Memorandum submitted to UN against India’s blockade

RASTRIYA SAMACHAR SAMITI

CALIFORNIA: The Non-Resident Nepalis Association (NRNA), USA, and different other social organisations based in the US have staged a demonstration in front of the UN Headquarters in New York and submitted a memorandum to the UN on Tuesday against India’s unofficial blockade on Nepal.   A large number of US citizens and Sikhs of Indian origin also expressed their solidarity in the demonstration staged against India’s unofficial blockade on Nepal.   President of NRNA, USA, Dr Keshav Poudel said that the demonstration was organised to draw attention of the UN to create environment conductive for resuming the supplies of goods from India to Nepal adding that there was no sign of lifting the blockade from Indian side despite the humanitarian crisis in Nepal.   Vice-President of NRNA, USA, Ram C Pokharel said he never imagined that a neighbouring country, that too India, would treat Nepal in such a way and added that he arrived in the UN Headquarters from Texas to take part in the agitation.   Likewise, issuing a press statement, Nepal America Journalists’ Association (NEAJA) has also condemned the India’s blockade on Nepal. – See more at: http://reviewnepal.com/national/memorandum-submitted-to-un-against-india-s-blockade.html#sthash.sIgbumpu.dpuf

[courtesy:BBC……………….Nepal earthquakes: What I saved from the rubble]

If you could save just one object from an earthquake, what would you choose? Three months on from the Nepal earthquakes that killed thousands and devastated the capital and its surrounding areas, nine survivors tell the stories of the precious items they managed to salvage.

Dalli Maya Maji, 65 – A water jug

Dalli Maya Maji

Dalli lives in the village of Chandani, where several people lost their lives during the earthquake. After her home was destroyed, she dug through the rubble to rescue her brass water jug.

“Somehow in all the chaos I found my water jug. I can’t remember how long I searched for it, I just kept searching. I had worked many hours in the field to save up and buy this water jug. I had had to travel to the neighbouring village to buy it,” she says.

“Having the jug means that when visitors or family come I can serve them water in the right way.”

Meena, 33 – Her baby

Menna and baby Sundari Maji

A few minutes before the earthquake hit, Meena put Sundari, her seven-month-old baby, into a wicker basket. While the baby slept, she took her grain to the mill to be ground – but then the earth started rumbling.

“I ran home. I ran while the ground was still shaking under my feet,” she says.

By the time Meena got home, her house had collapsed, and a wooden beam had fallen on the baby’s wicker basket. She could hear Sundari crying so she knew she was still alive.

“My husband and I started to remove the debris, but it was taking so much time. I rushed to ask neighbours to help us, but they were dealing with their own suffering, there was distress everywhere, screaming and crying. And all the time I could hear my baby crying.”

She says that for a desperate hour, she scrabbled through the rubble to free her child – eventually some neighbours were able to help, and together they freed Sundari, who was covered in scratches, but not seriously injured.

Sangata Tamang, 41 – Prayer beads and bells

Sangata Tamang

Sangata keeps her most precious items – a collection of brown and black beads, small brass bells and what look like carved effigies or figurines – wrapped tightly in a muslin beige cloth.

She says: “If these were lost for ever, I would feel so bad because our beads are holy and important to our worship.”

Rahar Singh Tamang, 60 – Larja Purja (red paper)

Rahar Singh Tamang

Rahar’s house was badly damaged in the earthquake, and is now held together with corrugated iron sheeting and tarpaulin. He says the most important items he saved were the “Larja Purja” – or red papers – which are his certificates for proof of land and house ownership, as well as the yellow papers that prove he has paid his taxes.

“My Larja Purja papers were kept inside a small black book that I keep locked. For the first days after the quake I could not return to our home, because the shaking just kept coming. Then, after about 10 days, I found the courage to go inside and get the box.

“Without official papers, things can go wrong. You need to prove that you are the one who owns the land and the building.”

Panch Maya Tamang, 40 – Her drum

Panch Maya Tamang

Clasping what looks at first sight like a rusty hub-cap, Panch breaks out into a smile as she makes rhythmic music with her instrument – a home-made drum made out of deer skin. She regularly plays the drum at weddings and religious festivals, and she was desperate to save it after the earthquake.

