Everyone has been affected differently by the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health measures such as lockdowns and social distancing are necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19, but such restrictions may also have a significant impact upon the mental health of employees. Therefore, understanding the importance of positive mental well-being of staff and to cope with stress in a healthy way in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, RAP3 MHLR conducted “Stress Management and Mental Health Training” in June and July 2021 for all RAP3 MHLR staff. The training was spread across several batches to keep the number of participants low so that participants could have sufficient time and space to interactively share their feelings with certified psychologist/stress counsellor, Karuna Kunwar. The training provided practical information, tips and exercises on preventing stress, anxiety and our staff found the training useful and beneficial for managing their mental health and keeping them optimistic and hopeful in the midst of the pandemic. In addition, staff who want a private session with the psychologist or have personal questions are now able to contact Karuna for assistance.
Bio-engineering work has been carried out on the Mugu section between Darke and Chankheli in an area of around 3500 square metres where full widening of the section has been completed. Similarly, bio-engineering work on the Humla section is ongoing in an area of around 3000 square metres. 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. Bio-engineering techniques like brush layering using branches of local plant species, have been adopted. Also, in order to stabilize fresh soil cut-and-fill slopes, salimo grass was planted. Soil bioengineering techniques are extensively used due to their cost-effectiveness, using locally available materials and labour. The purpose of bio engineering work is to improve slope stability and prevent the erosion of cut and fill slopes along the MHLR alignment.
With RAP3 MHLR reaching its final phase, we are progressively demobilising our valuable staff after the end of their contracts with the RAP3 MHLR project. On 1st July 2021, our project field team bid a warm farewell to 10 field staff based in Mugu and Humla whose contracts ran out at the end of June 2021. On behalf of every member of the RAP3 MHLR, the project field team organized a small farewell programme at Gumgadhi, Mugu. The project highly appreciates field staffs’ remarkable contributions at the ground level, which have allowed the project to achieve its goals. Many of these staff have worked in RAP from its initial phase and at the farewell event they expressed their gratitude towards project and also shared the lessons they have achieved over their years of service to the project.
Speaking at the virtual farewell event conducted by Central team, Madan KC, Main Storekeeper, shared that when he first arrived at his base station, Mugu, he had to walk in the snow and remembered his hard times due to remoteness. Looking back on those difficult days, today, he feels amazed to be able to go to the field in our project’s four-wheel vehicle and return to his residence on the same day. The other project field staff also shared their years of similar experiences and memories of working on the project.
The project has been able to achieve great success because of their hard work and commitment over the years. It has been a great privilege and an honor to have them working for RAP with their great effort and determination.
Best wishes to all of our field project staff when moving onto the next chapter of their lives!
On the occasion of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), RAP3 MHLR organised a virtual event to celebrate the achievements and contribution of outstanding women engineers across all engineering fields. This year, we marked the INWED celebration by asking our current and former male and female engineers and non-engineers a set of questions to get their perspectives on International Women in Engineering Day.
The participants involved in the event shared about their source of motivation to choose the field of engineering, issues they generally face on-site or in the office, their thoughts on having fewer female engineers than male in their office and in the field, their experience of any positive changes in the field of engineering over time, one change they would want to bring to our work culture to make the environment, and their thoughts on celebrating International Women in Engineering Day. The participants shared that choosing this engineering field provided them with tremendous learning opportunities, as well as the opportunity to do development work. Their responses showed that women still face many challenges in engineering compared to men and that having more female engineers on the team permits a more diverse environment and creative approach to solving problems.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to all the members, especially our former female engineers, for contributing their valuable time to mark this celebration. It was a great event to celebrate and collect views, experiences and ideas in order to understand the barriers and opportunities faced by both men and women in the engineering field through the perception of male and female engineers.
We hope that in the days to come, the engineering field will be more inclusive for all genders.
Happy International Women in Engineering Day, 2021!
On 12th Feb 2020, ‘20 years of RAP’ was celebrated at the British Embassy, Kathmandu (BEK) to mark the success of the three phases of RAP and close collaboration between Nepal and the UK for development aid. Our project staff, stakeholders, beneficiaries and DFID/BEK staff have all contributed to its success through their hard work and dedication and now, with RAP3 MHLR reaching its final phase, we are progressively winding down the project.
After the completion of RAP3 main component, a new maintenance and resilience component under RAP3 MHLR was started from 1st July 2019 to provide technical and management support for road maintenance to the government of Karnali Province. In May 2020, an amendment to the RAP3 MHLR contract was signed and introduced a new COVID-19 Response component to support the Government of Nepal’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. After a year of offering wage income opportunities to the impoverished and vulnerable people of Karnali Province, the COVID-19 Response component is phasing out at the end of June 2021 and with this, the contracts of four of our senior staff have also come to an end.
On behalf of every member of the RAP3 MHLR, we would like to convey our profound gratitude for the hard work and splendid performance of our four-senior staff over the years. Our senior staff: Shankar Pokharel, Safeguard Specialist, joined the project in 2004; Arjun Poudel, COVID-19 Component Team Leader, started working on RAP in 2006; and similarly, Gopi Chandra Upreti, Province Support Manager and Mitra Shrestha, Province Stakeholder Coordinator joined the RAP project in 2011. The resilience and patience our senior staff showed during their tenure at RAP3 MHLR is commendable. The team has set a great example of leadership, bonding and friendship which has meant that the project has been able to achieve great success. To celebrate the achievement of COVID-19 Response Component and to honour the contribution of our senior team members, RAP3 MHLR organised an event on June 18, 2021 which highlighted the achievements of the component as well as our senior staff who shared their years of experience and memories of working on the project.
It has been a great privilege and an honor to have our senior staff working for RAP with great effort and generosity of spirit and while we are sad that they are leaving. We wish them all the best for their future endeavors!
With the country facing a shortage of medical oxygen for a growing number of COVID-19 patients, UK aid-funded RAP3 MHLR handed over 50 cylinders of oxygen to the district hospital, Mugu on 30th May 2021. Before the project’s support, the district hospital had 30 oxygen cylinders. Now the hospital has 84 in total including 50 cylinders supplied by the RAP3 MHLR project and 4 other cylinders donated by the National Innovation Centre. Along with oxygen cylinders, other essential medical supplies such as high flow nasal cannula therapy devices, antigen humidification, flow meters and integrated heated breathing circuit sets were also handed over to the district hospital on the same day. Prior to this support, on 24th May 2021, the project had also provided other essential emergency medical supplies and medicines to Gamgadhi district hospital, local isolation centres and health posts in Mugu and Humla. The project has now delivered all of the medical supplies agreed upon in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the district hospital, isolation facilities and health posts in Mugu and Humla.
After receiving the oxygen cylinders and other health supplies donated by RAP3MHLR, the Health Service Manager of Gamgadhi district hospital, Mrs. Karuna Bhattarai said that it is difficult to purchase medical supplies due to the lengthy procurement process involved but that with the increased oxygen supply in the district now, the district hospital Mugu is hopeful that RAP3 MHLR’s support will help them win the battle against the second wave of COVID 19 in Mugu and Humla.
Despite the pandemic and lockdown in Dailekh district, wage distribution and public audits were carried out with the support of local government officials between 30th and 31st May 2021 to four Specific Maintenance Groups (SMGs) of Provincial Road Network in Dailekh. Payments and public audits all followed the project’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols including wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing. The overall purpose of the public audits was to discuss and give feedback between beneficiaries, stakeholders and the project team on the design, delivery, quality of service and verification of payments received by SMGs. The public audit meeting with beneficiaries and stakeholders also helped to understand, analyse, and improve the social and ethical approach of the programme.
The participants were given sufficient time to raise any issues, misunderstandings, concerns, and queries they might have had and the Province Support Team (PST), Dailekh helped to clear up the few issues and queries raised during the meeting. The workers who are very dependent on this income, expressed their gratitude to the project and local officials for their support in distributing wages despite the lockdown in the district.
International Tea Day is celebrated globally on 21st May to create awareness about the demand of this global drink and its economic significance around the world, tea being the second most consumed beverage after water in the world. This year the Jumla group of our RAP3 MHLR inclusion and diversity team organised a virtual event on 21st May 2021 in which they presented a video about the significance of tea and its values around the world.
