Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Going green In Nepal...

GREEN WITH ENVY: The MiniEv as it cruises down Baneswor on Thursday with hardly a sound. The motor under the car is a neat little thing (below,left to right) the 14 six-volt batteries are under the seat covers and the inverter and charger fit inside the driver’s seat.

The new Hulas MiniEV is a traffic hazard because it is so quiet you can’t hear it coming. Driving the electric van it is mandatory to honk so other road users know you are there.

On a test drive this week, the only time the van emitted a half-purr half-whine was when it was doing the 15 percent incline up Swayambhu with three passengers and driver. At a traffic light, the driver gets the feeling the engine has cut out and the fingers reflexively go to the ignition switch. With only a small rattle coming from the rear of the fiberglass chassis this is a ride smoother and quieter than on a SUV.

The Italian-made 8 kilowatt Zapi motor is a dream, and kicks in powerfully when you step on the gas, oops sorry, pedal.

You don’t need to hit the brakes because taking the foot off the accelerator automatically puts the motor on regenerative braking which means it goes into recharging mode to convert kinetic energy that would otherwise be wasted.
So we get to the parking lot. And the hand once more instinctively goes to the gear knob to put the car on reverse. Wrong again. You put the car on reverse by turning a switch on the dash board and pressing the accelerator. Careful, though, the motor on reverse packs quite a torque so you feel the van lurch backwards.

On the downhill, the van coasts without brakes and the Zapi is busy putting the energy to good use by recharging the 14 six-volt batteries under the seatcover. Honk to alert the kids trying to cross the road, honk again to overtake the motorcycle, honk out of sheer delight.

The Mini-V doesn’t turn heads because with its green enamel skin it looks just slightly bigger than a Maruti Omni. Hulas Motors of Biratnagar has used its Mini platform for electric conversion with the help of the Kathmandu Electric Vehicles Alliance (KEVA) . The alliance has worked to popularise Safa Tempos in Kathmandu and recently partnered with Bank of Kathmandu to help 20 women get owner-driven Safas. It wants to use this experience now to promote electric four wheelers.

“Because of the success of Safa Tempos, Nepalis have always thought electric cars are only three wheelers, that is why we want to bring in four-wheelers for personal and business use,” says KEVA’s Bibek Chapagain. KEVA is working with Surendra Golchha at Hulas with support from SDC and USAID to promote the MiniEV as an economically and ecologically attractive vehicle for Nepal.

Indeed, the MiniEV compares favourably with the Rs 900,000 cost price of the Maruti Omni and is half as cheap to run as the Rs 7 per km that it costs to operate the Omni at present electricity and gas prices. (See box) Aside from the economic factors, owners of MiniVs can also sleep more soundly at night knowing they haven’t pumped more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Just to compare, the 600 electric Tempos in Kathmandu prevent more than 8 tons of carbon from being emitted every year. Imagine how much more we could do if electric cars were more popular.

KEVA’s Megesh Tiwari works on managing the program and says: “While the rest of the world is into energy independence we in Nepal have a solution staring at us right in the face. It is the electric vehicle that you can charge at night during off-peak periods.”

Both KEVA and Hulas are realistic enough to know that the MiniEV will not catch on immediately with cautious car buyers. That is why they are first targeting ‘green consumers’ and hope that the economic argument will steadily win over the others.
The MiniV isn’t a Toyota Prius: it doesn’t have the looks, the range, or the power. But unlike the hybrid Prius it is fully-electric and perfectly suited for Kathmandu’s distances. And it makes even more sense during blockades or when the gas prices go up again as they surely will.

Markus Eisenring, the Swiss engineer who helped design the electric drive in the MiniEV and Anil Bajracharya say it is a very sturdy system and they wouldn’t mind owning one of the cars themselves.

It takes only three hours to ensure near-full charge of the battery pack which will run for up to 70 km. Considering most all-day driving in Kathmandu Valley for delivery vans and commuters rarely exceeds 40 km, this is quite manageable.

