquake-affected districts, Tamang, the former chair of Satyadevi village of Dhading district, had never met an engineer. Still, he got all the information he needed on building safer homes using salvaged material from Milijuli Nepali, a radio program syndicated through local FM radio stations.

2 yearsTamang had never met a journalist in his life either, but knew the names of most of the reporters on Milijuli by heart. Which is why earlier this month he was very happy to finally meet not just a journalist, but one whose voice he had often heard on his radio set.

“No one ever came here: no engineer, no journalist; the only information we had was from the radio,” Tamang said. Soon, the earthquake survivor was himself being interviewed for the next episode of Milijuli, and his voice broadcast across Nepal through nearly 400 FM stations as well as streamed across the Nepali-speaking world through the Internet.
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For Milijuli broadcaster Bhawana Gurung, there was no firmer proof that her program has helped convert awareness about post-earthquake reconstruction into behaviour change — something that was just a theory she had heard about in media school.

Radio programs like Milijuli have been filling the gap left by the lack of elected village leaders and making up for the absence of accountability in post-earthquake relief by spreading information about how to build safer, stronger homes, and by bringing the concerns of survivors to the attention of Kathmandu.

Sharada Danuwar of Kavre worked as a porter, earning Rs 500 a day. One evening she heard over Milijuli’s Katha Mala program that because of the shortage of brick-layers needed for reconstruction, women were being trained as masons.

She applied for training and today earns Rs 1,250 a day helping rebuild most of the 78 houses in her village that went down. With the money she has saved, she is planning to buy a scooter so she can commute to neighbouring villages to work on reconstruction there too.

Milijuli Nepali is produced by BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development communication unit, which also broadcasts weekly debates called Sajha Sawal over radio and TV. Milijuli now has a listenership of over 2.1 million, and is relayed over 11 radio stations in the quake-affected districts. The programs are driven by personal stories of survivors, and generally have a positive slant.

“We have found that personal stories are the most effective method of communicating,” explains Subash Karki of BBC Media Action. “It is information not for the survivors, but about them. We try not to preach, or talk down to them… this is what communications for development means. It is proof that radio works.”

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Indeed, while other media outlets try to highlight problems, Milijuli deliberately looks for solutions. Listeners are surprised that most of the people featured are women, and how cheerful they sound despite the adversities they have faced in the past two years.

Bhuwan Timilsina, program coordinator at Milijuli, says it was originally created as a radio program providing lifeline communication — broadcasting information that could actually save lives in the aftermath of the earthquake.

“Just like food, water, medicine, and shelter, providing correct and timely information to the public is equally crucial during times of crisis,” explains Timilsina, “and there is unanimous opinion that telling personal stories is the most effective format to spread information.”

This is something that Lal Maya Shrestha of Sindhuli knows only too well. She says: “I feel guilty if I miss a single episode of Milijuli, and sometimes I listen to the same program over and over.”

Donors speak – Earthquake 2015

Monday, April 24th, 2017
Upendra Maharjan standing on debris of his house Pic: Stéphane Huët

Pic: Stéphane Huët

On the eve of the second anniversary of the 2015 earthquake, donors helping to rebuild Nepal said that ‘reconstruction momentum has picked up’ but ‘some people and communities are yet to receive help’.

In a statement on Monday, the Nepal International Development Partners Group (IDPG) said that ‘more has been done than meets the eye, and now all efforts are needed to expand this momentum in the coming year’.

The IDPG added: ‘But for people who are yet to receive help, the process of reconstruction has not moved fast’ and ‘these processes will need to move faster’.

The IDPG is the apex platform of international donors supporting post-earthquake reconstruction in Nepal, and includes UN bodies, aid agencies and international NGOs.

The group said that reconstruction has to be Nepal’s top priority for some time to come, and that it is possible to build back safer through collective efforts.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated central Nepal on 25 April two years ago, killing nearly 9,000 people and destroying about 500,000 houses, schools, health posts and other structures. At a conference in Kathmandu exactly two months after the earthquake, donors pledged about $4.1 billion for reconstruction.

Two years later, most earthquake survivors are still living in temporary shelters, frustrated at the delay in rebuilding.

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) says Nepal has so far received only half the amount pledged by donors, and warns that a funding crunch could further slow reconstruction. On the other hand, aid agencies blame the government for hampering reconstruction.

Second round on 14 June

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017
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Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal consults Election Commission (EC) officials on Sunday before announcing the date for second round of local elections. Photo: RSS

A day after forging a consensus with Madhesi parties to hold local elections in two phases, the government on Sunday announced the date of second round of polls: 14 June.

The Election Commission (EC) will now hold first round of local elections in three hill provinces (3, 4 and 6) on the previously announced date of 14 May. Exactly a month later, second round of polls will be held in remaining four provinces (1, 2, 5 and 7).

Of the four provinces where local polls will be held on 14 June, one is Tarai-only province (Province 2) and three others are divided between hills and plains. Madhesi parties wanted elections in these provinces one month later, saying they needed time to prepare. They are not against elections in three hill provinces early because they do not have high hopes from these constituencies.

Nepali Congress (NC) sources say Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal will resign and back Sher Bahadur Deuba to become the next Prime Minister between these two rounds of polls.

Before announcing the date of second round of elections, Dahal consulted the EC officials and UML Chair KP Oli. The main opposition has not officially objected to the decision to hold polls in two rounds. But some UML leaders have argued that holding polls first in the hills and then in the Tarai will widen the chasm between the two reasons.

On Friday, after two days of intense negotiations, the ruling Maoist-NC coalition had finally succeeded in persuading the Madhesi Front to participate in elections.

For that, the ruling coalition has agreed to revise the constitution amendment bill before passing it within a week. In response, the Front, which now comprises the newly-unified Rashtriya Janata Party and the Federal Socialist Party, has agreed to call off its agitation.

Madhesi parties affiliated to the Front were left out of the Constitution writing process in 2015. They rejected the Constitution pushed through by the Big Three parties, and spearheaded  a six-month long  agitation in the country’s southern plains. During this time, India also cut off supply of fuel and other essential commodities to Nepal to help the Madhesi cause.

However, instead of capitulating to Indian pressure, the Oli government pushed the Himalayan republic closer to China. In response, New Delhi helped cobble a new coalition between Dahal and Deuba, ousted Oli and formed a new government seemingly more accommodative to Madhesi grievances.

But reaching a consensus with Madhesi parties was not a cakewalk even for Dahal. Frustrated by failed negotiations, he announced the date for elections and decided to go for it with or without Madhesi parties last week.

But six Madhesi parties, excluding Upendra Yadav’s Federal Socialist Forum, suddenly announced unification and showed flexibility in reaching a deal. They had reached an understanding on key issues on Friday when President Bidya Bhandari was returning home after a six-day state visit to India. The next day, they said ‘it was a deal’.

However, no written agreement has been signed yet between the two sides yet. Once they do and the Constitution is amended, implementation of Nepal’s new charter – drafted by elected representatives of people for the first time in history – will be smooth.


Breakthrough in Kathmandu

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017
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Pic: RSS

After two days of intense negotiations, the ruling coalition and the  Madhesi Front have finally forged a consensus on local elections so they can be held in two rounds next month.

The two sides have agreed on the following: a) the government will amend the Constitution by passing a bill that is now in Parliament, b) but it will be revised before being tabled in the full House to address Madhesi grievances, c) Tarai-centric parties will participate in local elections, d) but polls will now be held in two rounds, e) the Madhesi Front will call off its agitation.

Nepali Congress leader Krishna Sitaula told journalists: “It is a deal, and local elections have become certain now.”

Although the Maoist-NC and the Front had reached an understanding on these issues on Friday itself, they spent more than five hours negotiating over the details of constitution amendment on Saturday. The consensus looked possible after the ruling coalition agreed to revise the amendment bill and conduct local elections in two rounds to
give Madhesi parties time to prepare in their constituencies.

Now, the first phase of local elections – first in 19 years — will take place on the previously stipulated date of 14 May. The second round of elections, supposedly in Province 2 where Madhesi parties are perceived to be strong, will take place later in May or early June.

The main opposition UML has already given its nod that the polls can be held in two rounds if Madhesi parties agreed to participate in it. The agreement is likely to be signed on Sunday when two top Madhesi leaders – Mahanta Thakur of the newly unified Rashtriya Janata Dal and Upendra Yadav of Federal Socialist Party – will arrive in
Kathmandu from Janakpur. They were constantly in touch with their party colleagues in Baluwatar over phone.

