Lokta paper for official work

Kathmandu, March 9:

The cabinet today decided to use Nepali Lokta paper for citizenship certificates, identity cards, letter pads and other government stationery.

The decision has given a fresh lease of life to Nepali Lokta Paper — the indigenous Nepali paper that had been pushed to the brink of extinction. Today’s decision will substitute import and promote Nepali handmade paper, saving the government millions of rupees.

Earlier, Minister for Industry Asta Laxmi Shakya had committed to propose to the cabinet for the use of Nepali Lokta paper. “We think our lobbying has paid finally off,” said Milan Dev Bhattarai, president of Handmade Paper Association (HANDPASS). The association had

been lobbying for the domestic use of Nepali paper in order

to promote local employment and the local product apart from its export. Bhattarai said that the decision would also help reduce rural poverty as Lokta paper raw material is cultivated and the paper is made only in the rural hilly areas.

Nepali handmade paper was employed for all government legal correspondence earlier as it was compulsory then. However, suddenly it vanished from government offices when the government started importing paper. After 1998, imported paper was used to issue the property ownership certificates prepared by the Ministry of Land Reforms and citizenship certificate issued by the Home Ministry.

Instead of Nepali handmade paper, the government started using white paper for property ownership certificates and ivory paper for passports. “The governmwent used to import ivory paper worth millions annually,” Bhattarai said. The new decision will now increase domextic employment for around 5,000 families in rural areas apart from saving Rs 10 million.” The citizen certificates will also have an original look that will promote Nepal in foreign lands.

According to Bhattarai, Lokta paper is a key export commodities. “Though it has excellent quality and own identification, it has been fighting for existence in the local market,” he said.

European countries and Japan are the major buyers of Nepali Lokta paper. “Now, we do not have to prove our quality at the international level as the best exmaple of it will be evident in the new passports made from Lokta paper,” Bhattarai said adding that Lokta paper has an international registered brand — for quality control — called NepaLokta at the European Union.

During 2008, Nepal exported more than Rs 300 million worth Nepali Lokta paper directly and about Rs 200 million worth indirectly through tourists arriving in Nepal. “We are expecting a 10 per cent annual increase in the international market by 2009,” he said.

Ang Dendi Sherpa, president of the Federation of Nepalese Cottage and Small Industries (FNSCI), urged the government for a more simplified forest policy and consumer policy for wider use of Lokta paper.

Lokta paper special as it is made from high-altitude shrubs, is handmade, has

incomparable strength, is amazingly durable, insect resistant as well as water resistant to a great degree. It also has a natural look in comparison to the imported ivory paper.