Tag Archives: Nepal

Game of Thrones in Himalayas Leave Nepalis Cold

A girl showers her sister at the displacement camp for earthquake victims at Chuchepati in Kathmandu, Nepal, September 19, 2016. Picture taken September 19, 2016. To match Insight NEPAL-QUAKE/POLITICS Thomson Reuters Foundation/Navesh Chitrakar  - RTST7C9

A girl showers her sister at the displacement camp for earthquake victims at Chuchepati in Kathmandu, Nepal, September 19, 2016. Picture taken September 19, 2016. To match Insight NEPAL-QUAKE/POLITICS Thomson Reuters Foundation/Navesh Chitrakar

By Nita Bhalla and Gopal Sharma 
November, 2016

HOKSHE, Nepal (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Farmer Ganesh Prasad Gautam beamed as the young woman behind the desk littered with files called his name out at the rundown government office in the mountains of central Nepal.

After 18 months of living in a shack made of corrugated iron, tarpaulin and bamboo amid the ruins of his earthquake-hit house, he is finally receiving long-promised government funds to start rebuilding his home.

The 54-year-old farmer was one of eight million people affected in April last year when a 7.8-magnitude quake struck the Himalayan nation – leaving 9,000 dead and destroying one million homes as well as schools, businesses roads, and bridges.

“The money is late and it’s not enough to build what I had before, but at least the government has given it,” Gautam said to nods from fellow villagers gathered at the office in Hokshe village, 64 km (40 miles) east of Kathmandu.

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    “We’ve already endured one winter and two monsoons like this – out in the open with no protection from the rain and cold.”

But Gautam is one of the lucky ones.

Constant feuding between a myriad of political parties has fuelled political turmoil and weak governance in Nepal, delaying efforts to rebuild the country of 28 million people despite an outpouring of aid, analysts said.

Ongoing political instability in a country which has seen 24 governments in 26 years has stymied reconstruction efforts.

“You are looking at a country that has had three governments since the earthquake – all coalitions and none with a solid majority,” said Renaud Meyer, Country Director for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nepal.

“There is no doubt the political landscape is the biggest barrier for the recovery and reconstruction of Nepal to take place. It requires consistency, it requires determination and the less open it is to spoilers, the better.”

POLITICS PREVAILS

Wedged between India and China, Nepal – famed as the birthplace of Buddha and home to Mount Everest – is one of the world’s poorest countries.

A decade-long civil war between Maoist rebels and government forces ended in 2006, raising hopes of development in a country where one in four people live on less than $1.90 a day – the World Bank’s measure of extreme poverty.

The three main parties – the Nepali Congress (NC), Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre) and the Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) – have over the years made unlikely bedfellows in fragile coalitions and politicians are seen as selfish and power hungry.

Critics say rather than focus on reconstruction, former Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s NC-led government exploited a wave of national solidarity in the quake’s aftermath to finalise Nepal’s long overdue constitution.

Even though a new charter was adopted in September 2015, and a new coalition government led by Khadga Prasad Oli’s UML party took power, the historic moment was marred by bloodshed in street clashes in the southern Terai region bordering India.

More than 50 people died in the crisis, which forced Oli to resign nine months after taking power as his main coalition partner, the Maoist Centre party, withdrew its support.

The constitutional crisis and political changes resulted a six-month delay in setting up the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) – the key agency overseeing Nepal’s recovery.

As a result, families are only now receiving the first installment of a promised 200,000 rupee ($1,880) housing grant.

But for some Nepalis, the funds are too little, too late.

Down the road from the five-star Hyatt Regency hotel in Chuchepati on the outskirts of Kathmandu, amid the hundreds of blue and white plastic tents which make up a displacement camp, housewife Shanti Pariyar, 42, complains of sleepless nights.

Little food, daily treks to queue for two jerry cans of clean water, few toilets, no privacy to bathe and monsoon rains which flood her tarpaulin tent are bad enough, she said.

But what keeps her up at night is the 300,000-rupee ($2,815) debt she has racked up since her village home was destroyed, forcing her family to move to the capital in search of work.

“I borrowed from my sisters in Dubai and also took credit from the grocery store for food, but now there is pressure as they want their money back,” said Pariyar who is from Jiri village in Dolakha district, 75 km (47 miles) from Kathmandu.

“Our lives have changed after the earthquake. Before I had a dream to educate my kids and make them doctors and engineers. Now I can’t even feed them.”

“RACE AGAINST TIME”

Since the NRA was established in January, reconstruction work has picked up dramatically with more than 2,700 engineers recruited to survey damaged and destroyed houses nationwide.

The government has signed agreements with 58 banks and financial institutions to distribute housing grants with first installments disbursed to 432,000 households.

NRA’s CEO Sushil Gyawali said the government wants to turn the disaster into an opportunity to “build back better” with housing grants subject to adherence of the country’s building codes to encourage people to build more resilient homes.