Madhesi parties had rejected Nepal’s new constitution pushed through by the Big Three parties. Backed by New Delhi that also overtly expressed its displeasure over Nepal’s new charter, they spearheaded a six-month agitation in the Tarai during which more than 50 people were killed in 2015.

US-Nepal council meets

Friday, April 21st, 2017

The United States-Nepal Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council held its third meeting in Kathmandu on Thursday.

The meeting, co-chaired by Commerce Secretary Naindra Prasad Upadhaya and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Mark Linscott, discussed ways to promote bilateral trade and investment in goods and services.

The United States welcomed Nepal’s effort to foster innovation through the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy and provided information to support Nepal’s efforts to develop laws that will result in greater IPR protection.

The TIFA between Nepal and the US had entered into force on 15 April 2011. Its objectives include the expansion of trade, investment and technical cooperation, and strengthening economic relations between the two countries.

Following the 2015 earthquake, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 established a new country-specific preference program to grant duty-free treatment to Nepal for products covered by 77 Harmonized Tariff Schedule lines (including handicrafts, shawls, travel goods).

Nepal and the United States had $129 million in total (two-way) goods trade during 2016.


Google Everest

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

google everest2

Google Earth has launched a new platform to inspire young people about the world’s highest mountain to coincide with the second anniversary of the Nepal earthquake as well as the spring climbing season in the Himalaya.

The new version of Google Earth will have a streamlined user interface and introduce a new feature called Voyager which will feature a collection of map-based stories from around the world that will be updated weekly.

It features interesting stories from Nepal on the World Most Dramatic Mountain category and showcases works on mountains including Everest and AmaDablam

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The highlight of the feature called This is Home is a preview of the Home of Kancha Sherpa, the last living member of the 1953 expedition in which  Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to scale Mt Everest . Sherpa recounts his experiences from the expedition and shows us around his house.

Google Earth Outreach has partnered with StoryCycle and the Apa Sherpa Foundation to help locals in the Everest region digitally represent their areas on Google Maps.

Apa Sherpa , a 21-time Mount Everest climber and chairperson of Apa Sherpa Foundation, said: “The Khumbu is famous for being home to Everest, but it’s also the home of the

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Sherpa community. I hope people viewing the images online will develop a deeper understanding of the region and of the people who live there.”

Saurav Dhakal, founder and curator of StoryCycle said: “Google Earth is an very interesting educational tool for everyone to understand the world. The Home Project could give different understanding about Nepal and Khumbu region.”

The new app will be available on the web via Chrome browser at and a native Android app available via the Google Play store. It will also soon be available oniOS. Previously, Google Earth was available on desktop and mobile (Android, iOS).

Story Cycle

Kathmandu candidates

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

From the Nepali press

Bhasha Sharma in  19 April

Mayor1Nepal’s two latest political parties are the first ones to announce mayoral candidates in Kathmandu.

At a time when the NC, UML and other established parties look undecided over their candidates, journalist-turned-politician Rabindra Mishra’s Sajha Party and the youth-based Bibeksheel Nepali – both of which have never fought elections – have chosen two unconventional politicians: former secretary Kishor Thapa and 21-year-old student Ranju Darshana.

Thapa of the Sajha Party was an SLC topper, studied architect engineering and served as a top bureaucrat for 22 years. If elected, he says he will expand roads in Kathmandu, expedite the Melamchi and Outer Ring Road projects and introduce a 20-year energy development plan.

Thapa argues Kathmandu needs a political leader with administrative and technical know-how, and claims to be one. “I am familiar with each alley of Kathmandu,” he says. “As a bureaucrat I worked to develop Kathmandu as a bureaucrat. Now I want to lead the city politically.”

Ranju Darshana, Bibeksheel Nepali’s candidate, has none of the experience that Thapa boasts of. But she has emerged as a feisty youth politician after joining Bibeksheel Nepali three years ago.

Darshana was born the year the Maoist war began, and was just one-year-old when Nepal last held local elections in 1997. Raised by her single mother in Kathmandu, she says she suffered the mess created by bad politicians and joined politics to clean that up.

“If elected, I will work to make Kathmandu greener, pedestrian-friendly and a place where everyone can work and live peacefully,” says Darshana, a bachelor level student of development studies.