By Shristi Kafle–
KATHMANDU, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) — 2015 will be remembered as a year in Nepal for shocking highs and miserable lows.
From the deadly earthquake and the month-long crisis and scarcities to the promulgation of the new constitution and the election of the first female president of the country, Nepal certainly endured a bumpy year.
The year started well but received world-wide attention just in the third month after a Turkish Airlines Airbus A330 skidded off the runway at Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu.
The crash-landing cut off the air connectivity of Nepal as all international flights were suspended for four days from the only international airport of the country.
Nepal, was once again got space in the international headlines following a massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake that shattered the country at 11:56 a.m. local time on April 25
The quake killed nearly 9,000 people and injured more than 23,000 others, while more than a half million were left homeless. Nature’s fury destroyed houses, government buildings, ancient monuments and world heritage sites, turning everything into rubble.
The Post Disaster Needs Assessment report estimated that the economic damage of the earthquake is around 6.7 billion U.S. dollars. The quake battered this underdeveloped economy which was on track to become a developed country by 2022.
Various development partners and donor agencies pledged financial assistance of 4.1 billion U.S. dollars for the rebuilding efforts during the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction in June. Unfortunately, Nepal could not form a reconstruction authority until months after the quake owing to political wrangling.
Five months after the tragedy, people of this South Asian nation sensed some relief after the promulgation of the new constitution on Sept. 20, drafted by the people’s representatives for the first time in the country’s history.
Following the election of new Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Oct. 11, Nepal impressed the world by putting a female politician in the top post. Nepal elected the first lady president of the country Bidhya Devi Bhandari and the first female speaker Onsari Gharti Magar.
It aroused a new hope among the quake-ravaged Nepalese. But until then, the southern belt of the country Terai was already in turmoil demanding their space in the new constitution.
Right before the much-awaited constitution promulgation, the ethnic minority Madhesi people launched a protest expressing dissatisfaction over the seven-province federal model. The protest turned violent in the far-western district of Kailali in August in which eight security personnel were killed mercilessly.
Later, the Madhes movement shifted to central southern belts and became focused on Birgunj, a city bordering India. The protest against the constitution has already taken the lives of nearly 50 people and the unease is continuing.
Soon after the promulgation of the new constitution, Indian imposed an unofficial embargo backed by the Madhes movement which crippled the lives of Nepalese people as it blocked the supplies of petroleum products, daily essentials and life-saving medicines. Though India, time and again, denied the blockade, only a minimum number of vehicles carrying fuel and goods crossed the Indo-Nepal borders every day.
As a result, residents of Kathmandu shifted to bus-roofs, bicycles and walking for transportation whereas the housewives learned a new technique of cooking with firewood. The rise of goods being sold on the black market did little to help Nepal’s dire situation.
Though the relationship between Nepal and India, soured this year, the land-locked Himalayan nation received warm support from its northern neighbor.
China provided a grant assistance of 1,000 tons of petrol to Nepal following the acute shortage of petroleum products. On Oct. 30, the fuel entered Kathmandu through the border point at Rasuwagadhi, breaking the decade long monopoly of the Indian Oil Corporation.
Nepal’s MOU to import one-third of the total fuel demand of the country from China and a decision to open seven new trading points received a warm welcome from the business community and commoners.
In-between, the quake-ravaged people received some comfort by the visiting international celebrities like martial-art veteran Jackie Chan, footballer David Beckham and Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan.
But these only provided temporary smiles for the Nepalese.
To add one more disappointment, the World Bank report predicted that Nepal could be the poorest country in South Asia as a result of April 25 earthquake and fuel crisis.
For tourism, 2015 became the worst year as the arrival of tourists plunged to less than 50 percent, leading to empty hotels and restaurants. The avalanche on the world’s highest peak triggered by the quake halted all the expeditions this year which was termed as a “Black Year”.
The decision of the Nepal government to waive visa fees for Chinese tourists maintained optimism at the end of the year, keeping the possibility high for China to become the top source market for tourists.
In sports, Nepal’s image turned gloomy after FIFA imposed a 10-year ban on Ganesh Thapa, president of Nepal’s football governing body, for corruption charges. In addition, the Asian Football Confederation imposed a life-time ban on five national football players including the skipper Sagar Thapa for their involvement in match-fixing.
December poured some blessings on the hard-hit Nepalese as the National Reconstruction Authority took shape after month-long delay with the endorsement from the House. The quake-victims, who are surviving the humanitarian crisis, felt that they might finally be able to rebuild their homes and see their lives return to normal.
Though the Madhes movement has not stopped yet, the round of talks between the government and disgruntled parties are expected to resolve the crisis sooner. Nepalese, who suffered hard this year, are hoping for peace and prosperity in the country in 2016.