“If you count from the day the NRA was established, we have made good progress and that has been appreciated by everyone,” said Gyawali, a civil engineer.

“We want to make it faster, but if we are in a hurry and don’t plan, we may not be building back better.”

But the clouds of political instability still loom large, analysts said.

Under a power-sharing agreement between his party and Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who parliament voted as premier in August, Dahal will serve as prime minister until May, and then hand over power to Nepali Congress chairman Sher Bahadur Deuba.

That transition – as well as national elections due by January 2018 – could amount to even more delays in efforts to rebuild the country, development experts say.

Not only with each change in government comes changes in policy, but also the replacement of thousands of public servants across the country – from village to national level – who are generally appointed based on their political affiliations.

Development workers said new appointments often result in time lost re-discussing policies and previous decisions.

There is a concern the delay means people will not wait and will borrow money to rebuild basic structures again.

“The people don’t wait, so if they can get some funds from somewhere, they will build a new home, but they will not get the technical guidance, knowledge and expertise to build a safer house,” said UNDP’s Meyer.

“It’s a hot pursuit – a race against time – to provide that help to people to ensure that the 9,000 people who died did not die for nothing. You don’t want more to die in the next earthquake.”

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma and Nita Bhalla, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith and Katie Nguyen; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

Related stories from F&O’s archives:

Rescued from Slavery, Nepalis Rediscover Circus Magic, By Katie Nguyen, April, 2016

Nepal Then: a doctor’s journey, by Christine Gibson,  April/May 2015

There are terrible forces at work in Nepal, by Renee Comesotti

Earthquake postpones Nepal’s bright dawn, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

Nepal’s Predictable Agony, by Deborah Jones

The science behind the Nepal earthquake, by Mike Sanford, CP Rajendra, Kristin Moreell

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What Tibetan Buddhists, Andean Paqos, teach about climate change

Gaumukh Gangotri glacier in Nepal. Atarax42/Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Gaumukh Gangotri glacier in Nepal. Atarax42/Wikipedia, Creative Commons

By Brian Bienkowski, The Daily Climate
October, 2015

Glaciers have for decades supplied crucial water to mountain communities worldwide—but they also quench spiritual thirst.

The ice serves as cultural and religious touchstone for Tibetan Buddhists at the edge of China’s Mingyong Glacier, Sherpas living high in Nepal, Paqos dispensing wisdom and medicine in the Andes. All share a deep reverence for local glaciers.

For these communities, climate change is cultural change: As glaciers melt, their traditions, values and outlook are changing.

Are the gods mad? Does a dying glacier mean a dying people? Are we giving proper reverence to life-sustaining resources? These are the questions framing changes underway now and experienced by often poor, largely indigenous people worldwide.

Western climate policy rests largely on the physical and economical. Increasingly experts argue that these spiritual beliefs—and people’s relationship with the land—must become part of the conversation.

The most prolific voicing of this occurred in June, when Pope Francis released a 192-page encyclical laying out the argument for religion to join forces with science to combat global climate change.

The pope urged an “ecological conversion” for spiritually minded people worldwide, a message that continued as he visited President Barak Obama at the White House, spoke before a joint session of Congress, and addressed the United Nations General-Assembly.

And others think Pope Francis is on to something.

“We need to open our minds to looking at climate change not only as a biophysical, political, economic problem, but at the ramifications of people’s own reality … and understand humans and other forms of life as beings enmeshed in their ecology, and not standing apart from it,” said Elizabeth Allison, a researcher and professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies’ department of philosophy and religion.

Allison cited the Tibetan Buddhists, the Nepalese Sherpas and Peruvian Quechua in her recent study that examined climate change and the spiritual significance of glaciers.  Such voices must be heard, she said, even if they interpret environmental changes differently than people in developed countries.

Some Nepalese Sherpas cite a link between moral and spiritual decline with that of glaciers. Tibetan Buddhists have suspected a dearth of Buddhist devotion and visitors’ lack of respect for the retreat of the Mingyong Glacier in China’s northwest Yunnan Province, which is one of the fastest melting glaciers in the world.

None fully attribute the local transformation they’re witnessing to industrialized emissions or other climate forcers meticulously catalogued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and western scientists. Instead, they attribute the melt, she said, “to some kind of imbalance or immoral activity.”

Taking spiritual beliefs into account is important, Allison added: People’s ability to adapt to a changing climate depends as much on their mental state as formal policies and treaties.

And the consequences are very real. In the Andes, the local Quechua used to cut down ice chunks from the glacier on Mount Ausangate and drink the restorative liquid with family and friends. Today that religious rite is forbidden.

While the people have adapted, such “spiritual dislocation” can lead to social unrest, Allison writes. And the Quechua agree—as local prophecy “suggests that the world will end when the glacier is gone,” she notes.

