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25 March 2021

Poetry is a form of expression and a part of human life. On the occasion of world poetry day that is celebrated annually on 21st March, RAP3 MHLR organized a virtual poetry recital competition on 19th March 2021, wherein project staff showcased their linguistic talents. The staff were encouraged to submit their poems in either English or Nepali languages, and there were entries of nine Nepali poems and seven English poems in the competition. Through their creative poetry, the staff shared their life experiences, the problems COVID-19 presented to the world, the bitter experience of being a daughter, the love letter to their loved ones, the lifestyle of Mother, injustice and chaos in society, and there were entries of many other interesting and fascinating topics. The staff recited their poems one by one and our four Honorable Judges concluded the ceremony by announcing the poetry competition winners. These were “Love Letter” by Agaman Subedi with runner up “The Chaos Within” by Neelam Thapa and similarly Ashok Bhandari, Rakesh Khadka, Tika Maden and Milipa Thapa won for Nepali poetry.

Thank you to all of the team members who joined the competition, to whom we now say: “Keep writing.”

17 March 2021

RAP3 MHLR celebrated the occasion of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021 at MHLR site offices as well as at Kathmandu. Rural women from various road building and maintenance groups, local officials, RAP3 MHLR field team and other stakeholders came together in various project districts: Mugu, Humla, Salyan and Surkhet to celebrate IWD 2021. In Mugu and Humla, more than 300 local women and men including local bodies and the project field staff joined the women’s rally to support the liberation of all women, their equal rights, gender equality and to stand for the IWD 2021 international theme, ‘Choose to Challenge’. There was a discussion with local women to raise awareness about preventing violence against women, increasing gender equality, women’s rights and the benefits of an equal society. Explaining the difference between before and after the project implementation, Mrs Susila Budha, a member of Local Road User Committee (LRUC) in Mugu, shared that earlier women could not go out the door but now women work outside with men, and men are also helping women on household chores. Similarly, Mrs Chuchhe Baduwal, LRUC of Panidhara, Mugu, spoke about the importance of eradicating the blind practices of “Chhaupadi” and “Chhaugoth”. She encouraged all women attending the event to fight bravely against every challenge they face in their community, as well as sharing the importance of being an independent woman. She also expressed her gratitude to RAP3 MHLR and PHASE Nepal for imparting education on menstrual hygiene in the rural communities of Mugu and Humla, and providing training on how to make reusable sanitary pads, which improved their health and sanitation in the village.  Also, Bandana Aidi, Road Building Group (RBG) of Humla district shared that RAP3 MHLR hands out money directly into the hand of female workers which has helped them gain respect in their community and made men aware of the value of women empowerment. Maya Devi Shahi, another RBG from Humla shared that in the past, men were given leadership roles and they always had more opportunities. Now, women are gradually changing the scenario as they start doing various skilled jobs like dressing stones, filling gabion boxes and others. Similarly, other women from Salyan and Surkhet districts highlighted their success stories and the 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.

The event in all districts was concluded with local songs, dances, various games, refreshments and a meaningful discussion around how to end violence against women and girls, the future of women in society, and how RAP3 MHLR is helping to support women’s empowerment.    

 

17 March 2021

International Women’s Day is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Our project, RAP3 MHLR also believes in acknowledging and advancing the achievements of women and since 2017 we have been celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD).

On the occasion of IWD 2021, the Salyan group of our RAP3 MHLR inclusion and diversity team, organised a virtual event on Monday 15th March in which they shared a video depicting glimpses of the celebration of women’s Day from 2017 to 2021 at RAP3 MHLR. The video also featured insightful interviews of female workers of Mugu and Humla districts, as well as local employees who shared the advantages of working with RAP3 MHLR project. The team wrapped up the event with an IWD quiz where staff were asked a series of multiple-choice questions about the interesting facts and figures of women’s day.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to all the members of Salyan team to mark this meaningful celebration of International Women’s Day 2021. We hope that in the days to come, our world will be a safer and equal place to live for people of all genders. 