“I can’t remember how long I’ve had this drum. It has been with me always. I remember when it was new and the deerskin was newly stretched across it. It plays just as well today as it did then,” she says

“Music is important for us during special occasions. Even with the misery of this earthquake, we still need music. That is why the drum is important for me, my family and for my community.”

Krisma Lama, 19 – School certificate

Krisma Lama

Krisma lives in the village of Balthali, which sits on a plateau amid terraced rice fields.

Krisma had already sat her School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exams before the earthquake struck. Without the certificate to show that she had passed, however, she would not have been able to continue her education.

She says: “I was proud to receive my SLC certificate. It is a good achievement for me. I kept it locked away in a cupboard. After the earthquake it was still there safe, inside the cupboard.”

Shyam Bahadur Tamang, 70 – Woven wicker grain separator

Shyam Bahadur Tamang

Shyam says his home was taken down after the earthquake by the army, as it was deemed unsafe, teetering on the edge of a cliff top. The most precious item he saved was his wicker grain separator.

“I was right here in the house when the earth started to move. I spent a lot of time dashing in and out of the house collecting my belongings.

“Although its women’s work to separate the grain, I do it. I’m old but I am still useful. When the family sit down to do this work, I join in with them. It’s important for family to clean rice together.”

Suku Maya Tamang, 35 – A bag of rice

Suku Maya Tamang

Suku says her five-year-old son was playing outside the house when the earthquake struck, and her 15-year-old daughter was working in a nearby field.

“When the shaking started, it was difficult to keep a hold of my son. He kept slipping through my hands, like rice grain through fingers,” she says.

“I don’t know how, but I rushed inside the house and pulled out our sack of rice, and ran down the hill holding my son and the sack.

“I met my daughter down in the village. She was crying, and we were all afraid.

“We have been careful not to eat all the rice quickly, because we first have to find our feet again, so for now this bag of rice is still feeding the family.”

Rama Napal, 53 – Gajali the calf

Rama Napal

Rama remembers working in the fields when the earthquake struck. She ran home to make sure that members of her family were safe – but after that, she was determined to rescue her prized calf, Gajali.

Animals are crucial to subsistence farmers like Rama, providing milk, meat and a source of income. They are also an important part of the spiritual life of communities. Rama named her calf Gajali – which means “eyeliner” – because of the animal’s sensuous eyes, which look as if they have eyeliner around them.

Rama says two of her cows and five of her goats were killed in the earthquake, and she spent three days digging through rubble to find Gajali.

She says: “I heard no sound from Gajali, after digging the earth looking for her. Then on the third day as I was moving the earth, I saw her tail shake. Many people in the village came to help me dig her out.

“I was so happy I cried, and I gave Gujali water and grass. This is a very special calf to me. I’ll never sell her.”

Rama Napal

Pictures and interviews courtesy of Cafod

Nepal: Where is SAARC when disaster strikes? – Opinion[courtesy:Huffington Post Inc.]

Sadly, it took a natural disaster, the devastating earthquake of 25 April, to turn the world’s attention to Nepal. And on reading this oped – “Don’t Forget Nepal” — by a Nepali citizen I felt more strongly than ever that there’s a need to reiterate and even repeat messages to keep Nepal alive in people’s minds even after TV screens change their “big stories” to something else.

The calamity has to be alive until the region’s leaders collectively take some decisive actions towards the reconstruction of Nepal, and more importantly resolve to set up an effective disaster management system which can minimise the impact of any further natural calamity that South Asia might face.

In particular, the Nepal quake is a warning bell for SAARC to get its act together to set up an effective disaster-response mechanism which can minimise and mitigate impact in an already disaster-prone region.

According to reports, about 8.1 million people have been affected by the quake. The death toll stands at well over 7500. Nepal’s already ailing economy is expected to experience further jolts with damages amounting up to $10 billion. The tourism industry, the country’s highest revenue grosser is likely to be hit hardest.

The international aid so far is nowhere close to what the country needs to rebuild itself – at least $1 billion by year end. International agencies, especially the UN, are already stretched too thin with other global crises.