Including such views in treaties and global policymaking won’t necessarily move the needle on climate change policy or agreement, said Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale Law School who has studied how people perceive risks, such as climate change.

“If you look at who’s concerned about climate change and who isn’t, the difference isn’t how spiritual people are,” Kahan said.

Kahan’s research has found that people largely perceive risks based on their connection to cultural groups they associate with.

However, Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, a filmmaker and founder of the Global Oneness Project, a series of educational films on environmental and social issues, said that tapping into this religious practice and spirituality can help instigate a sense of environmental urgency in people of faith.

“It could help people form connections, when people see that problems aren’t just an external situation, but an internal situation, there’s more meaning to them,” said Vaughan-Lee, a longtime advocate for the merging of spirituality and environmental awareness.

Another reason important reason is that people in many of these areas are often left out of global policy making, Allison said. Mountain communities and coastal villages are often poor and have the most to lose from climate change impacts such as glacial retreat and sea level rise.

“We have to figure out how to include indigenous thinking into global policy making … especially when those people are the majority,” she said.

Both Vaughan-Lee and Allison said the Pope’s encyclical was a step in the right direction in injecting spirituality and religion into the environmental realm.

“For years environmentalists and social justice workers shied away from spiritual or religious arguments, because maybe they thought it makes them seem less serious in eyes of mainstream public,” Vaughan-Lee said.

“But there’s a need to bring that together and the Pope said it’s OK, we need to do that.”

Creative Commons

This story was originally published by The Daily Climate, an independent, foundation-funded US news service covering energy, the environment and climate change.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. If you appreciate our work please support us with a contribution, below, of at least .27 per story –or a site pass for $1 per day or $20 per year. And do spread the word.

 

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New Facts and Opinions this week

If Facts and Opinions were published on old-fashioned print, we’d be selling a thick, heavy book on newsstands this week — glossy pages packed with photos and scintillating text plus, given the prohibitive costs of print, scads of advertising to sway your minds and empty your wallets.

Tom Regan is appalled at American media coverage of Baltimore. Above, Baltimore resident Kwame Rose challenged Fox News celebrity Geraldo Rivera over news coverage of Baltimore . Photo: screen shot from YouTube video

Tom Regan is appalled at American media coverage of Baltimore. Kwame Rose challenges Geraldo Rivera of Fox News over its coverage. YouTube

Instead, F&O is a digital journal, non-partisan, owned by its contributors. And we’re different from most in our reliance only on subscribers – neither we, nor your eyeballs, can be bought; no advertisers are welcome on our pages. And this week we’ve put out a great digital “book” — thought-provoking, informative, packed with terrific photos  — including a bit of fun.

Bhaktapur, Nepal, in the wake of the April 25 earthquake. Photo: Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi/UNDP

 Bhaktapur, Nepal. Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi/UNDP

New Dispatches:

New in Commentary, the Loose Leaf Salon, and Arts:

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Nepal: Facts, Opinions, and an unforgettable video

Nepal’s Predictable Agony. By Deborah Jones

The massive earthquake that shattered Nepal on April 25, 20115, came as no surprise to anyone. The country sits atop one of the world’s most seismically dangerous places. There have been countless warnings about Nepal’s rickety infrastructure, haphazard housing, lax building codes, and rampant urban development. There was even a warning a few weeks ago that a quake was imminent, precisely where it occurred.

 

image-20150427-18138-1ovy9gzThe science behind the Nepal earthquake. By Mike Sandiford, CP Rajendran, and Kristin Morell

Nepal is particularly prone to earthquakes. It sits on the boundary of two massive tectonic plates – the Indo-Australian and Asian plates. It is the collision of these plates that has produced the Himalaya mountains, and with them, earthquakes. The April 25 quake measured 7.8 on the moment magnitude scale, the largest since the 1934 Bihar quake, which measured 8.2 and killed around 10,000 people. Another quake in Kashmir in 2005, measuring 7.6, killed around 80,000 people. These quakes are a dramatic manifestation of the ongoing convergence between the Indo-Australian and Asian tectonic plates that has progressively built the Himalayas over the last 50 million years.

 

 

This video was shot by hikers on Everest just as an avalanche swept onto their camp. It was posted to YouTube by German climber Jost Kobusch;  it’s not clear if he was one of the climbers. 

 

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us by telling others about us, and purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page.

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The science behind the Nepal earthquake

By Mike SandifordCP Rajendran, and Kristin Morell
April 27, 2015

Saturday’s Nepal earthquake has destroyed housing in Kathmandu, damaged World Heritage sites, and triggered deadly avalanches around Mount Everest. The death toll is already reported as being in the many thousands. Given past experience, it would not surprise if it were to reach the many tens of thousands when everyone is accounted for.