17 March 2021

RAP3 MHLR project field team organized health and safety orientation programme for 77 newly mobilised Special Road Building Groups (SRBGs) in Humla. The RAP3 MHLR safety package that focuses on work site safety, proper use of safety gear, daily checklist of safety equipment at work sites for group leaders, list of first aid items and their proper use method was thoroughly discussed to each group. Our newly formed SRBGs were also briefed about the health and safety information, the COVID-19 safety measures and guidelines on what to do and what not to do while working on a construction site. The same health and safety orientation will be given as refresher training in a few weeks.

08 March 2021

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, recognise their roles and contributions and to help them advance in a number of areas for equality and better future. On the occasion of this special day, RAP3 MHLR would like to wish a very happy women’s day to all the brave and incredible women all around the world.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is, ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’. The theme celebrates the continuous efforts of women and girls around the world to shape a better future and a healthy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. With safe distancing, let’s come together and support each other to celebrate women’s participation in combating COVID-19 pandemic, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.

Happy International Women’s Day 2021!

05 March 2021

The world day of social justice promotes social justice, which involves bringing the various communities internationally together to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion, gender inequality, unemployment, human rights and social protections.

On the occasion of World day of Social Justice that is annually celebrated on 20th February, the Dolpa group of our RAP3 MHLR inclusion and diversity team, organized a virtual event on Friday 26th February in which they shared their views and opinions on the importance of social justice. They also collected views from Specific Maintenance Groups (SMGs) on how RAP3 MHLR supports the promotion of social justice in society. Our SMGs shared that equal opportunities for women, poor and marginalized people of the community and equal pay for equal work regardless of their gender, race and religion is a successful project strategy to promote social justice. The Dolpa group concluded the event by presenting answers to questions related to social justice that they had asked our in-house staff before the event.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to all the members of the Dolpa team to mark this meaningful celebration of World Day of Social Justice. As long as we value social justice from our individual level and remain committed to equality, progress is possible.

Happy World Day of Social Justice, 2021!

05 March 2021

On 25th December 2020, the RAP3 MHLR team handed over to the Government of Nepal the first 26km long section of the 67km Mugu Humla Link Road (MHLR). While the rest of the road is still under construction, a full width track along the entire road length has now been opened.  Whilst the road is still a construction site, some vehicles have travelled to deliver goods to the local people of Humla who are benefitting from the transport services of food, construction materials, and health services.

Ward chairperson, Bhaire Tamang says that after the transportation services reached Piplang, the SNG thick rice, which costs Rs. 4500 a bag is now available at RS. 3500 in Chankheli and Nepca. Similarly, retailer Nabaraj Singh of Palima village says that the same thick rice that used to cost Rs. 3000 per bag is now available at Rs. 2100 to Rs. 2300, while cooking oil at Rs. 165 per half liter is now available at Rs. 130 and sugar which was Rs. 200 per kg is now available at Rs. 130 to Rs. 150 in village shops.

Likewise, Basanta Chaulagain of Soniraj General store in Loti, Chankheli and local businessmen of Darma and Deuli also reported that prices of food items have come down as compared to the past with a market survey showing that the price of these items has dropped by 35 to 40 percent compared to past years and the locals have started getting goods at more affordable prices.

Local residents in Humla are hopeful that once the entire section of MHLR is completed, they will be benefitting from the provision of regular transport services in the district and further cost reductions.  In the meantime, RAP3 MHLR is liaising with local leaders to work out a way of allowing regular goods delivery to Humla during construction, whilst keeping the workers and vehicle operators as safe as possible.

17 February 2021

Encouraging women in the sciences requires action on all aspects: preventing harassment, changing institutional cultures and ensuring that women are included, recognized and heard. The above picture was taken recently by RAP3 MHLR Team Leader, Kirsteen Merrilees at Edinburgh airport while she was on her way back to Nepal. The special poster publicly recognizing “Women in Science in Scotland” made our project staff happy and proud in Nepal as it represents a perfect example of recognizing the achievements of successful women in Science.