The team shared a PowerPoint presentation about tea, its cultivation and processing in the tea factory, cultural values, health benefits, history of tea in Nepal. The team pointed to the importance of tea in fighting hunger and poverty in developing countries around the world. In addition, Subhashini Chandran, the former RAP3 staff who had also worked as the CEO at her family tea business for 18 years, added value with her presence in the Tea event by sharing her experience of managing tea estates. She explained the wages” pay gap” in the tea sector, where 90 to 95 percent of tea pickers are women, that the reason for women earning less than men is related to the occupational hierarchy with women at the bottom of this pyramid. She also spoke about the significant contributions she was able to make during her tenure, such as providing training to help women get supervisor and managerial roles, funding to support education for girl children, medical care and so on. The team’s efforts to celebrate International Tea Day 2021 provided an opportunity to all the RAP3 MHLR staff to learn more about the significant facts, history and importance of the tea worldwide.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to all the members of the Jumla team, especially Subhashini Chandran for contributing her valuable time to mark this meaningful celebration. It was a great event to celebrate in favour of the sustainable production and consumption of tea and its importance in fighting hunger and poverty around the world.
Happy International Tea Day, 2021!
As part of promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, RAP3 MHLR has been organising a wide range of recreational and informative activities since 2019. Similarly, this month was our auxiliary staff’s turn to mark the celebration on the occasion of World Environment Day which is celebrated globally on May 5th 2021 to encourage awareness and environmental protection. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions we were unable to visit the office to assist our support staff in preparing contents for demonstrating the event virtually on Microsoft Teams. Therefore, the support staff’s event is now postponed for the future but our other team members came forward to mark the celebration on 4th June 2021 as it is a great opportunity for inspiring positive change in the environment.
“Nature doesn’t need people – people need nature; nature would survive the extinction of the human being and go on just fine, but human culture, human beings, cannot survive without nature”.
—Harrison Ford, American actor, pilot and environmental activist.
On the occasion of this meaningful day, staff from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and RAP3 MHLR were asked commitments that they are personally willing to make throughout the year to conserving the environment and counter the impact of human activity on the environment. Some of the team members also shared initiatives that they are already making, such as using a recyclable water bottle or bamboo-made toothbrushes, combs and behavioural changes that an individual can make to lessen their impact on the environment. The event video also highlighted how RAP3 MHLR as a project seeks to protect, analyse and monitor the environment against degradation from road construction activities and also the project’s support on the construction of sustainable roads is focused on reducing its ecological footprint.
We would like to express our gratitude to all members of FCDO and RAP3 MHLR for taking the time to mark this meaningful celebration by making strong environmental resolutions for 2021. It is possible to be eco-friendly in different areas of our lives. We hope that each of you will contribute your part to help save the environment.
Happy World Environment Day, 2021!
RAP3 MHLR delivers emergency medical supplies to Karnali districts
Nepal has been facing the second wave of the coronavirus over the past few weeks. The rapid rise in infections has posed unprecedented challenges to the country’s health services. In an effort to combat the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Karnali province, UK aid funded RAP3 MHLR has provided health and medical supplies to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure Development (MoPID), Surkhet and Gamgadhi district hospitals, health posts and isolation centers in Mugu and Humla. The medical supplies include Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), surgical masks, N95 masks, face shields, examination gloves, pulse oximeters, sodium hypochlorite, sanitisers, liquid soap, and sanitiser dispensers.
After receiving the RAP3 MHLR supplies, the Health Service Manager of Gamgadhi district hospital, Mrs. Karuna Bhattarai said, “We will make the best use of all the emergency health and medical supplies we receive to minimise the adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful to the project for delivering supplies on swiftly in this remote district of our country, where people have to lose their lives due to a lack of proper medical treatment.”
Similarly, MoPID Surkhet and Mayor of Chhayanath Rara Municipality, Mugu also expressed their gratitude to RAP3 MHLR for delivering medical supplies swiftly and when they were in need of these emergency supplies the most.
“We were very delighted to receive this emergency medical health supplies from UK aid funded RAP3 MHLR project. We had no hope of receiving emergency supplies for our local health post, and we are grateful to the project for supporting us with emergency assistance to save lives in the village. Our health post in-charge will deliver these medicines to the patients who have been waiting for medications at the health post. We are hopeful that this will be of tremendous support to those fighting COVID-19 in the village”.
— Mr. Chakra Saud, Ward Chairperson of Chhayanath Rara Municipality, Mugu.
We hope that our medical supplies in Karnali will help frontline workers save lives of people infected with the virus.
With the rapidly increasing cases of coronavirus infection across the country, the District Administration Offices of Mugu and Humla have imposed local prohibitory orders. With the increase in daily reported cases of COVID-19 in the region, the districts shut down all but emergency services.
