EDITORIAL: Promises to keep

The pledged assistance and the need for reconstruction should receive high priority of the government and the political parties

It is just four months short of the two years since a major earthquake and its powerful after-shocks shook and damaged and destroyed a lot of property and took nine thousand lives, apart from the many more injured or maimed, in several districts of the country.

While the first tranche of assistance of Rs. 50,000 has not reached all the people eligible, the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) faces the immediate task of distributing the second tranche but its hands are tied as it lacks the necessary money.

It should be admitted, however, that most, though not all, of the eligible victims have received the first installment. At the same time, it should also be kept in mind that nearly two lakh new people have later applied to the government for assistance on the ground that they are earthquake victims.

It is a new but time-consuming task for NRA to sort out these complaints to determine how many of them are genuine victims and how many are fakes. The financial burden will increase on the government when it has to provide money to the new genuine claimants.

The shortage of funds has occurred as there has been a wide gap between the budget of Rs. 80,000 that has been allocated by the former K P Oli-led government for the second tranche of aid per quake-victim family and the new obligation to distribute Rs. 150,000 rupees as the second tranche per victim this fiscal year, thus leaving a shortfall of Rs. 70,000.

To overcome this problem, the government has been seeking to bring a supplementary budget.

Besides, while the former government had pledged to provide a grant of Rs. 50,000 to each quake-victim family whose damaged house was fit to live in after repairs, but the present government has pledged to increase the amount to Rs. 100,000.

A total of 533,168 households, out of the 626,036 beneficiary households, have already signed the grant agreement with the local bodies in the fourteen severely quake-affected districts and the Kathmandu Valley.

The government’s liabilities to the quake victims have increased sharply as a result. At present, the government requires Rs. 79.98 billion to distribute the second installment of the grant, according to the Ministry of Finance.

But recently it had only authorized NRA to mobilize Rs. 28 billion, with a promise to release another five billion rupees within the next few days. Simultaneously, NRA has also to distribute the first tranche to the remaining 92,868 beneficiaries.

Furthermore, the government has pledged to subsidize bank loans to the quake victims to enable them to build their houses using quake-resistant technology. The government’s financial obligation will increase further on this count as it will have to compensate the banks for the interest they would otherwise have earned on the loans.

The government also faces the huge task of reconstructing the government buildings, community schools, cultural monuments, and other infrastructure including roads, bridges, and trekking trails.

It has been estimated that the task would require much more money than that set aside in the budget for this fiscal year. The pledged assistance and the need for reconstruction should receive high priority of the government.

Hi-tech saves wildlife

Use of modern technology has helped the wildlife protectors curb wildlife crime for the last five years. The wildlife protectors started using mobile tracking system since 2011 in coordination with Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal.

The mobile tracking system helps track the movement of notorious wildlife poachers. A number of notorious poachers including those on the Interpol’s list have been arrested after this system was put in place.

The year 2011 was marked as the “zero poaching year” due to the use of the modern technology.

Likewise, another technology named unmanned Aerial Vehicles was also launched in June 2012 in the Chitwan National Park’s Tarai Arc Landscape. This system was remote-controlled with cameras and global positioning system to capture images of the hard-to-reach areas.

The officials at the Chitwan National Park also launched a real time patrolling and CCTV cameras that provide actual data on wildlife movement, timber harvesting and human activities inside the park areas.

In addition, the government’s efforts to raise public awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation have also immensely contributed to the protection of the wildlife.