Thursday, 11 February, is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. To celebrate the day, our RAP3 MHLR inclusion and diversity team, the Mugu group—the first group to showcase the inclusion event of the 2021 season, organized a virtual event last Thursday. The Mugu team organised several activities related to women in Science. The first activity was the ‘Women in Science’ quiz where participants were asked a series of 22 multiple-choice questions about the successful work of popular women scientists around the world who smashed gender bias and forever changed the world. The team also sent an E-card to quiz winner, Ayasta Pokharel as a commendable prize for her active participation in the quiz. In the second activity, our all-female staff were asked to reflect on their career experiences as a woman in the science and non-science fields. Each of their stories was very motivating and we are really proud to be surrounded by these wonderful women engineers and non-engineers of RAP3 MHLR who are incredible sources of support and inspiration. The third activity included a number of videos where one of our staff based in Nepalgunj, Kamal Adhikari recited his heart-touching poem describing how women in Nepal have to struggle all their lives and why it is not enough to thank women for their contribution to this world.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to all the members of the Mugu team to mark this meaningful celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science. We hope that in the days to come, the challenges girls and women face in science will lessen.

Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 2021!

12 February 2021

“One of the most valuable gifts we can offer our colleagues while working remotely is the opportunity to connect and collaborate. The “Recharge Your Team”, virtual team building event delivered exactly what its name suggests—the opportunity to recharge teams by strengthening connections.”

—Ayasta Pokharel, Safeguards and Compliance Engineer, RAP3 MHLR

In times of pandemic, RAP3 MHLR team members are no longer working next to or across from one another. They are no longer crossing each other’s hallways or leaving work at the same time. Especially in times of crisis, long-term homeworking and decreasing interaction of employees can pose various challenges to the productivity and mental health of our staff. Therefore, RAP3 MHLR organized a two-day virtual refresher event, “Recharge Your Team” on 2nd and 5th Feb 2021 in order to encourage our team members to interact virtually, to connect colleagues across Microsoft Teams, to keep our employees motivated, and to help staff stay fresh by offering various ice breaker games and casual conversations.

Our team members enjoyed the refresher event and it helped them regain some needed face time with each other. The ice breaker games gave them an opportunity to use the first letter of their good name and surname to introduce themselves through the two-word phrases that describe their personality. We also asked them to share a fun fact about themselves: two truths and a lie where other team members had to guess which statements were true and which was false and also, they were given the chance to submit some fun/interesting questions that they secretly wanted to ask their peers. Such virtual events at RAP3 MHLR stress the importance of taking breaks for our team members. Moreover, it is not only a fun social event; it also offers an opportunity to learn about the members of our RAP3 MHLR team.

12 February 2021

Province Support Team, Dailekh, Surkhet and Salyan organized an orientation programme to newly formed Specific Maintenance Groups (SMGs) at various Provincial Road Networks (PRN) of Dailekh, Kalikot and Salyan on different dates between 19th January and 27th January 2021.

The SMGs were briefed about the health and safety information to be followed while working in the maintenance site, insurance policy, roles and responsibilities of SMG members, and also shared information on public auditing and reporting. In addition, wage payment system and work evaluation system of SMGs’ were also discussed during the orientation programme.  Moreover, our team have already been proactive in raising awareness against corona virus to our working groups and local communities. Similarly, our newly formed SMGs were also briefed about the COVID-19 safety measures and guidelines on what to do and what not to do while working in the field. All the issues raised by SMGs were also addressed during the orientation programme and the team has now committed to start maintenance work in various PRN roads.

We are grateful to the local government officials of all the districts for their assistance and support to deliver our work effectively during this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

27 January 2021

Tree logs felled for the construction of the Mugu Humla Link road within the Chankheli National Forest in Humla were stacked at eight locations designated by the Humla Divisional Forest Office. The project field team handed over these tree logs and firewood to Humla DFO on 12th January 2021 in the presence of Mugu Divisional Forest Officer and local people of the district. In total, there were 47,783 Cu ft. of Timber and 24,869.00 Cu ft. of Firewood from 1731 trees.  As per the contract signed with the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation and Divisional Forest Office, Humla, 2,967 trees have been cut down in the Humla section. To date 5,967 tree saplings have been planted to compensate.  A total of 74,175 saplings will be planted to replace those felled at a rate of 1:25.  

