Dr. Krishna Chandra Paudel, secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, is recently in the news for his frequent foreign visits. Frustrated by personalization of the issue, Dr. Paudel spoke to New Spotlight about the outcomes of his official visit. Excerpts:
It is reported in the media that you do a lot of foreign visits. How do you look at this?
First of all, the visit of secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology is very much personalized. I visited different countries as a secretary of Ministry on the official invitation and approval of the cabinet.
Why did you do so many visits?
Look. Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology is a part y of 24 different international conventions and agreements. The ministry is also a focal point of 24 different conventions and agreements. Naturally, secretary of Ministry receives many invitations to participate in the programs and conferences. I cannot go on my wish and the visit is not my personal one.
If that is so, why is there so much controversy on the visit?
It is merely a misunderstanding on the part of media and zealousy within the bureaucracy. The experiences have shown that it is impossible for the overall development without investment and sustainable development in science and technology. The present need is to encourage and inspire everyone to have an environment friendly behavior. This is impossible in Nepal.
It is reported that you have visited two countries within a week without permission from the Council of Minister. How do you look at this?
I want to clarify that I have not made any visit without the approval of the Council of Ministers. Recently, I dropped my visits to Bangkok and Paris even after government approval. However, I paid official visit to Kunming, China, taking part in the first Forum of China-South Asia Technology Transfer and Collaborative Innovation and Launching Ceremony for China-South Asia Technology Partnership Program. I also attended China-South Asia Expo and China Kunming Export and Import Fair. Since we don’t have a minister, I was nominated by Cabinet to attend the meeting.
As reported in the media, secretary of Science, Technology and Environment makes a lot of foreign visits. Why?
Every visit has an outcome. I do represent the government in different conventions and conferences. I conducted all the visits with the approval of Cabinet. No secretary can attend such meetings without the approval of cabinet. This is the basic norm. Knowingly and unknowingly, there is a motivated campaign against me.
As Nepal suffered devastating earthquakes in April 25 and May 12, what have you done in Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment?
From the very first day of earthquake, the ministry took several steps to study the scientific reasons of the earthquakes and future scenario. We got involved in rescue, relief and reconstruction and construction of temporary shelter management. There was a total involvement of 38 civil servants, including me. I was involved in debris management. What I realized is that the reconstruction is impossible without clearing the debris from the sites. We don’t have heavy equipment. We still use pulling the damaged buildings by rope and giving protection to the damaged house by Bamboo. This is the primitive methodology we used for months.
What achievements have you made in your visit to Kunming?
During my last visit to Kunming, China, we held bilateral meetings with China’s minister at Ministry of Science and Technology. We discussed the impacts of earthquake to Nepal and possible Chinese technical support in post earthquake situation.
What support have you requested from China?
I have requested Chinese authorities to support us in three areas. First the heavy equipments line, crane, loader, and dozer, to clear the debris. Second, we don’t have equipment to lift the damaged buildings and concrete cutters. Third, the support for Geo Hazard Mapping for the reconstruction and relocation of the settlements. The Chinese minister accepted our request and expressed commitment to support us. I visited Chengdu, which has badly damaged in the earthquake in 2008 with over 85,000 deaths. My visit to Chengdu has shown that revival is possible only though the organized reconstruction process.
What about the Structural Assessment?
As over half a million houses were destroyed and about the same number of buildings were cracked, I also requested to provide equipments and technology for Structural Assessment. The technology includes scanner, x-ray and other such to see the damages inside the structures. There are six non-destructive equipments. Upon my request, the Chinese minister expressed commitment to perform structural assessment of buildings of strategic and national importance as well as heritage sites.
What is the state of your request?
After my arrival, I presented my visit report and requested chief secretary Leelamani Paudyal to hold the meeting of secretaries. The meeting took a decision to seek a number of essential machinery from China with the cost of 1.35 billion rupees. We have already sent request letters, with the list of immediate requirements of equipment for reconstruction. As Science and Technology can play a very important role in reconstruction, the government needs to consider scientific and technological and environmental challenges. Thus, there is the need to be some environmentalists in the authority.
What have you done at the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA)?
As a member of IAEA, we have also requested technical experts from IAEA to evaluate the situation and call them for possible scientific support. Upon our request, IAEA sent a high level expert Gurursharn Singh, an expert from India, visited Nepal. IAEA will now send an expert group to train Nepalese engineers for structural assessment. By December 2015, we will do structural assessment of main buildings like President Palace and Bir Hospital. IAEA will also provide equipments. Our ministry has been supporting victims of earthquake in various ways.
Under the support from Alternative Energy Promotion Center, we handed over solar battery charges in the earthquake damaged areas. The solar charger is used for mobile chargers. We also provided the solar lights in the refugee camps. We are now planning for solar light, improved stoves focusing on earthquake devastated areas.