Nepal has had a torrid history for decades, laden with insurgency and clashes, protracted civil wars, political upheavals and its vulnerability to natural disasters. But in recent times, changes have come about and there is political stability with seven provinces being added, along with alterations in rules and regulations, giving it the much-needed stability. In a candid chat, Nepal’s Consul General in Kolkata Eaknarayan Aryal talks about the paradigm shift that has come about for Nepal and its manifestations.
· The new era of developmental activities in Nepal:
Over the last couple of years, Nepal has had certain developments in the fields of industries, investments and tourism. In fact, I feel that the biggest advantage of Nepal is that it has a well functioning three-tier government system, which looks after every aspect of the country and its people. The Central government has a strong hold over different policies but ultimately the main focus is on the local government. They are the ones to take a call in terms of what has to be done and where, and finally implementing all the decisions. The local government wants to practice and promote the concept of real democracy, where everyone will have equal right to express their opinions and take decisions wisely and I personally feel that this makes a huge difference. The Central government makes its presence known all over the world but here in Nepal its role is thorough monitoring. The local government takes care of everything, right from generating policies to executing them in a proper manner.
· The Agro-Industry has seen a sharp growth over the last couple of years.
All over the country, the importance of agriculture is something which is highly talked about. Nepal is no exception. And I can surely say that even today, 70 percent of the Nepali people today earn their livelihood through agriculture. This is another reason why the agriculture industry is gradually prospering here. The government is providing ample amount of assistance by not just creating more opportunities for agriculture but by supplying good amount of fertilizers and by providing irrigation facilities. People in Nepal are now no longer facing any trouble while taking loans because a lot of banks have come up with co-operative banking system where the process of taking loans has become simpler. Donations from government and from several banks have helped improve the situation and turned Nepal into a different direction.
· Potential conflict between real estate and agricultural land.
Now, this is an age old concept where it has been seen that big zamindars would snatch lands from small farmers for building estates and houses for centuries. The land requirement for constructions and real estate is definitely necessary but not at the cost of destroying and occupying agricultural lands. The focus on real estate is still there in Nepal and in Bangladesh as well. Therefore, in order to maintain parity, the local government has set up wholesale authorities. The existing policies regarding real estates and acquisition of agricultural lands have been amended. With this new wholesale authority, I feel the work will be equally distributed as they will judge the issues on several grounds such as “how much land should be reserved for agriculture”, “where will the constructions take place” and so on. So I feel this is a rational decision on the part of the government as it will foster the proper use of lands, instead of creating rift among the masses.
· The concept of Smart Cities in Nepal.
Across the globe people are striving towards smart cities. Everyone wants to have a technologically driven life. Nepal too is on the verge of becoming a smart city. But one of the most important requirements is to have skilled labourers who will work in a certain manner to achieve it. They require proper skill and training. However, I know that the local government is doing its best to provide adequate training to the people so that they can contribute towards the creation of a smart city. Apart from labour and manpower, the atmosphere and infrastructure should also be there, which makes it favourable for the workers to work in. However, my strong belief is that, the government is trying its best. In fact, we have as many as 676 governments in different places all across Nepal. Each government is focusing on their own provinces to help them grow in small ways. And indeed the growth is happening in terms of the following parameters:
Ø Tourism: The beauty of Nepal lies in its nature and the majestic mountains. Today, the local government is inclined towards the concept of a strong eco-tourism policy. Economists across the globe are promoting the idea of ecological sustainability so that it puts minimal pressure on the environment and the flora and fauna can be maintained as well. The government is also working on other factors such as improving the trekking routes. This is because Nepal is the gateway to Mount Everest. So developing and building the trekking routes would automatically promote tourism. Not just that, there are several age-old temples and historical sites which are almost on the verge of destruction. The government is doing its best to protect and maintain their beauty. In fact, there is no limit/restriction on the tourists as well. They can stay in a particular place for almost a month to 45 days to rejuvenate themselves. As said by various tourists, Nepal is a pleasant and soothing experience for all. The government has come up with “VisitNepalia” to boost tourism in the country.
Ø Industries: A lot of new industries are coming up in Nepal. It has close ties with India and various other European countries and all these countries have contributed in their own way to enrich Nepal and make it self-sufficient. It has opened itself up to several sectors like advertising, marketing, courier, financial services, hotels and homestays, musical products, higher education and research and development. The foreign investment in these sectors is safe and secured, and has been said to be profitable. This is how Nepal has prospered and now can undertake several projects on its own.
Ø Trade and Investments: Nepal is considered to be an attractive destination for tourists all across the globe. The investment and trade opportunities in Nepal are considered to be very lucrative because of its climate, new rules and regulations and friendly policies. Nepal is strategically located between the two super economies, namely India and China. Nepal is already a member of the WTO and a founding member of the SAARC. This has brought in additional opportunities for various investors.
Some of the other avenues for investment are: agriculture and agro-processing, tourism, hydropower generation are the primary areas of investment for Nepal. Also a lot of IT related services, energy industry, textile and apparel industry, biodiversity and education sectors are gradually growing in number.
· Is increasing pollution a threat to Mount Everest?
The Everest is one of the mightiest peaks and is still considered to be one of the cleanest. However, I am aware of the fact that how the increasing level of pollution is creating problems everywhere and is detrimental for the people of Nepal and the rest of the world. The local government has set up the Sabarmala Mountain Pollution Control Authority (SMPCA), which looks after all the details of trekkers who are making several expeditions to Mount Everest. All trekkers need to give them all their information regarding what they are carrying, where they are staying or for how many days. The SMPCA is informed about everything in a nutshell. The registration will have to be done before any team starts their expedition. The local government has also arranged for two other things for trekkers traveling to the Everest:
Ø The traffic and health stations: Making an expedition to one of the highest peaks can be a tough and tedious job. The government has ensured that all the trekkers making their way to the top, do not face any trouble and has tried to make their journey into a seamless one. For this, police guards have been assigned at certain points, security people are always on duty and health stations are constructed at every half-an-hour for regular checkups for medical assistance.
