February 2023 Analysis: National Security & Climate Change

Posted by : Prabisha Basnet


Date : 2023-02-28

On 13th February, 2023 COVAX with the support of United Nations vaccine sharing scheme provided Nepal with 345,600 doses of Pfizer- BioNTech’s bivalent vaccine. To address the problems and issues related to the climate change, SAARC level climate change journalist forum was formed on 5th February. Nepal, being one of the major country to send migrant workers to the Gulf countries has halted the work permit for people seeking to work as drivers in UAE and Qatar due to high number of complaints from the migrant workers. Nepal also had discussions and meetings with the Indian and Chinese officials regarding the power trade between the countries.

Timeline of Major Events

Date Events
5 February Formation of SAARC level Climate Change Journalist Forum
13 February Nepal received 345,600 doses of Pfizer- BioNTech’s bivalent Covid Vaccine from COVAX
18 February Agreement between Nepal and India to add 200 MW to Dhalkehebar- Muzaffarpur transmission line
20 February Nepal halted the work permit for the people seeking to work as drivers in UAE and Qatar
21 February Discussion on cross- border connectivity and power trade held between Nepal and Chinese officials

Covid vaccines needs proper distribution

Nepal received the first lot of the Pfizer- BioNTech’s bivalent covid vaccine from COVAX on 13th February, 2023. This bivalent vaccine is a part of 9.2 million doses of vaccine promised by COVAX to Nepal with the support of United Nations vaccine sharing scheme. The Pfizer- BioNTech’s vaccine is meant to provide protection against Covid as it contains the components of original virus strain and also the part of Omicron variant.

After the third wave of the Covid, there had been drastic drop in the Covid cases ultimately leading towards the declination in the intake of the Covid 19 vaccine. Hence, this situation made many people to escape the booster doses. However, due the spike in Covid positive cases again, people are more willing to get the booster doses. The demand for booster doses were especially felt from the people going abroad. The government in return has announced that the vaccines would be distributed according to the priority list which consists of people over 55 years of age, health workers, pregnant women, those having compromised immunity and people suffering from the chronic diseases at the top of the list.

The second and third lot of the bivalent Covid vaccines are also expected to arrive soon. The arrived vaccines are kept at 2-8 degree Celsius vaccine storage and can only be stored for 30 days. If government fails to distribute the vaccines soon like it had previously, the vaccines will again go to waste.

Life of the migrant workers at halt

On 20th February, 2023 the Department of Foreign Employment of Nepal issued a notice declaring the temporary halt of the approval of labour permits for the people seeking jobs as the drivers in Qatar and United Arab Emirates (UAE). In order to hire Nepali migrant workers, the government of Nepal in 2018 made it compulsory for the foreign companies and the recruitment agencies to get their work demand letters by Nepali foreign missions based in the destination countries. Hence, along with the halt notice, the department has also asked diplomats at Dubai and Qatar not to provide the demand letters for the job of drivers until further notice.

According to the Nepal Labour Migration Report, 2022 in the last fiscal year, out of 348,867 new labour approvals, 6.2 percent were for the post of the drivers. The government has clarified that this was taken to minimize and address the number of complaints filed by the migrant workers working in the Gulf countries. The complaints of the migrant workers revolved around delay in receiving the driving license, not getting a fair income or the treatment by the agencies, difficulties in finding jobs or no trainings prior to finding jobs, and also the poor treatment by the agencies if migrant workers shared their problems with them.

While this step will temporarily prevent more people from falling into the same trap, it does not solve the problem entirely. The government must instead make policies and provisions that prevent the operations of these fraud agencies, make stricter rules against the accused agencies and reform vis approval processes to only provide visa to those who have already received training or have a job confirmation in the destination country. Temporary steps as such will only increase the hassles of migrant workers.

Connecting through the transmission lines

Nepal and India on 18th February, 2023 made an agreement to increase the power of import and export capacity of the Dhalkebar- Muzaffarpur 400KV transmission line. The agreement consisted of increasing the capacity to 800 MW from the existing 600MW. Along with this agreement, construction of other transmission lines were also discussed in the meeting.

Similarly, on 21st February, 2023 Chinese and Nepali also met regarding the power trade between the two countries. The discussion consisted of sharing the progress reports of the cross border connectivity between the two countries. Nepal had before proposed to construct 400KV Ratamate-Rasuwagadhi- Kerung cross border transmission line for the purpose of electricity trade between Nepal and China. Further discussion on this is supposed to take place in the next meetings between the Nepalese and Chinese officials in Beijing but the date is yet to be fixed.

Both India and China are taking interest to establish the energy trade in Nepal. While it is challenging to balance both the neighbors diplomatically, it is a great opportunity for Nepal to improve its economy by utilizing its natural resource. Nepal being sandwich between the two powerful countries can take lot of advantages if it can position itself effectively.