By Milan Raj Tuladhar – Nepal experienced a disaster of an unprecedented scale since last 80 years. The loss of 9000 lives and destruction of 500,000 buildings with 3 million people being rendered homeless are something very difficult to bear for a least developed country like Nepal. Our aspirations for faster development has been badly hurt by this natural calamity. In the wake of the International conference of Nepal’s Reconstruction, I would like to point out few reasons why do we need international support and solidarity.
- Any country which goes through a large scale natural calamity calls for international humanitarian assistance. This has been the case with even prosperous countries like Japan and China. When there was intensity 9 earthquake and resulting Tsunami in northern Japan on 11th March 2011, China provided humanitarian assistance of $4.5 million and many other countries also provided humanitarian aid. Some countries even provided long term support such as USA with $730 million for rebuilding and recovery. When there was 7.9 magnitude earthquake with epicentre in Wenchuan, China, about 60 thousand people were killed. Except for humanitarian aid for rescue and relief, China generally did not ask for much aid for reconstruction. But China sent teams to such OECD countries as Italy and Turkey to learn from their experience in rebuilding after earthquakes. World Bank helped China with $740 million project to rebuild infrastructure and improving health and education services.
- Nepal is a landlocked least developed country with an annual GDP of only $19.2 million(source:World Bank) which is only 0.03 percent of the world economy. The per capita GDP of Nepal is only about 3 percent of the world average. Our population is 28 million which is almost 0.5 percent of world population. Even with meagre means, Nepal has nearly achieved targeted social indicators in the Millennium Development Goals. She was planning to graduate from the least developed status in less than a decade’s time. All of these aspirations were badly hit by recent earthquakes with not one shock but three big shocks from 25th April to 12th May 2015. Even epicentre of the shocks and aftershocks moved from Gorkha in the west to Dolakha in the east, resulting in extensive damages to 14 main central districts and badly affecting other 17 districts. For such a resource poor country, the cost of rebuilding the hundreds of thousands of damaged structures which include schools, hospitals and government offices and facilities ranging upto 7 billion dollars is too high to meet from internal resources.
- China and India are two large economies of the world now with GDP of 10 trillion and 2 trillion dollars respectively. In terms of Purchasing power parity, their GDP are even larger ($17 and $7 trillion) and now world’s first and third biggest economies. However the small neighbouring country of Nepal sandwiched between these two Big powers, could not have any kind of benefits out of these fastest growing world economies. We are not only unable to penetrate into these large markets, we have the disadvantage of being landlocked by these same countries and need surface transit access for any trade with third countries. Our export is only 11 percent of our import thus suffering a massive 89 percent trade deficit, which in absolute term is more than $5 billion. Our currency deficit is mainly met by the remittances from the our manpower being exported to third countries, with almost 3 million youth population being out of the country. For a country with such a fragile economic situation, the natural calamity of April-May 2015 has further hit the poverty index throwing millions of people back to poverty cycle.
- An important aspect of Nepal’s low industrial activities is its lower contribution of greenhouse gas which is only 0.027 percent of global greenhouse gas emission. In terms of climate change scenario, Nepal is helping the world by not precipitating global warming. However, Nepal is at the receiving end of the climate change. Our Himalayan region is experiencing a rapid snow melt. According to recent studies done by ICIMOD and published in The Cryosphere, over 70 percent of glacier volume in the Everest region will be lost by 2100. We have experienced flash floods, glacial lake outbursts and avalanches and landslides of unprecedented scale increasingly due mainly to global climate change. While the industrialised countries have been constantly causing global warming, we as a poor country with almost zero carbon emission has to face all kinds of natural calamities caused by climate change. On the top of these annual events of landslides and avalanches, we have to face the great earthquake this year.
Milan Raj Tuladhar is Former Foreign Affairs Advisor of Former Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal.