As the Covid-19 pandemic has grown rapidly inside the Kathmandu Valley, the project has paid more attention to the cleanliness of the office.
“The road from Ruga to Darke Khola where the soil is overflowing, grass has been planted and for a deeper soil stabilisation, brush layering has been carried out using branches of local plant species called ‘Bains’ plant in Nepali. Bio-engineering has been extremely good thanks to RAP3, and make the roads green”.
–Chankha Baduwal, Bama Gaira LRUC, Chairperson
Bio-engineering work has been carried out in an area of 7316.40 square metres where full widening of the Mugu Humla Link Road section has been completed. Bio-engineering works are required for the protection and stabilization of slopes. The plants provide the functions of catching debris, armouring the surface, reinforcing the soil, anchoring the surface layer, supporting the slope, and supporting successful drainage. Similarly, they also enhance the aesthetics of green roads. Before commencing Bio-engineering work on the Rugha section, virtual training was given to field staff, attended by more than 30 local participants. Bio-engineering techniques like brush layering using branches of local plant species, covering 2929.80 running metres have been adopted. Also, in order to stabilize fresh soil cut-and-fill slopes, salimo grass was planted. The purpose of bio engineering work is to improve slope stability and prevent the erosion of cut and fill slopes along the MHLR alignment.
“Equal pay for equal work system for both men and women of the RAP3 MHLR project has encouraged us to adopt the system in the Palika and helped in establishing a society of equality in the village. Hence, we all are very proud of the project".
-Mr. Bhakta Bahadur Malla, Chief Administrative Officer, Mahabu RM Dailekh
With the global pandemic Covid-19 virus now in Nepal, the virus has spread to districts of Karnali province. The growing number of Nepalis entering the country from the Indian border has increased the risk of Covid-19 infection among many of those who were migrant labourers in India. Due to the pandemic and the resulting lock down, the project has been unable to distribute wage payments to our Special Maintenance Group (SMGs) in Dailekh.
With the support from government officials, our team in Surkhet got a travel permit recommendation from the District Administrative Office (DAO) Dailekh, but as the number of infected people increased, Dailekh district was sealed off and the project team was not allowed to travel for their own safety. Even in such an unusual situation, the Dailekh Ward Chairperson committed to support and manage the SMG wage distribution in the district on behalf of the RAP3 MHLR team.
Together with support from other officials of Mahabu Rural Municipality and following the norms and procedures of the project, SMG wage distribution was successfully completed on 22nd June 2020.
Due to the possibility of spreading the virus, only one group of SMGs was called in per day and wages were distributed to 5 groups on different days between 18th June and 22nd June 2020. We are grateful for the assistance government officials have provided in this time of lockdown and we look forward to their continued support in the coming days as well.
Nepal Engineering Association has celebrated this year’s International Women in Engineering Day through webinar on “gender mainstreaming in shaping the world in the post COVID situation”. The theme for INWED 2020 is ‘Shape the World’ and RAP3 MHLR Team Leader, Er. Kirsteen Merrilees was invited to be the keynote speaker at the webinar. Kirsteen Merrilees in her presentation discussed about why post COVID situation is all about practicing good engineering and she has also made it clear that in the current situation, both men and women’s participation in the engineering field is equally important. For more information on her presentation and conversations with panelists about gender mainstreaming in shaping the world, you can listen through this NEA Facebook link.
The lockdown has affected people's lives in Karnali province. The Karnali residents who have gone to work in India continue to return home, and at the same time, corona virus infections are on the rise. This has shaken the lives of daily wage earners even harder as the current situation has severely restricted economic activity and forced laborers to stay home. Even in such a turbulent time, our project field staff have safely distributed wages to Specific Maintenance Groups (SMGs) in Salyan, Surkhet, Rukum west and similarly to Road Building Groups (RBGs) in Mugu and Humla districts by taking appropriate measures to protect against COVID-19, including wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing.
There were 18 members in the group who travelled to the project office in Chaurjahari, Rukum West to receive their wages. Upon consultation with Chaurjahari Municipality, the arrangement of wages distribution was made with the advice that this group should travel in smaller groups i.e. 4-5 members at a time and maintain social distance while they travelled and similar precautions were taken in other districts as well. We are grateful to the local governments of all the districts for their support in distributing the wage to our laborers. A much needed financial relief for families who are very dependent on this income.
Due to the nationwide COVID 19 lockdown, most of our project field staff are back to their homes and the project area is being taken care of by the local staff in Mugu and Humla. Although all the construction work has stopped now in the districts, there is still some work such as IPC bill preparation, wage distribution, safeguarding office site stores, winter plantation and many other tasks to be done in the field. For this, the project field manager has given orientation training from Google meet to the field staff for assessment of monsoon damage, construction of the live check dam and other works. Also, bioengineering work has been started from Rugha section, Mugu and the virtual training on bioengineering was given to field staff on 18th June 2020 where more than 30 participants attended the training. With the help of virtual meetings, junior local staff in the field are in regular contact with senior staff and are updating the field situation, status of the road, and community issues. Even during lockdown, our senior staff are working in the capacity building of our local staff in Mugu and Humla.
International Women in Engineering Day focuses on the amazing careers of women in engineering, science and technology and celebrates the achievements of outstanding women engineers. This year's theme for INWED is 'Shape the World'. Women (and men) all over the globe can help raise the profile of women engineers and encourage more people to consider engineering as a profession for all. This year many engineers all over the world are working from home. INWED celebrations will be quite different this year but we will be celebrating this day virtually and reflect on the celebrations that have happened in the past.
Through our website, https://rapnepal.com/inwed we will look back at some amazing women who have been pioneers of engineering in Nepal. We will also look at some images from previous year’s INWED Celebrations.