With proper use, the batteries can last up to three years and will cost Rs 80,000 for replacement. Unlike the Safa, the MiniEV comes with an inbuilt charger, and you can just plug it into a 15 Amp wall socket.

Source : Nepali Times

Monday, February 4, 2008

New sub species of bird found in Nepal

Nepali scientists have recorded a new subspecies of bird – Nepal Rufous-vented Prinia – at Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR) recently.

According to Bird Conservation Nepal, the bird first recorded by chairperson of Nepal Rare Birds Committee (NRBC) Suchit Basnet and ornithologist Badri Chaudhary on April 1, 2005 at Koshi Tappu.

The birds have now been identified as Rufous-vented Prinia, bringing Nepal's total bird list to 862 species. Belonging to Prinia burnesii species, the new bird has been named Nepal Rufous-vented Prinia or Prinia burnesii nipalensis scientifically.

Basnet said, "This must have been the most exciting bird record reviewed by the Nepal Rare Birds Committee since its establishment in 2001."

According to Dr Hem Sagar Baral of BCN, this subspecies of bird is currently found only in Nepal and expressed hope of finding more species of birds in Koshi Tappu, the most popular site for bird watching in winter.

"We must put extra resources for understanding birds and their conservation needs in future," he said.

Ornithologists call this as a groundbreaking research work and most significant on the taxonomy of Nepal's birds after the discovery of Nepal Wren Babbler or Pnoepyga immaculata nearly 17 years ago.

Rufous-vented Prinia's other two species are identified. One Prinia burnesii burnesii is found in Pakistan along the tributaries of Indus River and adjacent Punjab in India, and the other Prinia burnesii cinerascens is found in Assam, India along the Bramhaputra river systems and adjoining states of India and Bangladesh.

The new bird recorded in Koshi Tappu shows somewhat intermediate characters between these two subspecies and appears to form a link between them.

BCN further said the adult of this newly found subspecies has overall olive-grey to light brown plumage. The head and nape are greyer compared to the browner back, wings and tail. In most individuals, there is faint whitish supercilium which reaches behind the eye. The head is densely streaked compared to back and n the back, the streakings are bolder compared to the ones in head. The juveniles are similar to adults but slightly less marked on the head and body. Light rufous under-tail coverts were visible in one young bird caught.

They were located on grassland patches on small islands of the Koshi River but absent in heavily disturbed grasslands adjacent to villages indicating their preference for less disturbed grasslands

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Youth of nepal and ICT

Youths are going to be leaders tomorrow. As technologies keep on improving and changing, youths too should keep pace with it.

The pace of development is so fast that Nepal has to work very hard to catch up. It is high time to understand that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the best tool for the empowerment of Nepali youth. ICT is one of the very important infrastructures that many countries used to become developed.

The lack of proper facilities and management has caused our youth community to lag behind. Many youths in Nepal are therefore going abroad for studies because over here they do not get what they want. Meanwhile, others who study here have a hard time finding job opportunities. ICT is the best way for today's youths to secure their future in their own country.

It is unfortunate that despite advancements in the field of technology, youths are still stuck to traditional forms of seeking knowledge. When youths across the globe are learning to design programs in their own laptops, our youths study about computer only in books. Now there is global competition for jobs. How can our youth compete with the youths of other developed countries when they are behind in everything?

Information and Communication Technology can act as a backbone to solve these problems. It is not that the people in the urban areas do not have access to technology. Since a few years, we can see youths from Kathmandu and other major cities using ICT for entertainment purpose, and to collect some materials they require.

It is the people in urban areas who can benefit more from ICT. We know that ICT can deliver potentially valuable information to everybody who has got internet access: it can be used to get information about market prices for poor rural farmers and medical advice for rural healthcare workers. However, market information is useless if there are no roads to transport goods, and medical advice is meaningless if there is no money to purchase medicines; so ICT is truly a luxury and a privilege that very few people can afford.