Nepal is particularly prone to earthquakes. It sits on the boundary of two massive tectonic plates – the Indo-Australian and Asian plates. It is the collision of these plates that has produced the Himalaya mountains, and with them, earthquakes.

Our research in the Himalaya is beginning to shed light on these massive processes, and understand the threat they pose to local people.

The April 25 quake measured 7.8 on the moment magnitude scale, the largest since the 1934 Bihar quake, which measured 8.2 and killed around 10,000 people. Another quake in Kashmir in 2005, measuring 7.6, killed around 80,000 people.

These quakes are a dramatic manifestation of the ongoing convergence between the Indo-Australian and Asian tectonic plates that has progressively built the Himalayas over the last 50 million years.

image-20150427-18138-1ovy9gz

Belts of earthquakes (yellow) surround the Indo-Australian plate. Mike Sandiford

They are but one reminder of the hazards faced by the communities that live in these mountains. Other ongoing hazards include floods and monsoonal landslides, as exemplified by the Kedarnath disaster of 2013 which killed more than 5,000 people.

Earthquakes occur when strain builds up in Earth’s crust until it gives way, usually along old fault lines. In this case the strain is built by the collision or convergence of two plates.

There are a number of factors made this quake a recipe for catastrophe. It was shallow: an estimated 15km below the surface at the quake’s epicentre. It saw a large movement of the earth (a maximum of 3m). And the ruptured part of the fault plane extended under a densely populated area in Kathmandu.

From the preliminary analysis of the seismic records we already know that the rupture initiated in an area about 70km north west of Kathmandu, with slip on a shallow dipping fault that gets deeper as you move further north.

Over about a minute, the rupture propagated east by some 130km and south by around 60km, breaking a fault segment some 15,000 square kilometres in area, with as much as 3m slip in places.

The plates across this segment of the Himalaya are converging at a rate of about 2cm this year. This slip released the equivalent of about a century of built up strain.

While the occurrence of large earthquakes in this region is not unexpected, the seismological community still has little useful understanding of how to predict the specific details of such ruptures. While the statistical character of earthquake sequences is well understood, we are still unable to predict individual events.

Questions as to why such a large earthquake, in this specific location at this time, and not elsewhere along the Himalaya, continue to baffle the research community, and make for problematic challenge of better targeted hazard preparedness and mitigation strategies.

But with each new quake researchers are gaining valuable new insights. As exemplified by the ready availability of quality data and analysis in near real time provided by organisations such as the United States Geological Survey and Geoscience Australia, the global network of geophysical monitoring is providing an ever more detailed picture of how the earth beneath or feet is behaving.

New techniques are also helping us read the record of past earthquakes with ever greater accuracy. Our research collaboration – involving the University of Melbourne, the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research and the Indian Institute of Science in India, the University of Victoria in Canada, and the Bhutan Government – is studying the earthquake geology of adjacent areas of the Himalaya in the state of Uttarakhand in India and in Bhutan.

Together we are mapping indicators of tectonic activity that link the earthquake time-scale (from seconds to decades) to the geological time-scale (hundred of thousands to millions of years).

Using new digital topography datasets, new ways of dating landscape features and by harnessing the rapidly growing power of computer simulation, we have been able to show how large historical ruptures and earthquakes correlate with segmentation of the Himalayan front reflected in its geological makeup.

This is shedding new light on so-called seismic gaps, where the absence of large historical ruptures makes for very significant concern. You can read our latest research here.

The most prominent segment of the Himalayan front not to have ruptured in a major earthquake during the last 200–500 years, the 700-km-long “central seismic gap” in Uttarakhand, is home more than 10 million people. It is crucial to understand if it is overdue for a great earthquake.

Our work in Uttarakhand and elsewhere is revealing how the rupture lengths and magnitude of Himalayan quakes is controlled by long-lived geological structures. While little comfort to those dealing with the aftermath of Saturday’s tragedy, it is part if a growing effort from the international research community to better understand earthquakes and so help mitigate the impact of future events.

Funded as part of the Australian Indian Strategic Research Fund and DFAT aid programs, our collaborative work is a reflection of the commitment of our governments to international earthquake research.

Creative CommonsThe Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Further reading on F&O:  Nepal’s Predictable Agony, By F&O staff

*Disclosures:

Mike Sandiford, Professor of Geology and Director of Melbourne Energy Institute at University of Melbourne,  receives funding from the Australian Research Council, and has received funding for the research discussed here from the Australian Indian Strategic Research Fund. He supervises a postgraduate student from Bhutan studying the Himalayan earthquake geology supported the DFAT aid program. 

CP Rajendran, Professor, Geodynamics Unit at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research,, does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

 Kristin Morell, Assistant Professor, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at University of Victoria, receives funding Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) for ongoing work in the Himalayas. 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us with a donation (below), by telling others about us, or purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page. 

 

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