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12 March 2020

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.

17 February 2020

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
17 February 2020

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.

14 February 2020

“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.

13 February 2020

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.

11 February 2020

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.

07 February 2020

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.

05 February 2020

This year Mugu and Humla faced a very early snowfall from 29th November 2019. This snow made it harder for the RBGs to work and most of the RBGs from Mugu and Humla stopped working for a few weeks. So far, we have already had three major snowfalls this year and they arrived earlier than last winter’s first snowfall which was not observed until mid-January. On average, with each snowfall, we have had 3 feet of thick snow around Chankheli pass and between 1.5 to 2 feet around Saatthaple and other parts of Humla. Due to the fact that most of the Humla sections are north-facing sides, snow melting takes a long time. With the first snowfall, excavators were mobilized to clear snow from Chankheli pass to Digapani which made road pliable for a few days. We then hired local tractors for transporting diesel and other construction materials at Saatthaple and Melchham site offices. During this period, around 36,000 ltrs. of diesel was stocked at Melcham and other construction materials to ensure uninterrupted operation of excavators and other RBG/SRBG work at Humla section during this heavy snowfall season. However, with more heavy snowfall adding to the existing layer the clearing of the road surface is no longer possible.

The extremely cold climate and slippery road surface after freezing the surface snow have made it difficult for the mobility of staff and other local pedestrians. As a precaution, the Project Field Office (PFO) decided to shift all staff and machines works from Saatthaple office to Bohorabada which is at a lower altitude compared to Saatthaple and so slightly warmer. A temporary field office has been established and all field activities are now being run from there.

In spite of all the difficulties, the field team is utilizing available resources to their best to expedite the work progress. We are very impressed and proud of the hard work and dedication of our team in these challenging conditions.

03 February 2020

Province Support Team (PST) Surkhet organized orientation program in Salyan, Surkhet and Dailekh for newly formed specific maintenance group (SMG) on 10th -11th, 22nd and 25th Jan 2020 respectively. The objective of the orientation was to strengthen the knowledge and skills of SMG members for the maintenance of roads as per SMGs guidelines. The training was conducted at respective sites of three districts. Various queries and suggestions relating to maintenance works were discussed during the orientation session. Initially, there was a theoretical session later followed by tools and safety gear distribution. A total of 255 members forming 13 groups from three districts participated. Of these number there were 95 women, which contributes to a 37% of female participation. The program was chaired by the Ward Chairperson from each district, and the participants were encouraged to provide their strong determination of completing their assigned tasks on time. The training was facilitated by the PST Surkhet cluster on each district.

31 January 2020

PTMP summary presentation was made in the first session of second day of “Karnali Province Coordination Council Meeting” on 27th December 2019. The presentation was delivered by SDE Mr. Gopal Sharma – MoPID Surkhet with some support by Central Stakeholder Coordinator Mr. Laxman Bhakta Dahi Shrestha. The presentation was in Nepali and contained 30 slides in total and also PRN roads demarking in the Google map. The time allocation for us was one hour and presentation was within the allocated time and MoPID secretary was quite happy with the presentation.

There was no discussion session but some of the members put their views for implementing PTMP with clear cut responsibilities between Province and Local Level (Palikas).

31 January 2020

Seven newly appointed engineering interns completed a 6-day induction training course organised by RAP3 MHLR central team. The training covered areas of planning, design, procurement, implementation, and safeguarding. All seven of the interns successfully passed a training assessment based on these five themes, with one intern achieving a distinction mark. The interns have been assigned districts, reflective of their preferences and assessment scores, where they will be based for the next six months. It has already been a month since the interns were mobilised in their assigned districts and their review will be done at the end of their internship based on their performance and experiences in the field. RAP3 has been employing young civil engineers as engineering interns since 2014.

31 January 2020

After the Post-monsoon Damage Assessment Survey in provincial road network (PRN), 64 worksites were identified on 12 roads in 8 districts of Karnali Province except Humla and Dolpa. About 36 Specific Maintenance Groups (SMGs) have been proposed with an estimated cost of NPR 36.82 million for specific maintenance work and SMGs are already formed in 5 out of 8 districts and the formation process is still ongoing in other districts. SMGs in Jajarkot district have already started road maintenance work from 2nd January 2020 and the ward chairperson appreciated the RAP3 MHLR working modality and expressed his commitment in a meeting with the DFID field visit team to support and cooperate in SMG work.

SMG pilot demonstration road maintenance works normally include gabion retaining wall, stone soling, and road widening in narrow road sections.

30 January 2020

The DFID team accompanied by DoLI, PC and RAP3 MHLR team attended some of the maintenance pilot districts in Karnali Province from 6th to 9th January 2020.  The team met officials of MOPID Surkhet, Gurbakot municipality in Surkhet and Shivalaya Rural Municipality in Jajarkot. The team also interacted with Road Maintenance Groups (RMG) mobilised under IDO Surkhet and also observed the Specific Maintenance Groups (SMG) site in that road corridor. Furthermore, the team has also explored issues and problems in RMG maintenance works, the importance of RMG works, functional status of Palikas and the support or requirements the area needs for its further development.

The overall field visit went well and the team got an opportunity to observe the situations and the MRPC pilot demonstration works in the field.

30 January 2020

Inclement weather and heavy snowfall has affected normal activities in Mugu and Humla districts. Excessive cold has forced many people to stay inside their houses but our Dudhedaha Local Road User Committee (LRUC) from Humla walked for two days, ignoring the cold, to reach the Project Field Office, Gamgadhi for collecting their wages of 1st, 2nd and 3rd running bills and IPC-2 of tree log management works. With snowfall, LRUC headed to Bohorabada carrying a bag full of money. Our project field staff accompanied them to safely distribute wage amount of NRS. 2.94 Million to all RBGs/SRBGs. Our workers were, however, excited to receive money for their hard work in a cold chilly winter.

29 January 2020

At the end of last year, RAP3 MHLR Team Leader, Kirsteen Merrilees, decided to sign up to run a marathon.  Not any old marathon of course, but the highest marathon in the world – the Everest Marathon.  Her reason was simply that “as I’m living here I might as well give it a try!”

The Everest Marathon is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest marathon in the world.  The marathon starts at the original Everest Base Camp in Gorak Shep at an altitude of 5184m (That’s over 3.5 times taller than the highest mountain in the UK where Kirsteen is from).  Just reaching there involves a challenging trek, and to acclimatise for running a marathon the pre-race trek planned by the race organisers takes 15 days with side trips to the Gokyo lakes and up to the new Everest Base Camp site at 5,364m. 

The race itself takes runners through glacial moraine, sandy scree, narrow and uneven trails, stony staircases, narrow suspension bridges and exposed paths high above the river below.   It involves a descent of 2,779m and a climb of 1,007m.  Not only is the terrain difficult, but the altitude makes it an even more challenging experience.  And of course, you have to dodge other trekkers and yaks.   It is certainly not for the faint hearted!

Kirsteen completed the marathon on 2nd December and describes it as “one of the toughest things I’ve ever done”.  But having said that, she enjoyed the whole experience immensely.  Whilst the Everest marathon is described as a race, for her it was a chance to spend some time away from all the hussle and bussle of life in Kathmandu, to escape the stresses of work and to reconnect with nature: to enjoy a trek in a wonderful part of the world with a bit of a run at the end – albeit a bit of a long run!