Humla is a remote district in Karnali Province — the only district without road access to the rest of Nepal. For most of the year, food has to be flown into the district. The absence of essential transport infrastructure in this district has obstructed people to get proper health care services and basic facilities. RAP3 MHLR Project is working to provide access roads to this district with the aim of improving access of rural people to economic opportunities and social services. Prior to the Mugu Humla Link Road project, RAP3 has built a 12.205 km Galfagad-Shreenagar-Kalikot District Road (GSKDR) in Humla which was later handed over to Adhanchuli Rural Municipality on 24th January 2019. Now, with the construction of the Karnali Corridor by the Nepal Army, GSKDR has now been connected to the National Highway at Galfagad, the starting point of the GSKDR. With this connection, public vehicles, trucks, and tractors are now carrying food supplies to the remote village of Shreenagar. Local community people will be benefiting from the provision of this transport service. In the absence of transportation facilities, people in Humla have been relying on mules to transport food and other essentials.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the lives of daily wage earners even harder as the country lockdown has severely restricted economic activity and forced labourers to stay home. Even during this hour of lockdown, our project field staff living along MHLR have managed to get permission from CDO Mugu to distribute the wage payment to three Special Road Building Groups (SRBGs) in Mugu working on the improvement section. These SRBGs received the payment of NPR 18, 59,827.00 on 30th March 2020. In addition, CDO Mugu, also deployed two police officers to ensure that project staff and working groups obeyed the principles of social distancing while distributing wages to the workforce, and everyone was encouraged to wear masks. As a project, we are committed to ensuring safe working practice. All of our project sites are now closed, and no RBG/SRBGs will be working. However, we will be looking at ways the project can support people affected by this lockdown, such as provision of our field offices to be used by local government for quarantine space.
Chief District Officer, Mugu along with his other officers visited the RAP3 MHLR road corridor from Gamgadhi up to Chankheli pass (3700m) on 22nd March 2020. The project field team assisted the visit and this visit was conducted before the Nepal government made the lockdown decisions.
The CDO appreciated the Road Building Groups (RBGs) mobilisation systems carried out by the project and also impressed by the politeness and willingness of the workers to obey social distancing rules while working on the road. In addition, he was pleased to see the work done by the project to promote women empowerment by giving them decent work opportunities and also the system of equal wage for all the workers irrespective of their sex, ethnicity, nor physical ability. He further suggested that the modality of RAP3 MHLR is a good one and that all local levels need to follow this approach for achieving remarkable results.
They also observed the progress on road construction and also monitored the Bama Health post and help desk operated by PHASE Nepal. The PHASE Nepal team simply examines the fever of patients and if there is any suspected symptoms of coronavirus, the patients are immediately recommended to hospitals for further test.
As per the Environmental Impact Agreement and Cabinet Approval, 744 trees have been felled in the Mugu section for the construction of Mugu Humla Link Road (MHLR). Trees play an extraordinarily important role in our environment and can help mitigate the effects of climate change, therefore RAP3 MHLR has focused efforts on replanting the forest by planting 25 new trees for every 1 tree felled during construction. In addition to the earlier plantation of 7,511 saplings of various species in Mugu section, our project field team planted a further 4,050 number of walnut samplings at Chankheli Community Forest on 15th and 16th March 2020. We will be planting 18,600 trees in total as a compensatory plantation of the 744 trees that had to be felled in the Mugu section. Though this construction project is much needed to improve the local communities access, it is also our responsibility to offset the damage done by construction work by carrying out environmental protection activities.
With the outbreak of Corona Virus all around the world, RAP3 MHLR in coordination with PHASE Nepal mobile health team has facilitated an awareness campaign for the safety of RBGs/SRBGs working in Mugu Humla Link Road corridor. This awareness programme was conducted before the lockdown decisions made by Nepal Government. We have distributed various pamphlets created for the awareness programme to our road building groups (RBGs) and also the same are placed near the settlement area. We want to raise awareness of the preventive measures, emphasising the importance of personal hygiene and social distancing. It is an extraordinary situation but our project has always been focusing on good hygiene and health, so we hope that many of our RBG members can remain healthy during this period of project closure.