Ø A 5-star hotel has been constructed: In order to assist people/trekkers to stay near the Everest, the government has constructed the Mount Everest View Hotel which is a five-star luxury hotel, which gives the tourists sheer pleasure of the view of the Everest from a very close distance.
· India and China are heavily investing on Nepal
I personally feel that not just these two countries, there are many other countries which are highly interested to invest in Nepal. In fact, it is pleasant news that Nepal has improved its investment situations and has come up with open market policies and single-window system, which allows establishing investment through just one centre. The choices on investments can be several such as energy, infrastructure and tourism etc. and the investors can choose which particular sector they want to invest upon in order to get the best ROI.
· THE NEW GOVERNMENTAL POLICIES:
This has changed the entire façade of Nepal. The primary focus is on promoting non-violence. Apart from it, the main idea is to establish and foster the already existing ties with all the foreign states and work on strengthening the new ones, placing Nepal on equal footing with rest of the developed countries and maintaining good cordial relations with India.
· The developmental activities of Nepal will have an impact on the North-East as well.
The biggest hurdle of Nepal is that of its location. Being located in a hilly area, the transportation routes are always difficult to establish and construct. However, many nations have come forward and joined hands to help Nepal to provide technological assistance so that they can equally prosper. In fact, currently we are working on the construction of railways which will soon connect Nepal to other places. This will enhance its regional connectivity as well. As of now, there are trains from India to Kathmandu, flights till Kathmandu and so on. We are now focusing on the construction of railways which will connect Nepal to China and Bangladesh. This will not just help Nepal but the entire North-East will also benefit from it in several ways.
· With every disaster comes new opportunity. Is it true?
Massive earthquakes struck Nepal during 2015 which caused huge damage to the city and to its people and infrastructure. Nepal’s location is such that it is highly prone to disasters and earthquakes. The topography is a huge hindrance and a big hurdle towards any type of development. But the government is aware of this and has set up the Disaster Management Control Policy (DMCP). In fact, every province which is extremely disaster prone or has high chances of getting affected during earthquakes has the Disaster Control Team nearby, under the leadership of the District Magistrate. They take the entire responsibility during the times of crisis. I remember, I was the District Magistrate of Kathmandu and there were several times where I had to face such a crisis. Most importantly, to avoid such disasters a proper public awareness must be there and proper training has to be provided. Several donor agencies like Zaika, DFID etc focus on capacity building, proper infrastructure to prevent earthquakes and proper disaster management. We are currently focusing on the construction of wider roads to prevent any such crisis.
· New definition of New Nepal for the Indians.
Nepal has learnt a lot from its previous experiences which has given it a new look. Earthquakes and other similar calamities have shattered the infrastructure of Nepal and caused a lot of loss to its industries and trade as well. Presently, wider roads along with four lanes are being constructed, rapid action teams are being set up in different provinces and villages which can take action quickly and look into the several aspects. The government has also made some changes in policy regarding open spaces and lands which are soon to be implemented. The rapid action teams have direct communication with the government, police and the locals as well. We all try to work as a team to make Nepal prosper in the upcoming years. Nepal’s GDP Per Capita reached $1,034.118 in July 2019 compared to $997.885 in July 2018. So, that itself shows that Nepal is growing in its small ways.
· It has been three years since you have been living in Kolkata. Any particular memorable experience/s?
Three years in Kolkata seemed to pass in a blink. Kolkata has been a tremendously pleasant place to live in and has given me lots of beautiful memories to cherish. It’s a beautiful city with a lot of warm-hearted people, who are extremely welcoming. Kolkata is not just culturally enriched but also historically and religiously rich. One of the greatest things that I feel is that a lot of people in Kolkata are aware about Nepal and are interested to visit it. Similarly, a lot of people in Nepal are interested to visit Kolkata and have a taste of this beautiful place. I think that itself talks a lot about the cordial relationship between India and Nepal. In fact, lately a lot of trade is happening between India and Nepal as well. The relations are becoming better day by day.
· Talk us through the bi-lateral ties.
Nepal has always had good relations with India, especially, because of its close ties and cordial matrimonial relations that it shares with India. Over the last couple of years, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has visited Nepal on various occasions. Even Nepal’s president had visited India and met Modi and was enthralled by his approach and welcome. Nepal extends its gratitude towards India and wants to strengthen the bi-lateral ties. But being a small nation with a very small population, the people of Nepal definitely want better relations and support from the Indian government to help them grow and prosper. Whenever we sit for any meetings with the Indian government, there is a sense of comfort and assurance which really makes us happy. In fact, the recent trouble with the Gorkhas and the struggle for the Gorkhaland has been a success, because of the huge support from the Indians too. We expect that in the near future, we keep getting the same support from them.
A brief about the Kukur Tihar:
This is an auspicious celebration in Nepal and the second biggest Nepalese festival after Dashain. On this day, the dogs are worshipped. This is celebrated during Diwali. Usually, Diwali stretches for five long days and the Kukur Tihar falls on the second day. The Nepalese people want to show their love and devotion to animals, especially dogs. This day is devoted to them. The “tihar” is important to show people’s intimate relations with animals.