All the logs and firewood of Chankheli National forest and its management are now the responsibility of the Divisional Forest Office (DFO), Humla and should be used only with the approval of the DFO, Humla.

The Humla DFO has also provided the letter of appreciation to RAP3 MHLR for successfully executing all the tasks and responsibilities on time. We would like to express our sincere thanks to all the concerned teams and authorities for their assistance and support to deliver our work effectively during this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

27 January 2021

“I did not have the opportunity to study or to spend that precious time exploring my inner talents. I wanted to be an actor but I could not risk my career in this field because I had to earn some money to take care of my family. So, I gave up what I wanted to be and focused on earning money. But today, as part of an inclusion event, I am happy to present my short play with all RAP3 MHLR team”.

 – RAP3 MHLR driver, Krishna Prasad Maharjan

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. Due to COVID-19, our inclusivity event was briefly halted in 2020, but we decided to restart it to help break any mental stress that the COVID-19 might have caused. The team organised eight various activities over the past five months, creating a virtual fun space on our ‘new normal’ schedule so that we can all come together and watch the creative and innovative activities performed by our team members.  The final inclusion event for 2020 was planned to be presented by our support staff but, in the meantime, some of our team had to reschedule their event due to corona infection and that postponed the inclusion event of our support staff to 2021.

The support staff who were given the team name, “Mugu Group” conducted an event on ‘Hidden Talents’ where they demonstrated their talents in storytelling, dancing, singing, cooking, acting and more.  We have seen our support staff doing their day-to-day job, but aside from their life skills, we were thrilled and delighted to see the potential of their unique and hidden talents which we had never seen or known before. While presenting their show, some of our staff expressed that despite their desire to become proficient in their talents, they had to give up their dream in order to fulfil their family responsibilities. However, they are happy with the job they are doing for their living and they thanked RAP3 MHLR for providing the opportunity to present their hidden talents.

Conducting such events at RAP3 MHLR invigorates our minds during this difficult time of the pandemic as well as giving a platform for our employees to present their creativity and talents. Our team is now planning and preparing a range of inclusion activities for the year 2021 because coming together and holding such an event is all about inclusiveness, respect, and a sense of belonging at our workplace.

31 December 2020

Message from the RAP3 MHLR Team Leader, Kirsteen Merrilees.

Following the official handover of the first 26km section of road, I would like to express my sincere thanks and congratulations to all those who have worked on or supported in any way the MHLR road construction works.  The MHLR has been a particularly challenging project due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the work sites, the difficult terrain and the extreme cold and heavy snows experienced in the winter months.  One response to these challenges was to introduce an innovative way of optimising labour and equipment based approaches by piloting a new contracting model and performance standards for using excavators.  This brought about a number of new challenges from which we have all learnt valuable lessons for potential future projects.  We have also learnt a lot about large scale forest clearance, log management and compensatory tree planting.  This was new to most of our team and again we have learned many valuable and practical lessons for the future.

The additional challenges of working safely and protecting everyone during the pandemic has further added to these challenges, but everyone involved has risen to the challenge remarkably; demonstrating a level of determination and resilience without which we would not be here today. 

I would like to thank in particular the RAP3 MHLR team for all their hard work and dedication despite the many challenges and difficult working conditions they have experienced; to thank the communities that have worked on the road construction and their compliance with our strict performance and health and safety rules; the excavator owners and operators for following our unique contracting approach and requirements; our project delivery partners PHASE Nepal for providing much needed health and safety support to our workforce and their families; and to the many government officials, community leaders and representatives that have facilitated works progress and helped resolve problems. 