As coronavirus spreads throughout the world, the RAP3 MHLR Team realised the seriousness of COVID-19 and took the decision to close our project work prior to the lockdown decisions made by Nepal Government. However, our project field team in various districts and central office, who were working hard to ensure our project and teams were prepared for the lock down, are now unable to leave the project site. We are making provisions so that they can remain safely in the current locations, with plenty of supplies. We are hoping it will be possible to get them back to their families during this time but are aware of the importace of minimising travel. .
Our project is closed until further notice but work continues, with staff who are able to, working from home. Our office phone line remains open, and you can always reach us at Tel: +977 1 5549629 during normal working hours.
All our RAP3 MHLR team working from home are in good health condition. As the world is living in self-isolation, we RAP3 MHLR team are beating quarantine boredom by catching up with our team members online everyday.
Our Project team would like to request everyone to apply preventative guidelines such as the now-well-known concept of social distancing. In addition, please strictly follow the following tips to save you and your loved ones from this deadly virus:
Wash your hands
Follow reliable health guidelines
Follow credible online news: Government/WHO
Boost your immune system
Try to stay calm
nternational Women’s Day was celebrated in our site offices as well as in Kathmandu. RAP3 MHLR celebrated IWD 2020 with local women in Gamgadhi, Mugu. There was a discussion with local women to raise awareness about preventing violence against women, increasing gender equality, and discussions about women’s rights and the benefits of an equal society. Mrs. Bishnu Thapa, one of the member of LRUC shared that earlier, only men were recruited to work in construction work but after the implementation of RAP3 MHLR, she got an opportunity to work on road construction and it has given her an outside exposure which has helped to uplift and empower her in the village. Similarly, Mrs. Basmati B.K, team leader in one of the RBG expressed that this project has come as a guardian for the unprivileged Dalit women in her community. Previously, Dalit women like her were not encouraged to express desires to work in the community but now the project has allowed them to lead the road building groups. This and other inspiring activities brought by project into their village has made them believe that they are also capable to lead if equal opportunities are given. Furthermore, women from various LRUCs also highlighted their success stories and changes they have found after joining the project and also mentioned that they are fully committed to work for the growth of women in their community.
Women from various LRUCs, PHASE Nepal team, RAP3 MHLR field team including Ward Chairperson and other stakeholders came together to celebrate IWD 2020. The event was concluded with typical Deuda singing competitions with prizes to be won.
RAP3 MHLR celebrated the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020, a day that looks to acknowledge the contributions of women to society as well as to promote gender equality. The RAP inclusivity study that was conducted in 2017 showed that our project has a good record on gender parity. We are proud of the fact that we have nearly 50% women working for us in our RBG team. More could be done to increase the proportion of women working in the RAP3 MHLR team, though an improvement has been seen more recently. However, RAP3 MHLR always ensures that our women have equal opportunities to participate in all decisions as well as our inclusive and diverse work culture treats all staff equally regardless of their gender, caste, ethnicity, race and designations. In addition, RAP3 MHLR also believes that the kind of environment in which our employees work has a massive impact on how they feel and how they perform in their jobs, and for this, our team holds an event every months as a refreshment to promote diversity and inclusivity at RAP3 MHLR.
This years’ theme for International Women’s Day is, “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights.” RAP3 MHLR team stands for Generation Equality and we would like to encourage you all to stand for the same.
As per the Environmental Impact Agreement and Cabinet Approval, 2125 of trees were felled in the Humla section for the construction of Mugu Humla Link Road. For compensatory plantation of trees in the Humla section, RAP3 MHLR field team have successfully completed winter plantation and this year alone, we have already been successful in planting 5000 walnut samplings in various community forests of Humla. We bought these tree saplings from the RBGs of Rimi, Darma, and Bohorabada at 25 rupees per samplings. As per the agreement, the compensation plantation will be done at a ratio of 25 new trees for every 1 tree felled within the MHLR road corridor.