If this were not bad enough, some scientists believe that the catastrophe may not be over yet and that there is a possibility of more aftershocks.[ the report is prior to the second earthquake in Nepal]

The question is this: can we afford yet another disaster in this region? South Asia is one of the most natural disaster-prone regions of the world. Out of eight countries in the region, six (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh) are located in the earthquake-prone Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) belt.

Where is our South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) when disaster strikes? Agreed, members like India and Pakistan have reached out to Nepal – but all in their individual capacities. What is needed is a joint effort to chalk out long-term reconstruction plan for Nepal where resources could be pulled in from SAARC repository as and when required.

Poverty makes the region even more vulnerable, and now Nepal stares at a lack of shelter, contaminated water and poor sanitation, which raise risks of diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

According to reports, Nepal generates about $20 billion each year, which is lower than most other countries. Meagre opportunities have led the country’s young men to look for work elsewhere. Economists say the exodus will swell (and thus corrode the nation’s capacity to rebuild) if the government doesn’t take immediate action to provide incentives to victims of working age.

Those who are left behind – mostly women and children – might become victims of human trafficking for child labor and prostitution. Sex trafficking is rampant within Nepal and to India (where 5000-10,000 women are trafficked each year).

There have been talks of disaster risk reduction among the SAARC members with drafts like the SAARC Comprehensive Framework on Disaster Management being penned. Even a regional framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) has been drawn. However, a huge gap in implementation exists with no proper coordination at various levels.

Most of the SAARC members have legislative framework for attending to such natural hazards, but capabilities differ in each country. While India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh have considerably ramped up their capabilities and ability to network, the rest simply do not have enough resources to put an effective system in place.

In the case of the Nepal quake, one of the main challenges was the country’s inability to utilize resources due to lack of coordination. Most of the workers had to be routed through the Nepalese Army which led to aid reaching the victims late and cramming up the country’s international airport with piles of relief materials.

Most of the efforts were concentrated in Kathmandu for some period even though there were reports of locals waiting for help in other affected locations.

A combined effort from SAARC could have addressed this with a proper needs assessment and accurate data on the extent and loci of devastation. For streamlining international response, a proper mechanism for customs clearance and emergency cargo at the airport could have been arranged.

The monitoring of seismic events is particularly important not just to understand the location of the epicenter and its magnitude, but to also be able to share information on time. According to this report, scientists had already predicted the Nepal earthquake and the possible devastation that might follow back in 2013. However no action was taken.

SAARC as an organisation should have not only shared information of an imminent natural disaster but should have also monitored or even pressurised the authorities to prepare adequately.

However, we can still hope that this tragedy has woken up regional leaders. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already spoken with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on pan-South Asia initiatives where the region could pool in resources and expertise during disasters such as this.

Following the earthquake, India sent unmanned aerial vehicles to Kathmandu to map destruction on neighboring countries. New Delhi has also stepped up efforts to lead initiatives around the SAARC monitoring system for early warning and risk mitigation in member states.

Meanwhile, many of the victims are still struggling to get enough food. As noted in this Hindustan Times article , the SAARC food bank should have been most active now. Ratified by all the members in 1988, the bank provides for a reserve of food grains to meet emergencies in member countries.

But experts lament nowhere have the SAARC food reserves been used despite the many cyclones or floods that the region has faced. The main reason observers say is problems with timing, accountability clauses and the lack of an independent mechanism to evaluate the implementation.

Other regions like the ASEAN have built commendable and very robust disaster response systems. Why not get some learning from them?

For instance the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) exists to activate a regional disaster mechanism real time such that it can also coordinate international relief responses to maximise results.

In a recent conference ASEAN talked about a new strategy called “One Asean, One Response” to bring various parties together for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

There is a huge need to network and gather knowledge from different organisations on how to mitigate the effects of natural calamities. Action with a sense of urgency is the least that the regional leaders can do to create a more resilient South Asia.

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Konviktion’s addition:

We heard nothing from SAARC secretary Sri Arjun Bahadur Thapa whose motherland is Nepal after the severe earthquake of 25th April 2015. We want to know what are steps he has undertaken for disaster control in earthquake stricken  Nepal?

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