Leveraging Nepal’s untapped potential, making the world a better placeFirst day of Kantipur Conclave was jam-packed with insights on nation’s pressing issues.
Nepal has a massive potential to be heard and talked about in the international arena, according to people from different walks of life.
Speaking on the first day of Kantipur Conclave on Saturday, they said in addition to leveraging its rich culture, value systems and spirituality, Nepal must tap into its nature and hydropower to pave the path of prosperity.
In his opening remark, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba spoke on the necessity of harnessing Nepal’s potential beyond its boundaries.
“Accelerated action in economic recovery, expansion of the social protection system, and investment in people is our priority,” said Deuba.
Giving his keynote speech, India’s former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said South Asia today is the centre of global geopolitics, creating several opportunities for countries in the region. “The change that has truly brought South Asia to centre stage in global geopolitics is the fact that the economic and political centre of gravity of the world is now in Asia,” said Menon.
Putting forth their views, experts said Nepal has resources and potential to improve its governance and the lives of current and future generations.
“In this age of globalisation and connectivity, we have reached a state of a world beyond borders,” said Bhojraj Pokhrel, former Chief Election commissioner of Nepal, in his keynote address. “Sound political system with long-term vision about the development of the country, and a solid framework of governance, rule of law and functioning institutions are the prerequisites for the country’s inclusive development.”
The two-day calendar event of the Kantipur Media Group brings together experts from diverse sectors of South Asian countries to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern. Five of the nine planned sessions were held on Day One.
Also speaking at the conclave, Nepal Electricity Authority Managing Director Kulman Ghising said hydropower can be Nepal’s ticket to prosperity. He said Nepal will soon sell surplus energy to Bangladesh via India. Stating that Nepal has already signed a memorandum of understanding to his effect with Bangladesh, an agreement will also be reached with India for allowing sales to third countries like Bangladesh.
“We can export between 50 MW and 100 MW electricity to Bangladesh in a year,” said Ghising. “Nepal will be a net exporter of electricity from next year and can soon earn close to $2 billion a year.”
Expressing their views under the theme of “From PowerPoint to Power Lines”, power producers from South Asia said the ground was fertile for power-trade between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
“Demands for energy in the South Asian countries are complimentary. India has higher power demand when Nepal has high production, and vice versa,” said Sanjay Narayan Barde, chief executive officer of GMR Energy Limited. “Despite having 25,000 megawatts of installed capacity, which is increasing to 35,000
MW soon, India is still in need of power.”
Ghising for his part said improving reliability and quality of supply is a must to increase domestic consumption. He said the electricity authority is investing Rs50 to 60 billion in Kathmandu alone for reliable and quality supply.
Addressing another session, Nepal’s ambassador to India Shankar Sharma claimed that the diplomatic relationship between Nepal and India is getting stronger both at the political and economic levels. He said the trust and confidence between the two neighbouring countries has improved after Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s visit to New Delhi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lumbini.
“Communication too has increased both at government and non-government levels,” he said. “There have been positive signs in different sectors.”
Experts also worried about the growth of physical capital at the cost of natural capital. “Nepal should look to reconcile the growth of physical and natural capitals,” said Nilanjan Ghosh, director of Observer Research Foundation, India. “One cannot be grown at the cost of another.”
In the view of some experts, Nepal is extremely rich in soft power which can be tapped in for its prosperity.
“Nepal has a high concentration of spirituality and nature, which is its soft power. We should exploit these strengths abroad to make Nepal powerful,” said Upendra Mahato, a former chairperson of Non-resident Nepali Association. “I am optimistic that Nepal can be a prosperous nation in our lifetime.”
Speaking in the session on ‘Tackling the Climate Crisis’, Radha Wagle, director general of the Department of Plant Resources, said climate change is impacting different people in different ways. “We lack financial resources and technology to tackle climate change issues,” she said.
Sudeep Thakuri, dean at the Faculty of Science and Technology of Mid-West University Nepal, said: “If the temperature continues to rise at the same pace, there is a possibility of around two-thirds of glaciers drying out by 2060.”
Neha Kumar, head of the South Asia Programme, Climate Bonds Initiative, said, “As there is greater climate investment in India and other parts of the world, Nepal also should tap this opportunity.”
Similarly, Alice J Brooks, senior economist for Nepal-World Bank Group, said humanity can’t wait to act against climate change as it requires immediate action.
Speaking at the second session on ‘Leveraging Digital Transformation’, Siddhartha Raja, senior digital development specialist with World Bank Group, spoke of how mobile networks have reached all parts of the country and we are looking at 5G soon. “Only 20 percent of households in Nepal have broadband connections. High speed, reliable, and affordable connectivity need to be built,” he said. According to Raja, challenges in data protections are evident.
Sanjib Subba, chief executive officer of Nepal Electronic Payment System, said the pandemic had compelled people to switch to digital payments.
According to him, Nepal needs agri-tech and health-tech and the country should bring other sectors under the digital platform as well. “We need a strategy to ensure the success of the Make in Nepal and Made in Nepal campaigns. Digital transformation is the future of Nepal,” he said.
Subba said cyber security is the biggest challenge for the government and the private sector.
Inaugurating the event, Chairman and Managing Director of Kantipur Media Group Kailash Sirohiya said humanity cannot run away from the multidimensional crisis that has resulted from the pandemic, war and the climate crisis. “There is a collective challenge before us to move ahead by tackling these urgent issues. Some of these vital issues will also surely be raised in the many sessions of this conclave,” he said.