Safe and Effective Development training for our project field staff was scheduled from 29th to 30th January 2020 in collaboration with Project Coherence Unit, Surkhet. The training was attended by 29 participants from RAP3 MHLR and 7 participants from other DFID programmes. The Safe and Effective Development training comprises components of “Risk Management”, “Do No Harm”, and “Good Development Practice”. The training aims to enhance understanding and capabilities on risk analysis and works on risk reduction measures to keep staff and project safe and effective.
Some of the major objectives of the training is to enhance and update participants’ skills in
- Identifying potential risks from the current situation using Risk Management/Safe and Effective Development approaches.
- Categorising the impact of risks for organisation and staff members
- Designing risk reduction measures – specially by increasing acceptance including SOPs and contingency plan
- Crisis and emergency management situation
The implementation of Maintenance and Resilience Pilot Component (MRPC) in Karnali Province under the RAP3 MHLR maintenance component has been completed its first six months. The MRPC team organised a progress review workshop bringing together all of the MRPC staff working at the different cluster offices, and included participants from IDOs and MOPID. There were a total of 28 participants attended the half day review workshop on 30th January 2020 at Birendranagar, Surkhet.
There were three major objectives of the workshop:
- To review the progress/achievements that has been made in 6 months of implementation.
- To share experiences and lessons learnt among staff working at different cluster offices.
- To discuss problems/challenges being faced during implementation and discussion around how best to resolve them.
The overall workshop highlighted the successful project implementation over the past six months, and how we have performed as a programme. The MRPC team concluded the event with lessons learnt and plans for the future.
“RAP3 is close to my heart, as it is to the hearts of many people across the Karnali Province”
– RBG, Mugu
The 12th Feb 2020 was a memorable night celebrating 20 years of history and close ties of Nepal and the UK Rural Access Programme with music from “The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas” held at the British Embassy, Kathmandu. Her Majesty’s Ambassador, Ms. Nicola Pollitt extended her heartfelt congratulations to everyone associated with RAP for their continued success over the past 20 years. In her speech the Ambassador mentioned how the RAP programme has been building roads in Nepal’s remote districts and providing employment to the poor and marginalised women. Most recent in the programme’s success is the Humla district, which was not linked to Nepal’s road network, has now been connected by road to the rest of Nepal through Mugu and HMA Pollitt added that during her tenure, she is excited to visit and observe RAP3 MHLR programme in Mugu-Humla. Ms. Lisa Honan, Head of DFID Nepal in her speech mentioned that RAP is more than just a road building project. She explained how RAP is an income generation project as well as a woman empowerment project because young women were able to earn and contribute to their households and avoid early marriages. Ms. Honan added, “In the last two decades, RAP has built 1138km of road in the most remote parts of Nepal. It has created 21 million days of employment for poor and disadvantaged communities and 42% of which went to women. In total, we estimated, the programme works have touched lives of about three million people in Nepal”. Similarly, Kedar Prasad Paneru, Joint Secretary, MOFAGA also expressed his gratitude for the 20 years of success of RAP. Kirsteen Merrilees, RAP3 MHLR Team Leader introduced the project field visitors and beneficiaries from Bhojpur to Humla who have work hard to achieve the success and their dedications at ground level make this project successful.
After the speeches guests were invited to enjoy the display set up showcasing the Rural Access Programme achievements over the last 20 years. Along with photographs and text, there were also videos demonstrating everything the project had accomplished.
The event was concluded with the live RAP songs presented by Simon Lucas and Surya Rana from DFID Nepal.
The 20 years of success is not just about the past, but the present and the future. It was a great privilege and an honour to have our distinguished guests from MOFAGA, DoLI and every other organisations who came together to celebrate 20 years of our accomplishments. RAP3 MHLR team would like to thank every single individual for helping to make this success happen. It is a night of celebration that will be fondly remembered.
RAP3 MHLR has been using two Hilux and one bolero for the day to day monitoring of project activities and the transportation of project materials, peoples and goods.
Our Bolero, nicknamed “Muffin the Mule” because it works so hard has gone for a long needed service. This has meant that it needed to cross back over the Karnali river. Crossing the river has always been a major challenge due to the water level of the Karnali and though there are plans to build a bridge at Mugu Karnali, this is still anticipated.