31 December 2020

Handover of first 26km section of Mugu Humla Link Road from Gamgadhi to Darke

The RAP3 MHLR team are pleased to announce the official handover of the first section of the UK aid funded Mugu Humla Link Road (MHLR) to the Government of Nepal.  This is a 26km long section from Gamgadhi to Darke Khola.  The handover ceremony took place on 25th December 2020 during which responsibility for maintaining the road passed from the project to the Karnali Province Ministry of Physical Infrastructure Development (MOPID).  The handover of road responsibility was accepted by the Office Chief of the Infrastructure Development Office (IDO) for Mugu, Yagendra Dharala, on behalf of MOPID.  The handover was witnessed by the chief guest Purna Bahadur Rokaya, Chair of the District Coordination Committee (DCC), special guest Hari Jung Shahi, Mayor of Chayanath Rara Municipality, and Er Janak Raj Pant from the federal level Department of Local Infrastructure (DOLI) under the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MOFAGA).  Audio recorded messages from Suman Baidya, Senior Responsible Officer from the British Embassy Kathmandu (representing UKaid), and Kirsteen Merrilees, Team Leader of RAP3 MHLR, were played during the ceremony which focused on the importance of maintaining the road after handover and thanking all those involved in MHLR construction for timely completion despite the many challenges that have been faced.

The MHLR is funded by UK aid from the UK government and built to fair weather earthen road standards with all necessary drainage and retaining structures.  Due to poor soil conditions, the road surface in some sections has been improved through gravelling or stone soling to make it passable for much of the year.  The quality standard of the road has been confirmed by an Independent Verification conducted on behalf of UK Aid and a separate joint monitoring visit by project and government officials.  They and the DOLI engineer confirmed that the road meets the GON standards.

The full length of MHLR will be 63km when complete, linking through to Deuli Bazaar in Humla and on to other roads that will then connect through to Simkot and eventually to the Chinese border.  Currently an access track has reached to the MHLR end point and construction work on the remaining section is ongoing.  The handover of the remaining road length is planned for June of 2021.  Four small bridges are also due to be constructed along the road, with completion of these planned for May 2022.

During the handover ceremony many participants expressed their high regard for the project and its focus on high safety and safeguarding aspects, advocacy for equal pay for equal work and transparency in all aspects of project delivery.

The opening of this first section will enable local products to reach markets more easily, quickly and cheaply than before.   The DCC Chair suggested that the RAP3 MHLR workers are now skilled and can be provided with employment opportunities on other construction and maintenance projects. 

The IDO Office Chief confirmed that the Province now holds ownerships of the road and that it will cooperate and coordinate with the local government to protect and maintain the road. 

18 December 2020

Prior to the handover of a 26km new road section of RAP3 MHLR to the Provincial government, a joint monitoring visit was carried out in the presence of Mugu Infrastructure Development Office Chief, Divisional Forest Officer, other stakeholders and members of the project field team. The monitoring team inspected the road from Rugha to Darke on 12th Dec. 2020.  During the road inspection, the Monitoring team gave a satisfactory response for the quality of work performed by the RAP3 MHLR and concluded that the road is ready for the handover as it meets the Nepal Rural Roads standards.

After the inspection work, the Monitoring team also visited up to the end point of MHLR road i.e., Deuli Bazar, Humla (67+000) km via RAP3 MHLR and DFO vehicles. The first four-wheel vehicles have driven up to the end point of the Deuli section for the first time along the MHLR track which has made the local people of this region happy and hopeful for the future. Regarding the road work progress after Darke section and up to the end point, Deuli Bazar, providing structures is mainly remaining while track opening has been completed adhering to required standard. The COVID-19 pandemic has largely impeded the progress of road work which has now gained momentum. The monitoring team enthusiastically shared how within 2 years of short time period RAP3MHLR has actually achieved such a huge progress which is contrary to other government work practice. People of Chankheli rural municipality are very elated as the previously constructed road by RAP3 will now be operational as it will be integrated to existing road network of Nepal once Mugu Humla link road is fully completed

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