ICT can be used to help the underprivileged youth to attain computer and internet skills to increase their future prospects. Youths need to speak out on digital divide issues, mostly in rural areas of Nepal. Rural youths do not even have access to computer and those underprivileged youths never even know how the ICT can be used. We need proper plan and program for empowering these youths by providing effective ICT training which can help to decrease the unequal access of information and communications technology.

ICT skills are very important in today's world. Currently, all jobs require minimum basic ICT skills. It is through ICT that the youths can develop entrepreneurship in them.

If Nepali youths do not want to lag behind, every individual must be given access to the most influential technologies in the world.
By:Bhuwan Acharya
Source: Kantipuronline

HIV/AIDS:There’s funding to fight HIV in Nepal, just not where it should be

Source: Nepali times especial

There’s lots of talk about dealing with HIV in Nepal. But that’s the problem. It’s a lot of talk.

Awareness remains rudimentary and stigma, strong. For example, few people know about the factors involved in early onset and worsening of HIV symptoms. These are conditions common to the lives of most Nepalis—lifestyle factors like a heavy workload, poor living conditions and frequent infections, poor nutrition, and lack of access to good healthcare. Instead, reaction in remote communities remain at the level of blame and social ostracism.

Poor Nepalis need better treatment options and a whole lot more information if attitudes are to change. Money is a major problem. Not the lack of it, but how it is dispensed. Work in rural areas and you see how little money actually goes to local community organisations that have concrete knowledge of the social and working conditions that affect project work.

Small rural organisations working successfully to spread awareness and information don’t always know how to write slick pitches and don’t have Kathmandu connections. This means they lose out in the funding race. “People with good English come, take all the information we have, write proposals, and get money.

They never show up after that. We’ve heard there’s a lot of money in HIV/AIDS. Funny we’ve never seen it,” a local coordinator told me on a recent trip to far-west Nepal.

Some local organisations such as Gangotri (see ‘They don’t get rich, they get HIV’) are trying to help AIDS orphans and widows in a number of ways including financially. “But,” says Rupa Auji of Gangotri, “as an organisation we are also poor and we have no idea how much longer we can help them.”

To add insult to injury, community health workers in Achham say they are strongly encouraged to work on a volunteer basis—by experts from Kathmandu who themselves earn over $100 a day. “In what world is this fair?” asked a woman who has worked with AIDS widows for the last five years.

The double standards are pervasive. The Health Ministry wants female community health workers (FCHV) to be volunteers and boosts that its “48,000 FCHVs are the pillars of our health system”. Yet it withdrew even the token Rs 100 per month they were paid at the start of the program because “money kills the spirit of volunteerism. Meanwhile well-off people with enough time to actually volunteer their services get paid handsomely to go work in rural areas for short spells.

In Kathmandu there are donor-funded receptions, workshops, and seminars and feel-good banners and rallies on AIDS Day which the media duly covers. Out in the field health and community workers struggle to keep their initiatives afloat and little changes. “We sit helplessly watching people suffer and die,” says a doctor from the far-west. “Seminars and rallies do play an important role in lobbying the government. But there has to be money going to the real programs that make a difference in rural areas.”

The offence is partly financial and partly in the mistaken assumption that volunteers will take care of the community work so large organisations can devote their time to strategising and fundraising, instead of supporting and strengthening awareness and prevention programs on the ground.

HIV/AIDS largely affects young people, the economic backbone of the country. The epidemic and the response to it are worst in the far-west, but will destroy the rural communities around the country, particularly women and the disadvantaged.

There are people who need better care and counselling than they are getting now even in Kathmandu. And it helps no one, not individual patients and their families, and not development efforts, if doctors, and health and community service volunteers are underfunded and demoralised.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Nepal's Civil war has definitely affected many..

Depression, anxiety, headache, flashbacks and nightmares, insomnia, bedwetting and suicide: these are just some of the psychological effects that violence and war have on people.

Mental health experts say it is safe to assume that Nepal’s decade-long civil war has left many people suffering from psychological trauma.