This year, the river is significantly higher compared to last year and it made it a very difficult for crossing the river. This bolero initially crossed over Karnali during January 2019 and has not gone back for full servicing. The bolero has been maintained by Mechanics traveling from Nepalgunj to the project site for minor cases. However it is time for the bolero to get full servicing. It was helped to cross over the Karnali river towards Gumgadi with the help of excavator. The Bolero will now travel to Nepalgunj for full servicing, but will need to be back in time to cross over Karnali again before the snow starts to melt around March resulting in the water level to Karnali rises again.
RAP3 MHLR has a target of having 33% women working for us. As part of the duty of care, but also capacity building considerations of the project, we seek to empower women. In order to ensure that we meet this aim, we needed to focus on menstrual health. To ensure the women felt comfortable to work, even when menstruating, we needed to assist in a cultural shift towards better understanding of menstrual health and personal hygiene.
Many women in the Karnali region, where RAP3 MHLR works, face difficulties during their menstruation. Either they may be required to be confined inside a “Chau Goth” (a small hut, normally a cow shed) because of long lasting taboos from the now outlawed Chhaupadi practice. Or it may be that they lack access to suitable sanitary products. Thus, women find themselves unable to work, nor able to earn a wage. Out of the total 1277 RBG members, around 48% (610 Nos) are women, exceeding the 33% target. As such RAP3 MHLR organised training to make reusable sanitary pads and to discuss menstrual hygiene.
121 female RBG members from 64 groups participated in the training. The women were trained to make their own reusable sanitary pad as well as engaging in workshops to discuss menstrual hygiene. The workshops aimed to begin the conversations needed to break down the taboos associated with menstruation. Afterwards, four undergarments were distributed to each woman so that they could get used to wearing them.
MHLR hopes that after the distribution of these pads and undergarments, participants will feel more comfortable continuing to work even while menstruating. Thus, ensuring that the women continue to have the same opportunity to earn a wage all month long. We hope to see a reduction in the number of women not attending work once a month.
Participants were very happy and thanked the RAP3 MHLR team for this support. After training, our social mobilizers gave orientations to all other female workers who didn’t participate in the training on the proper use of sanitary pads and how they can be reused in the future. They were also provided with two reusable sanitary pads and undergarments. In total, 2144 undergarments and 906 sanitary pads have been distributed to 536 beneficiaries in the Mugu section of MHLR.
The Mugu Humla Link Road (MHLR) has passed through a number of challenging sections starting from the Ruga settlement. With the combined effort of field team and experienced operators; we defeated most of the technically challenging sections requiring excavation along the alignment. However, at present the field team are facing three last major bottlenecks at Jacche-Ghanduska, Melikot-Ghattekhola of Bohorabada and a rocky portion just before entering Deuli. Due to steep terrain and the fragile nature of soil at Jacche-Ghanduska section, the speed of work could not be achieved as expected, despite the team’s best efforts and hard work. To ensure the final remaining section of track opening could progress, a diversion up to Bohorabada through Thadichaur-Jaanche-Ghattekhola was executed. This diversion will not form the final part of the road but was created to just allow the excavator to pass the section requiring a rock breaker, and on to continue opening the rest of the track. On 28th December, people of Bohorabada heartily welcomed the field team to use the track that had been previously created by an excavator not associated with the project. By following this path, it was possible to divert without harming a single tree nor any other physical damage on existing structure. As such, 2 excavators and a rock breaker entered Bohorabada and rejoined our alignment nearby Ghattekhola and have begun working from the other side of the challenging section. It is hoped this will ensure much faster progress with teams working on both sides, there are now 5 excavators and one breaker working at Bohorabada and Bagwani section.
We can never express in words quite how challenging the terrain our team are facing. In one section they are faced with a nearly vertical cliff about 100m length. The rock breaker is needed to be used to break through that section to create a track that can then be widen later on. This requires a lot of fuel, in a very remote area but we are managing fuel supply through mules and at times human power too.
In spite of working on probably one of the remotest and highest road projects in the world, the field team continues to give their full effort and energy to achieving the construction target on time.