EDITORIAL: Lost opportunities

The CAAN officials should be blamed for their folly as they have misreported and stayed away from informing the EC that air safety standards had been improved

Nepali airlines are not permitted to operate within the 28-nation bloc of the European Union. The European Commission says that this was so because the European Aviation Agency had not found any change as far as air safety was concerned in the past four years. Nepali airlines have been listed among the 16 countries facing a ban from flying into the EU by the European Commission. This ban has been imposed on all the 18 Nepali airlines and the European Commission says they have failed to rectify the safety shortcomings.  Incidentally, the European Commission had placed restriction on Nepali airlines in 2013 at the call of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The ICAO had raised the safety concerns about Nepal’s aviation sector due to the non-compliance of eight critical elements of its protocol. However, the ICAO had removed Nepal from its black list on July 2017 and Nepali airlines had been given a clean chit which Nepal had failed to cash on.

Despite this the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) had not communicated the ICAO’s clearance to the EU timely to get the ban lifted. As a result, the ban is still in force. This raises serious questions about the competence of those at the helm of the CAAN. They should have acted timely, properly and effectively. This is indeed a matter of gross negligence, petty mindedness serving the personal vested interest of the CAAN officials. Nepal failed to defend itself in the EU forum held recently in order to get the ban lifted even though the ICAO has already provided Nepali airlines with the clearance to operate flights in the international sector. The European Commission says that their assessment was done on the basis of international safety standards. Thus, Nepali airlines are still unable to serve in 28 lucrative destinations in Europe.

Apparently, there was a minor scandal when attempts were made to summon the director general of CAAN during September and October to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. After the Election Commission intervened the director general was reinstated. The CAAN officials should be made to pay for their folly for they have deliberately misreported and also stayed away from informing the European Commission that the air safety standards had improved appreciatively as stated in the ICAO’s latest findings. These developments come at a time when the NAC is importing two wide-bodied Airbus aircraft to serve in various destinations. One of them would be brought to Nepal within a short time.  Apart from the national carrier, NAC, private airlines of Nepal like the Himalayan Airlines and Buddha Airlines are capable of operating in the international destinations. Nepali airlines could serve in the European destinations, among others, and also succeed in bringing one million tourists annually. Therefore, CAAN should take the blame for the present debacle for not conveying the clearance given by the ICAO to the European Commission that would allow Nepali airlines to operate in the EU too. It is up to CAAN to let the EU know that it is capable of providing the highest level of safety in the European sky sooner than later.

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With the onset of the winter season in the far-flung mountainous districts over a dozen people have already died of viral fever that could have been easily avoided had the people and the concerned health facilities taken precautionary measures. A report from Mugu district stated that a dozen people succumbed to viral fever and this has taken epidemic proportion. Cough and common cold are the common viral fever afflicting the elderly and children. People from various wards of the Chayanath Rural Municipality and Khatyang Rural Municipality have been hit hard due to the viral fever that is prevalent during winter as people cannot afford to buy warm clothes and receive medical attention.

The Ministry of Health and Population must take this situation very seriously. The concerned health department should also send medical teams to the affected areas to control the viral fever. The government knows that many people die of viral fever in the Himali districts during the chilling winter. But it does not take any curative measures to protect the most vulnerable section of society. The concerned rural municipalities should also launch awareness programmes to protect one from such viral influenza.