“We don’t have official figures, because no one has done a formal study, but from the examples of conflict in other countries it is understood that approximately 10-40 percent of the affected population suffer from psychological trauma,” says RP Sapkota, psychologist and counsellor at the Centre for Victims of Torture, Nepal.

Since early 2007, CVICT has been working on a formal study of the psychological affects of war on the general population. Experts argue that although many of the mental illnesses resulting from war are easily treatable, there may be long-term consequences if action is not taken promptly.

“The doctors have to be able to recognise the symptoms first and they need to be trained in psychological ‘first aid’, which means they should listen, mobilise support, and make sure their needs are met and the victims protected from further harm,” says Kapil Dev Upadhyaya of the Patan Mental Hospital.

Sapkota says the best way to ensure those suffering from psychological trauma are well taken care of is for the government to work with other organizations who are working in the same field.

“It is imperative that we treat those who have undergone war trauma, and we have to start at the grassroots level,” he says. “If we train community health workers to raise awareness on war and mental health, to identify, treat and refer serious cases to a psychiatrist, we would be a step closer to healing their pain.”

Removing discrimination against mental illness is a bigger challenge than treatment

Shanti Dulal, a 35-year-old woman suffering acute schizophrenia, was abandoned by her husband at the Mental Hospital in Lagankhel 45 days ago and doctors are still waiting for him to collect her. He promised to care for her during her hospital stay but disappeared after a few days, perhaps back to Gokarna where he is a teacher.

Shanti is not the only one. Mentally ill people are dumped on the streets, chained in their attics, or simply abandoned by relatives who can’t deal with the stigma and burden of taking care of patients. In fact, fighting discrimination against mentally ill people is often a bigger challenge than actually treating the patients.

“After a while the person with mental illness becomes a burden, starts getting discriminated against by the family, and in the worst cases gets dumped either at the hospital or on the streets,” says Sameer Banskota, a social worker at the hospital.

There are no reliable statistics on how many mentally ill people there are in Nepal, but worldwide the average is three percent of the population. This would put the number in Nepal at nearly one million. Bishwa B Sharma, a psychiatrist at Kathmandu’s Medicare National Hospital, says mental health has been neglected for years and patients are vulnerable to arrest and torture. Women may be sexually exploited or rejected by familes.

“Health care facilities for mentally ill people have to be made better, more health professionals need to be trained and we need certified trained nurses to look after patients with mental illness,” Sharma says. “But all that should go hand-in-hand with awareness programs, training and legal provisions for the mentally ill.”
Just a few years ago there were just a handful of psychiatrists in Nepal.

Psychiatry is still not a popular subject among medical students with only four new psychiatrists graduating from Tribhuban University Teaching Hospital in Maharajganj and the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan each year.

The Mental Hospital in Lagankhel has 40 beds, and other hospitals have a few more. But these are all in urban areas and patients from rural Nepal suffer most from the lack of services.

In 1997 a national mental health policy was drawn up, and more recently a Mental Health Bill was drafted. Experts say it is imperative that the draft be discussed and passed by the government soon as it has provisions relating to the care and support of mentally ill people, and land and property issues. But most importantly the act makes family, state and community responsible for mentally ill people.

In Nepal, mental health is not given as much priority as communicable or other diseases. “People don’t die from mental problems, so the government does not see mental health as a priority,” says RP Sapkota, a psychologist and counsellor at the Centre for Victims of Torture.

Experts say it is vital to have at least one psychiatrist in each zonal hospital, and there should be training for community health workers to raise awareness, identify mental illnesses, treat mild mental disorders and refer acute cases to psychiatrists. They suggest Nepal should look to the model of some Scandinavian countries, where social workers have legal powers to intervene and fight for the rights of the mentally ill.

Back at the Mental Hospital, someone has finally come to collect Shanti. It is not her husband but her 11-year-old daughter with an adult cousin. The cousin tells the doctors that the husband could not be reached. It appears he has abandoned Shanti. From now on it will be up to her daughter to look after her.

