Govt apathy turning relief materials into decaying waste


Relief materials worth millions of rupees that poured in following the April 25 earthquake have started decaying in the open space of Tribhuvan International Airport’s customs yard, thanks to the negligence on the part of helping hands and the government authorities.

According to a high-level official at TIA customs office, the customs yard has started to stink with unclaimed relief materials that were received from abroad for immediate support to earthquake victims who have been sheltering in makeshift tents in different districts.

“Relief materials kept in open for over a month have now started to turn into stinking waste,” Bhupal Baral, chief customs administrator at TIA, told this daily. According to him, food items in particular have started decaying after no one came to claim the cargo boxes. “Unclaimed relief materials at TIA customs could have been priced at over 10 million rupees,” the customs chief added.

The rightful claimants of the relief have failed to show up and customs officials and other government agencies are not ready to handle the matter. “Customs office cannot take control of these materials unless they remain unclaimed for at least 90 days,” Baral said, informing that most of the materials were received after mid-June.

Nepal Army personnel who were deployed in the restricted area of TIA told this daily that they were facing a hard time performing duty on premises of the customs yard due to stench emanating from the unclaimed relief materials. “The smell is really bad,” a duty officer at the customs office said.

According to officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs, what makes the matter worse is that the recipients were neither ready to pay customs duty nor hand over the relief materials received after mid-June to the central warehouse.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has also alleged that the customs delays and taxation of aid stalled urgent relief efforts in the quake-devastated country.

In a meeting with the representatives from Nepal Airlines Corporation that looks after ground handling at TIA and the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies that manages TIA godown, chief customs administrator Baral on Monday called for immediate action to manage the decaying relief. “All concerned ministries and stakeholders have been informed time and again to deal with the situation, but to no avail,” he said.

Raju Shrestha, a taxi driver whose 17-member joint family is taking shelter in a makeshift tent at Khalde VDC in Dhading, said the quake victims are in urgent need of aid but the relief materials were decaying at TIA customs. The government has been successful in turning the relief materials into complete waste, he criticised.

The Humanitarian Staging Area operated by the World Food Programme and the government central warehouse, which are next to the TIA cargo building, are also filled with relief materials.

As many as hundred tents were sent to Dolakha on Thursday and Saturday, according to Ganga Neupane, an under secretary, who has been assigned from the Ministry of Home Affairs at the central warehouse. “The warehouse only received a consignment from Belarus after the government lifted customs duty waiver on relief materials from June 22,” he said, adding that the warehouse was also filled with relief materials.