As per the contract signing with Department of Forests and Soil Conservation and Divisional Forest Office of Mugu and Humla, 744 trees in Mugu and 2043 trees in Humla section have been felled for the construction of Mugu Humla Link Road (MHLR). Trees play an extraordinarily important role in our environment and therefore, in order to increase forest products, soil conservation, and habitat of wildlife, RAP3 MHLR has focused efforts on replanting 25 new trees for every 1 tree felled during construction. In addition to the earlier year plantation of saplings of various species in Mugu and Humla, this year, our project field team carried out winter plantation and planted 5000 walnut saplings in Humla as well as 4050 saplings at various locations in Mugu. These saplings are growing well in Mugu and Humla in favourable temperatures. As part of the tree planting, we also raise awareness among our local people to protect these growing saplings from cattle and children.
In response to the COVID 19 pandemic, RAP3 MHLR in coordination with PHASE Nepal team has distributed 4180 pieces of locally produced masks to our Road Building Groups (RBGs) and their family members. This provided masks to 747 different households in Mugu and Humla. Our RBGs were taught to wash hands properly with soap and water before distributing masks and were also oriented about the COVID-19, its causes, means of transmission, signs/symptoms, and preventive measures. The locally made cloth masks (3 layered clothes) can help prevent transmission of the virus if used appropriately and as long as hand washing and physical distancing are practiced as much as possible. We hope that our effort in raising awareness against Corona virus will support our RBGs and local communities and reduce their chances of contracting COVID-19.
Our team has maintained physical distance (2-3 metres) during mask distribution. We hope that, during this pandemic period, everyone will stay at home and maintain social distancing as much as possible to remain safe.
Prior to lock down, the RAP3 MHLR team had success in breaking through the critical section at Jacche-Ghanduska. In the absence of transportation facilities, people in Humla had been relying on mules to transport food and other essentials but after the outbreak of Coronavirus, local government has strictly prohibited any movement of mules and pedestrians. This has badly impacted the settlements access to supply of food and essential goods. In response to CDO, Mugu request, we allowed temporarily the Nepal Food Corporations for transporting emergency food items up to Bagwani along our newly constructed road corridor helping to avoid a shortage of food items and other essential goods. 300 bags of rice and boxes of emergency medicines have been transported to Bagwani, approximately 66.5km from Gamgadhi. We are relieved that the MHLR can provide a vital link to these remote villages in this time of crisis, and know that the benefits will be even greater in the future.
RAP3 MHLR Project’s provides on-site health services and related assistance to the MHLR Road Building Groups (RBGs) members and project staff through downstream partner PHASE Nepal. It includes free primary health care and emergency treatment to RBG members through outreach services linked to health posts. Furthermore, under MHLR health and safety safeguards, we raise awareness of health hazards (injuries and disease), avoid risks, and self-manage minor illness to keep our RBGs safe and healthy. We are grateful that our RBGs are safe and comfortable in remote areas like Mugu and Humla where access to medical care is unreliable.
With the global pandemic of COVID-19 breaking out, understanding good hygiene and having access to medical professionals becomes an even greater focus to these rural areas. This is why we are so grateful to our PHASE team who have remained in the field, continuing to serve our local communities. Working on the frontline puts them at higher risk of infection but they have courageously chosen to continue and work hard to fend off the outbreak. We appreciate our PHASE Nepal health service team for their meticulous, empathetic, and compassionate attitudes who are vigorously working hard to make an extraordinary difference in their limited resources and healthcare services in a remote place like Mugu and Humla. The pandemic’s spread is creating new challenges for our health workers therefore, the highest priority right now is to prevent them from getting sick. Thankfully the team has secured food, N-95 masks, sanitizers, chlorine, and other important medicines in the project area along with PPE sets.
Our team have already been proactive in raising awareness against corona virus to our RBGs and local communities. Prior to the lock down being put in place they had run a number of workshops emphasising the importance of personal hygiene and social distancing. Additionally, PHASE Nepal has also prepared local masks (3 layered clothes) to be distributed in Mugu and Humla to our RBGs and their family members. We are distributing these locally prepared masks to 53 RBGs in Mugu section and 11 RBGs in Humla section. The RAP3 MHLR field team has liaised with CDO office, Mugu and local Mayors to obtain the movement pass for our staff to support the masks distribution.
To date, all our RBG members are in good health, both physically but also mentally.
We also hope you all are keeping safe and well during these difficult times. We remind everyone that proper hand-washing and social distancing can reduce the number of simultaneous cases of COVID-19. We hope that everyone can stay at home to support and protect our health workers during the coronavirus crisis.
Eight days after Nepal went into a nationwide COVID 19 lockdown, RAP3 MHLR field staff were finally evacuated and are now all safely home with their families. Due to the essential lockdown of Nepal, our teams found themselves locked down in various locations across our project, and unable to return to their families. As the lockdown is expected to be extended further, our staff in Kathmandu, Nepalgunj, and Mugu coordinated with various CDOs and local government to obtain the movement pass for RAP3 MHLR vehicles in order to send our field staff to their home in different parts of the country. Referring to the 3-day permission given by the Ministry of Home Affairs from 29 March to 31 March 2020, project vehicles from Kathmandu travelled to Salyan, Surkhet and West Rukum for the repatriation of field staff, including staff who had managed to travel from Mugu and Humla.
This is a challenging situation and as a project we are committed to respecting the lockdown and social distancing first and foremost. However, we are also very thankful to the government and all those involved in helping us during this difficult time to allow us to safely evacuate our field staff from various districts and get them home to their families.
We hope you are all keeping safe and well during these difficult times. We encourage you to remain in your homes, only to leave for essential shopping and emergencies.
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.