They have also prohibited workers from working on project sites close to community areas while some Special Road Building Groups (SRBGs) are working on sites away from the community with the permission of local government. They are required to live on the project sites where they work and are not permitted to visit their families or enter any settlements. Since they are unable to travel to the nearest market, the project staff collected a list of all the food items and other essentials they need at their camping sites and delivered items to the respective groups.
The working groups are working happily without much concern and the project staff are in constant touch to receive updates on their health, work and other issues they may face while on the site.
International Family Day is celebrated globally on May 15th to spread awareness about the benefits of the family system, family problems in our society and to honor the fact that families are the basic foundation of society. This year the Kalikot group of our RAP3 MHLR inclusion and diversity team organised a virtual event on 14th May 2021 in which they presented a video about the importance of having a family in both happy and sad times.
Through a short play, the team presented why it is important to take care of elderly family members during an epidemic like COVID-19, how good family care can help corona patients recover faster, and how those who are away from home can stay in touch with their families through technology. The next part of the video showed the story of some members of the Road Building Groups (RBGs) and specific maintenance group (SMGs) and the difficult times they had to go through due to the untimely demise of loved ones. They described why a loved one’s memory will always be a precious treasure for family members as well as the pain of losing family members. One of the project staff recited a powerful poem describing why family is a beautiful gift and how we can be an example to society by having healthy and positive relationships with our family members.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to all the members of the Kalikot team to mark this meaningful celebration. It was a great event that depicts why family is one of the most important and valuable gifts of our life.
Happy International Family Day, 2021!
The Mugu Humla Link Road (MHLR) had earlier opened a track through to its end point. Although it is still under construction and was closed to public vehicles for safety reasons, pressure from local people and transport providers led us to agreeing to open the track for vehicles during our non-working hours. With this action, vehicles can now drive all the way through to Sarkheghad in Humla, via the Sallisalla-Darma road constructed under UK aid funded RAP3. This road was previously inaccessible to vehicles. Now it is connected by MHLR and being used daily with efforts from local people and allowing essential items to be transported into Humla. Vehicles already were plying on the remaining seven RAP3 roads.
This means that all eight roads built by UK aid funded RAP3 in Kalikot, Bajura, Mugu and Humla following the District Transport Master Plans supported by RAP3 back in 2013/14 are now connected to the wider road network. And now they are fully operational and fulfilling their intended function of improving access to markets and services for the rural communities they serve. There is already evidence of significant reductions in the cost of food and construction materials in the newly served communities.
(RAP3 roads in Bajura and Humla, Photo- Suman Baidya)
Public audits in all five Local Road User Committees (LRUCs) were carried out between 27 April and 29 April 2021 in Mugu and Humla. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, only project staff and group leaders of Road Building Groups (RBGs) and Special Road Building Groups (SRBGs) attended the public audits held in Bamagairigaun, Panidhara, Rughamasta, Luma Gurudev and Dudedaha LRUCs.
Despite the pandemic and the lockdown, wage distribution by the project staff to workers in 2020/21 was carried out with the support of local officials, but no public audits were conducted due to safety concerns. In late April the project was able to hold its first public audits for the previous year’s payments, as well as the first payment of the current year (March 2020 -March 2021). Payments and public audits all followed the project’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The overall purpose of the public audits was to discuss and give feedback between beneficiaries, stakeholders and the project team on the design, delivery, quality of service and verification of payments received by RBGs/SRBGs and expenditures made by LRUCs. These meetings were also useful to increase the sense of ownership amongst beneficiaries and stakeholders. The participants were given sufficient time to raise any issues, misunderstandings, concerns, and queries they might have and the project field team helped to clear up all the issues and queries raised during the meeting. The public audit meeting with beneficiaries and stakeholders also helped to understand, analyse, and improve the social and ethical approach of the programme.
The RAP3 MHLR field team has installed traffic signs on the sections of road between Gamgadhi and Darke which has already handed over and opened to traffic. They have also installed traffic signs on the section between Darke and Chankheli Pass which is now completed and due to be handed over and opened to traffic from June (if Covid 19 restrictions allow). Traffic signs include regulatory signs, warning signs and information signs to assist local drivers and protect other road users. The sign shown in the photo warns drivers that this section is a little steep and that they need to proceed with caution. To further support safe road use, the project field team also conducted road traffic safety training a few months back to raise safety awareness of local residents and children of Mugu and Humla about how to use roads and vehicles safely. Further orientation on safe driving, including the meaning of the recently installed traffic signs, is being given to transport operators and owners in the area.