“Nepal suffering gross climate injustice”

Prime Minister Dahal on the climate crisis, the Ncell sale and persistent under-development

Prime Minister Dahal address the Sudur Paschim Festival in Dhangadi on Friday. Photo: PMO

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal was in Dhangadi on Friday to inaugurate the Sudur Paschim Festival. Dirgha Raj Upadhyay interviewed him on behalf of Nepali Times. 

Nepali Times: In your speech at COP28 in Dubai last week, you said Nepal was suffering from climate injustice. What did you mean by that?

Prime Minister Dahal: Nepal is bearing the brunt of the impact of the climate crisis even though we are responsible for negligible amounts of carbon per capita. Nepal isn’t just suffering injustice, it is gross injustice. I put that across clearly at the climate summit, and I put across that this injustice has to end. Developing countries like Nepal are having to deal with climate breakdown because of historical emissions by richer countries. As a result, our glaciers are receding, landslides, floods and other natural disasters are becoming more intense and frequent. There are financial and technical obstacles to adapting to, and mitigating climate change. It was my argument that those responsible for emissions should be compensating those who are suffering loss and damage. As for Nepal’s part, I reiterated our commitment to the Paris Agreement targets and our goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2045. 

Nepal had a prominent presence at COP28 side events with Water Resource Minister Shakti Basnet, Urban Development Minister Sita Gurung and other members of the delegation taking part. We were successful in drawing international attention to the impact of the climate crisis on the Nepal Himalaya. 

How is your government going to deal with the Ncell stake sale controversy? 

It was highly unusual that a Rs30 billion company like Ncell should be sold for Rs7 billion. It does not make sense. We are seriously concerned about this, and the government is trying to get to the bottom of this. We will take appropriate action after the investigation results come out.

Citizens and businesses across the country, including here in Sudur Paschim, are seriously affected by the current economic crisis. How long will this stagnation continue?

The government is aware of the hardships being faced by ordinary citizens, and there are signs that the economic situation is on the mend. The country will soon return to normal, and the government is wholly committed to making that happen.

Dirgha Upadhyay interviewing PM Dahal NT
Dirgha Upadhyay interviewing PM Dahal in Dhangadi on Friday.

Sudur Paschim Province has always been neglected by the state. That has not changed after Nepal became a federal republic.

You are right, there was neglect in the past which kept the Sudur Paschim back. But this province is my priority. I am committed to allocating the needed budget for this province’s development and prosperity, which is directly linked to connectivity. Nepal will not develop and prosper until Sudur Paschim Province develops and prospers. Under my leadership, for example, Geta Hospital will also be a medical college. Dasrath Chand Health Science University will soon be the first health science university in Nepal and will put Sudur Paschim Province on the map. 

Many infrastructure projects in the Far West that could make the whole country take a big leap forward like Pancheswar, West Seti, Karnali Chisapani have seen no progress. What are you doing about them?

We have announced that we are going ahead with the 10,000MW Chisapani project that will have historic importance for Sudur Paschim and Karnali Provinces. There has been progress in the much-delayed DPR for Pancheswar. The government has signed an agreement with India’s NHPC for the construction of the West Seti dam, and hopefully work will begin soon.

In addition, we have started work on the dry port in Dodhara-Chandani, and we believe this will be a boost to the economy of Sudur Paschim Province, and indeed of Nepal. The provincial government and local MPs from Kanchanpur are also pushing for this. 

But the first order of business for connectivity is roads. Yet the Darchula-Tinkar-Taklakot and the Bajhang-Urai-Taklakot road construction is going very slow. How will we ever develop?

Yes, the construction of both the roads you mentioned is going very slow indeed. I am worried about it. I will find out whether it is a delay in the release of the necessary budget and if so what is the reason for that. Connecting Taklakot is my priority. 

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