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Nepal witnessing escalating food prices: WFP

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Kathmandu: Major disruptions in food and fuel imports across its southern border with India severely affected Nepal’s supplies and caused a worrying rise in food prices, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday.

The disruptions are the consequence of the four-month-old agitation in the Nepali Terai by the Madhesis and the ethnic groups against discriminatory provisions of the country’s new Constitution, which was promulgated on September 20.

A border blockade to protest Nepal’s new constitution began in September. Cross-border trade has slowed to a trickle, causing acute food and fuel shortage in the landlocked Himalayan nation.

“With Nepal heavily dependent on imports, especially from India, severe shortages are now being felt in local markets. The cost of some basic food staples, such as cooking oil, rice, lentils, sugar and salt have soared in recent weeks as supplies dwindle,” the UN agency said.

“If trade remains restricted and food prices continue to rise, a serious humanitarian crisis will be hard to avoid,” said David Kaatrud, WFP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

“People are struggling to feed their families as the cost of food rises beyond their grasp. Coming so soon after the recent earthquake, this crisis could severely test people’s ability to cope, and may lead to an increase in malnutrition,” he added.

On average, the prices of lentils, pulses and cooking oil have increased by more than 30 percent since August and over 50 percent since last year.

In remote areas, including parts of the country worst hit by the April 25 earthquake and aftershocks, the price of food commodities has increased even further, doubling in some cases.

In Gorkha, a community close to the earthquake epicentre, a 25 kg sack of rice now costs 5,000 Nepali rupees ($46.80) — up from 2,500 rupees ($23.40) before the agitation began. The price of cooking oil and sugar has also doubled in the town.

At the same time, the price of fuel has sky-rocketed across the country. The cost of refilling a cylinder of cooking gas has increased from 1,500 Nepali rupees ($14.00) before the blockade to between 8,000 and 11,000 rupees ($75 and $102) presently — an increase of as much as 630 percent.

WFP urges all sides to once again allow the free flow of food items across the border to ensure that Nepalis, especially those who struggle on a day-to-day basis to feed their families, are not the ones who bear the burden of this protracted political stand-off,” said Kaatrud.

A quarter of people in Nepal live on less than $1.25 dollars a day and on average spend 60 percent of their income on food. It means that most have only a limited capacity to cope with shocks such as disasters and soaring food prices.

Last month, WFP warned that the fuel shortage caused by the border blockages was hampering earthquake relief efforts.

There have been severe delays in WFP efforts to provide food assistance to more than 224,000 earthquake-affected people.

WFP has only been able to deliver one-third of food supplies earmarked for distribution by the end of the year. The delivery of non-food items, such as medicine and shelter material for winter, has also been severely affected by the standoff.

(IANS)

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Bardiya National Park in Nepal Using Mobile App for Conservation of One-Horned Rhinos

In the past, the park used the satellite-GPS collar on the rhinos in the Babai valley to enhance the monitoring of the endangered animals

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National Park, Nepal, Rhino
According to park officials, the app will help receive vital information about rhinos, including their photographs by using smartphones. It has been named "smart patrol", The Kathmandu Post reported. Flickr

The Bardiya National Park in Nepal has started using a mobile app for the conservation of one-horned rhinos.

According to park officials, the app will help receive vital information about rhinos, including their photographs by using smartphones. It has been named “smart patrol”, The Kathmandu Post reported.

In the past, the park used the satellite-GPS collar on the rhinos in the Babai valley to enhance the monitoring of the endangered animals. But that technology was useless now.

Ananath Baral, chief conservation officer of the park, said that satellite-GPS collars were not working on the rhinos in the Babai valley.

National Park, Nepal, Rhino
The Bardiya National Park in Nepal has started using a mobile app for the conservation of one-horned rhinos. Flickr

“The satellite-GPS collars do not provide information now. They might have been damaged or lost,” said Baral, adding that the details will be known after they start a census of the animals this fiscal year.

The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, National Trust for Nature Conservation, WWF Nepal and local communities have been involved in satellite tracking of endangered wildlife, including rhinos and tigers in the park.

In 2016 and 2017, eight rhinos which were translocated from Chitwan National Park to Bardiya National Park, were successfully collared with radio transmitters. As per the record of the park, there were only six rhinos in the Babai valley.

One of them died of natural causes, said Baral.

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According to the 2015 count, Nepal is home to 645 rhinos — 605 in Chitwan, 29 in Bardia, eight in Shuklaphanta and three in Parsa.

The number of rhinos, which fell sharply in the 1950s and 60s, started to rebound after the establishment of the Chitwan sanctuary in 1973. (IANS)