Source Nepali Times

A Study to Identify the Appropriate Mass Communication Media for Awareness Raising of Positive Mental Health In Nepal

Saroj Ojha, MD
Department of Psychiatry & mental Health
TU Teaching Hospital
Kathmandu, Nepal

Sashi Sigdel, MD
Department of Psychiatry & mental Health
TU Teaching Hospital
Kathmandu, Nepal

Kapil Upadhyaya, MD
Department of Psychiatry & mental Health
Kathmandu Model Hospital
Kathmandu, Nepal

Studies in Nepal has shown that 1-2% of the community suffering from severe mental illness, at least 5% have less severe form of mental illness and 20-25% of all outpatients attending health posts have been shown to have psychiatric morbidity often presenting multiple physical complaints. Geographical and demographical diversity with cultural variety has made more complicated to address the issue. To make the people more aware about the positive mental health there has not been a significant job done in national level. Communication medias have become increasingly more popular in the country to disseminate information and news. Private television channels, FM radios and Daily newspapers have been increased tremendously. The huge investment is being put in mass media communication outside Kathmandu valley there local FM radio stations and newspapers. Television coverage has also expanded throughout the country. Unfortunately these mass communication medias are not playing any significant role in the aspect of mental health awareness. Therefore this study was designed to identify the appropriate mass communication media for awareness raising of positive mental health. This study was undertaken to find out the best mass communication media for awareness raising of positive mental health. Data were collected prospectively from three mental health hospitals from Kathmandu Valley over three months period and analyzed. It is found that Television is the effective mass communication media for raising public awareness. There is also a need to make aware among policy makers and governmental agencies about the role of mass communication media for the promotion of mental health services in Nepal.


Mental Health in Nepal: A Psychiatric's views

30 pc of population suffering from psychiatric problems: Dr. Shrestha

The Kathmandu Post: What are the commonest psychiatric problems faced by the patients coming to the hospital?

Dr. Shrestha: Patients suffering from mental retardation, epilepsy, psychosis (severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, mania), behavioural problems and other psychiatric complications frequently come to this hospital.

All types of epileptic cases come to the hospital and they form the third biggest group of cases after neurotics (those suffering from mild illnesses like anxiety, depression) and psychotics (people suffering from psychosis). Moreover, cases of alcohol dependence come only when they have severe withdrawal symptoms such as delirium tremens (an acute delirium caused by alcohol poisoning), rum-fits or when they have psychotic features or depression. Similarly, among the drug dependent cases, mainly opiate (heroin and buprenorphine) dependent cases come for treatment but cases of cannabis use with psychiatric complications are also frequently seen in the hospital.

TKP: Do all types of patients get admitted in the hospital?

Dr. Shrestha: No, only those patients who are unmanageable at home and dangerous to self and others are admitted here. About 600 patients are admitted in the hospital every year and a vast majority of them are psychotics.

TKP: Is the hospital equipped enough to render the needed services to the people suffering from mental illnesses?

Dr. Shrestha: The most serious constraint in the hospital is the limited human resources. Although four psychiatrists and four medical officers are supposed to be there, virtually we have only two of each in the hospital. Moreover, currently there is no provision of clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers, occupational therapists and psychiatric nurses in the hospital. This debilitates us in reaching out to those in need.

TKP: What are the other constraints that hinder in the service delivery?

Dr. Shrestha: Other constraints are the misconceptions people have about mental illness. Social stigma is attached to mental illness and mental patients. Paradoxically, this stigma is apparently more among the educated and elite group than among the illiterate and the general population.

We also suffer from the lack of psychiatric medications. There are absolutely no psychiatric medications in the primary health care centres, health posts and sub-health post levels. Furthermore, the frequent transfer of health workers has posed more problems in rendering service in a planned manner.

TKP: How serious is the government toward the promotion of mental health in the country?

