EDITORIAL: Chronic neglect

Programmes such as food for work need to be launched to provide immediate relief to the locals

The Karnali zone, despite having abundant resources and natural beauty, is the most backward zone in the country and its residents are the poorest and many of them have difficulty getting the basic necessities of life, including food.

Famine and food shortages characterize its districts too often. Given this sorry state of the zone, development projects and programmes should have been designed specifically to address the problems of the zone.

But this has not happened; whatever development has taken place is far from enough to overcome the Karnali people’s day-to-day problems of existence. The Karnali zone is also environmentally vulnerable as even a slight climate change affects it adversely.

But those in power have not been able to take timely action to address these challenges.

For the past three years continuously, the people of the Bajura, Mugu and Humla districts have been suffering from droughts and dire food shortages. The arable land of 11 VDCs of Bajura’s northern belt, five VDCs of Humla’s Shreenagar area, and seven VDCs of Mugu’s Shreekot belt has remained uncultivated because it is parched and dry.

It is reported that the ongoing drought is the longest the region has faced in the past forty years. In favourable climatic conditions, this part of the year would see the region’s agricultural fields green with wheat and barley. Drought means a prolonged lack of rainfall and the non-availability of water through irrigation as well.

A chronic shortage of food also means malnourishment of children and adults, disease and even death in some of the cases. A number of families are reported not to have been able to afford meals twice a day for months.

It is sad, however, that successive governments failed to take enough effective measures aimed at minimizing these vulnerabilities of the Karnali zone, despite public statements by political leaders from time to time that Karnali is the most backward region needing special development packages to take its people out of this backwardness.

The consequence is that despite six decades of planned development, the region has not been able to overcome the chronic shortages of its basic needs.

Every year news of acute food shortages in some parts of the Karnali region makes headlines but no corrective measures have been taken to ensure that food is reached to the deficit areas in time and enough stocks built so that the locals may not have to suffer from food shortages.

The government agencies concerned, including the Nepal Food Corporation, which is responsible for supplying food to such deficit areas, come up with one excuse or another every time such a problem arises.

But the plight of the people of those areas has never become better. Roads and irrigation facilities should be increased and seeds and other necessary inputs and incentives should be provided to the farmers there to help resolve their problems.

Programmes such as food for work need to be launched to provide immediate relief to the locals. The sorry state cannot change overnight, but decades have been largely wasted in doing too little too late.

This situations needs to be rectified with a high sense of urgency.

Finish work soon

The long distance passenger vehicles and cargo trucks passing through the Mungling-Narayangadh section of the highway have to wait in queue for about four hours every day as the contractor has resumed the road widening work from today.

The vehicular movement on this road section will remain closed from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. as the road widening work from Mungling to Kalikhola section is underway.

The blockade of the busiest highway will cause immense inconvenience to passengers and cargo trucks coming and leaving from the Kathmandu Valley.

The main contractor has advised the road users to take alternate routes to avoid the delays. The vehicles heading east can use the BP Highway, Tribhuvan Rajpath, Balkhu-Hetauda route and others heading towards west from Narayangadh can use the Prithvi Highway.

The alternate routes to the east will have less distance than the Mungling-Narayangadh route. People travelling to the western parts of the country will have to cover an additional 70-km long distance if they follow Mungling-Pokhara route.

However, the heavy vehicles cannot ply on the BP Highway and other routes. So, there is no other option than to finish the road-widening work at the earliest.