The upcoming local poll also has security implications. One of the major security issues identified is party rifts during the elections. Similarly, organizations such as Himal Surakshya Parishad and Mongol Nepal Organization have been recognized as a possible security threat. To address the security challenges, the security agencies including Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, and National Investigation Department will be mobilized
Timeline of Key Events
|April 7||The government has decided to revoke the license awarded to the Chinese company for the construction of Budi Gandaki Hydropower Project.|
|April 21||WHO director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus arrived in Nepal to discuss the progress of Covid-19 vaccination.|
|April 23||US Delegation has highlighted that the US wants to work with Nepal in the sector of climate change and poverty alleviation.|
Local Elections and the Threat of Covid-19 Wave
The government of Nepal had planned to vaccinate all the eligible population above 12 years by April 13. As of 23rd April, 19.4 million people have received the double dose of vaccination which is 66.8% of the total population. Similarly, the vaccination number for people receiving at least one dose and booster dose are 22.1 million (76.1%) and 2.7 million (9.4%). Currently, the population of Nepal between 0 and 14 stands at 28.8%. The government has plans to buy Pfizer vaccination approved by WHO for the children between 5 and 12 years and a non-disclosure agreement has already been signed for the purchase of 8.4 million doses. Despite having vaccines in stock, the government has failed to vaccinate the entirety of the eligible population by mid-April as initially planned. The Covid-19 cases have been increasing in India over the past week. Furthermore, Nepali people living in India are expected to move back to the country for the upcoming local elections. Since a significant percentage of population is yet to be vaccinated, Covid-19 cases might increase in the upcoming days.
Nepal has received around 52.08 million doses of vaccines which include AstraZeneca, Vero Cell, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Janssen, and Sinovac-CoronaVac. According to a committee formed to investigate the missing vaccines, found lapses from the government in vaccine management due to which thousands of vaccines were either expired or ruined. Most of the instances of improper vaccine handling were found at the local. This could be due to lack of proper training on the handling of vaccines and lack of storage facilities at local level. Similarly, with a significant percentage of population yet to be vaccinated, the vaccination number has plateaued over the past few weeks. One of the major causes for this is lack of confidence on the efficacy of vaccines. False information regarding the side-effects of vaccination has been widely spreading across the social media which has negatively impacted people’s decision to get vaccinated. Hence, there is a need for fact checking institutions to control the spread of misinformation. Likewise, the government also has an important role in getting connected with the people and persuading them to take vaccines. Furthermore, there are no measures to screen the Covid-19 cases at the border points for the people returning back to Nepal. So, to address this issue of possible Covid-19 wave, government should focus on vaccinating the remaining population and establish the pre-existing infrastructure including screening at border points and quarantine and isolation centers. Similarly, WHO director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus arrived in Nepal to discuss the progress of Covid-19 vaccination. During this visit, Nepali health officials have asked for WHO’s help to establish Nepal as a regional hub for tropical medicine which could be instrumental for Nepal to improve its existing health infrastructure.
Issues regarding Budi Gandaki Hydropower Project Contract
The government has decided to undertake the mega Budi Gandaki Hydropower Project with the capacity of 1200 MW through the national investments. Similarly, the cabinet of minister with the recommendation from the Ministry of Energy has decided to revoke the contract with the China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) which is a Chinese state-owned company for the construction of the dam. In 2018, the KP Oli government had awarded the contract to the Chinese company without free competition. This decision was publicly criticized because CGGC has been blacklisted in several countries due to its dodgy records. Chinese ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi expressed dissatisfaction regarding the government’s decision. This project is an example of how frequent political changes have impacted the infrastructure development projects in Nepal.
In 2006, the then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal signed the agreement with Gezhouba for the construction of Budhi Gandaki Hydropower. However, the Sher Bahadur Deuba led government in 2014 took the project from Gezhouba and highlighted that it will be constructed through internal investments. The decision was again reversed by KP Oli in 2018. So, the indecision from the government has put the future of the project in a limbo. One of the most important aspects while undertaking any big infrastructure is policy continuity. However, no progress has been made on the project due to multiple policy changes regarding the financing of the project. According to a report prepared in 2015, the project was estimated to cost around Rs 270 billion. Currently, it is estimated that the project will cost more than Rs 1 trillion taking inflation into factor.
Cross-Border Electricity Trade
Recently, during the visit of PM Deuba to India, a ‘Joint Vision Statement on Power Co-operation/Common Vision Agreement’ has been signed to facilitate the development of hydropower projects through joint investments and strengthen the cross-border electricity mechanisms. This comes as a great opportunity for Nepal to expand its electricity export prospects through the regional framework of SAARC and BIMSTEC. Thus, Nepal should be extra careful to not derail the development of hydropower projects for maximum capitalization of the provisions under the agreement.
Security Preparation for Local elections
One of the major concerns regarding the local elections happening on May 13 is addressing the issue of party rifts during the election. All the district administrations have been directed to keep an eye out party rifts which could ultimately lead to clashes between the party cadres. In previous elections, armed groups trying to disrupt the election process was a major cause for concern. During this election cycle, Ministry of Home Affairs has identified clashes and violence among party members as a major security threat.
To address the security challenges, the security agencies including Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, and National Investigation Department will be mobilized. Security agencies have categorized polling station as ‘sensitive’ and ‘highly sensitive’ depending on the perceived security threat at each station. Similarly, organizations such as Himal Surakshya Parishad and Mongol Nepal Organization have been recognized as possible security threat. Although Netra Chandra Bikram led communist party and CK Raut led Janamat party have joined mainstream party politics, security officials have been directed to closely monitor their activities. To maintain the security during the elections, 65,000 personnel of Nepal Police, 71,000 personnel of Nepal Army, and 32,000 personnel of Armed Police Force will be deployed. Similarly, India-Nepal border will be closed for 72 hours to prevent the electoral fraud. Furthermore, security officials have also been directed to keep an eye out on the activities of refugees and undocumented migrants.