Ten-year Karnali Development Plan hangs in the balance

January 18, 2018

The Kathmandu Post, 18 Jan 2018 

The 10-year Karnali Development Plan, which was floated last year, has yet to be implemented due to Karnali Development Council’s failure to endorse it.

The council, which is headed by the prime minister, has not met yet, resulting in the plan facing severe human and financial crunch for its effective implementation.

Several requests of Karnali Development Commission, which had devised the plan, to hold the council meeting have fallen on deaf ears. “We requested the then prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal in March and incumbent PM Sher Bahadur Deuba in July to hold the council meeting, but to no avail,” Acting Executive Director of KDC Parbati Aryal told THT.

According to the commission’s Chairman Chandra Kant Poudel, who is also a member of the National Planning Commission, the meeting could not take place due to PM Deuba’s busy schedule.

Though it was proposed that the NPC would function as a wing of the finance ministry, there’s uncertainty over where the commission’s secretariat will be housed and its structure. The commission’s head office is located in Jumla and contact office in Kathmandu. “Without sectoral experts, it will be difficult for the commission to function as a think tank,” said commission member Krishna Prasad Acharya.

The commission only has a chairman and a member, although it is supposed to have five members representing five Karnali districts — Jumla, Kalikot, Humla, Mugu and Dolpa — and finance secretary, NPC secretary, representative of Poverty Alleviation Fund and executive directors as other members.

According to the government’s directive, a joint secretary should lead civil servants deputed in the commission, but the post has remained vacant. Of the two posts of under-secretaries, only one has been filled. The commission should also have five junior officials, but only two have been deployed.

The plan has envisaged several ‘pride’ projects: Hilsa-Jumla-Surkhet fast track road, Karnali corridor, Saljhandi-Dhorpatan-Dunai road, Nakche-Lagna-Gamgadhi road, Karnali hydropower project, Tila hydropower project, Simikot-Rara-Shey Phoksundo Tourism Development Area and Phukot Hydropower project.

According to Poudel, Karnali needs an annual investment of Rs 60 billion for 10 years to make it a commercial hub.

“The region has investment-friendly environment, as the process of acquiring land is not so cumbersome and cheap labour is available in abundance in the region, which has a population of 388,713 as per the last census,” he said. The commission has proposed that the government should invest 60 per cent of the funds and the private sector 40 per cent.

The commission has identified insufficient transport and weak infrastructure as major problems in Karnali, which accounts for 14.5 per cent of the country’s total area.

Most roads are not functional in adverse weather, restricting market access of local agricultural and herbal products, while lack of employment opportunities in the region has resulted in rampant migration to urban areas and foreign countries.