Dr. Shrestha: About 30 per cent of the general population of the country usually suffer from one or other kind of psychiatric problems at any point of time. Despite such a high prevalence of mental illness in Nepal, mental health sector seems to be the most neglected by the government. Out of five per cent of total national budget that is allocated for the health sector, less than 0.2 per cent is allocated to the hospital. This is mainly because of the misconceptions and lack of knowledge about mental health among the planners and policy makers. Also the basic understanding among them is that unlike physiological illnesses or diseases, mental illnesses rarely takes one’s life. This also contributes to the negligence of the mental health sector by the government.

TKP: What is the overall scenario of mental illness in Nepal?

Dr. Shrestha: There is no separate mental health legislation in Nepal. The present law regarding mental patients and mental illnesses are grossly disorganised, outdated, unscientific and inhumane too.

Keeping this in mind, the Psychiatric Association of Nepal, in collaboration with the Mental Hospital, T.U. Teaching Hospital and United Mission to Nepal came with a draft bill on mental health, which was submitted to the Ministry of Health two years ago soliciting necessary action. Till now, the government so far hasn’t taken any step to pass the bill.

TKP: What do you think the government should do to improve the mental health situation?

Dr. Shrestha: I believe that the government should accord due priority to mental health services especially considering the high prevalence of mental illnesses in the country. It should also make a scheme to attract doctors to do post graduation studies in Psychiatry. Moreover, the government should immediately pass and implement the proposed mental health legislation so as to protect the rights of mentally ill patients.


Bird Flu: Destination Nepal?

With the spread of bird flu to three more districts in the Indian state of West Bengal, there is a growing possibility of the virus making gradual inroads into the country through the eastern parts adjoining the Indian border. Indian officials say the number of birds culled in the 13 affected districts of West Bengal has crossed 2.3 million. The good news is that no cases of the disease spreading from one human to another has been documented. Despite the fact that Nepal has already imposed a ban on the import of poultry and poultry products from India besides setting up quarantine check-posts in several districts in the tarai, experts say these measures are largely inadequate to contain the outbreak of the fatal disease.

Bird flu is an infectious disease caused by several subtypes of the influenza virus. The disease, first identified in Italy more than 100 years ago, occurs worldwide. The number of countries reporting avian influenza in their bird flocks has grown at an alarming rate in recent weeks, increasing the risk that sooner or later a mutant strain of bird flu may set off a human pandemic.

Despite a worldwide bird flu alert, undeveloped countries such as Nepal have not taken adequate measures to cope with a possible flu pandemic. There is a Department of Livestock and an Animal Health Directorate to serve the interests of poultry farmers and consumers in the country. Similarly, a total of 21 animal quarantine check-posts have been established at different points along the Indian and Chinese borders to prevent the import of sick and contaminated fowl. Sad to say, they have been largely ineffective in meeting the needs of poultry farmers or consumers of poultry products. Consequently, there has been a rapid surge in the illegal import of poultry products through the Indian border and the condition of the quarantine check-posts has deteriorated further.

At the moment, the threat of bird flu to Nepalis is virtually nonexistent. No cases of avian flu have been found in birds or humans in this country.

However, additional measures are promptly needed to curb the growing threats of the avian influenza virus. First and foremost, security personnel deployed along the Indo-Nepal border must keep a wary eye on the transport of poultry products. Secondly, the government must educate poultry farmers and consumers about the disease and assure them of compensation in case of an outbreak. If the disease hits the poultry industry, everyone should be prepared to stay away from poultry farms, live animal markets and any other place liable to be contaminated with the droppings or saliva of infected birds.

Meanwhile, health officials must be cautious about any sudden outbreak of the virus in domestic poultry and the possible measures to contain the disease. It is high time Nepal learnt a lesson from more than a dozen flu-affected Asian countries, several of which were slow to acknowledge the problem and mount vigorous control efforts. Let us all remember the foolish mistake China made when it compromised efforts to control the SARS virus last year by hiding the initial outbreak.

Source: The Kathmandu Post