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Nepal has seen political, social, environmental, economic and technological transformations in recent years, but the progress is still less than desirable. However, time has come for Nepal to accelerate things, as despite having great potential, we have not been able to exploit it to the fullest.

There was a time when Nepal was known as the legendary Shangri-La of the world. Nepal has so much to offer to the world culturally, historically and naturally.

Perhaps, this is the reason the catchphrase “once is not enough”. Sadly, the country went through some upheavals, which unfortunately put a spoke in the wheel. The decade-long civil war between 1996 and 2006 halted development works. The unrest led to decrease in flow of foreign investment.

Development efforts took a back seat. The country could not see smooth growth due to other various events. After the end of the Maoist insurgency, the country embarked on the rocky path from the monarchy to federal democracy. Political stability was something the country required the most to give impetus to development activities. As a result, we failed to maintain pace with other countries in development efforts.

Nepal was ranked 144th out of 188 countries in 2016 in United Nations’ Human Development Index. The per capita income was pegged at $730, with 15 percent of people living on less than $1.90 per day. Nepal is indispensably an agrarian economy, providing subsistence livelihood for 70 per cent of its population.

The structural transition from agriculture towards knowledge and technology sectors has been sluggish. The economy does not have the capacity to create employment for all those entering the labour market. The lack of economic opportunity and poverty has fuelled migration of an estimated three million Nepali workers to various countries.

Remittance contributes to around 25 per cent of Nepal’s GDP. Nepal has been receiving international grants for over 65 years. More than quarter volume of the current government budget comprises the contribution from the international donor communities. Despite all these, the country has severely lagged behind. While Nepal should learn to utilise the foreign aid it receives, it also needs to tread carefully to steer clear of the over-dependency on the assistance. In this context, Nepal now has the opportunity.

With the successful holding of three tiers of elections — local, provincial and federal parliament — under the new constitution adopted in 2015, the country is poised for a stable government.

A government which can serve for a full five-year term will mean political stability, lack of which has been a stumbling block in the past to development. In two years or so, Nepal will also graduate from the Least Development Countries.

A stable government at the centre and provincial governments in provinces will help unlock Nepal’s potential, putting the country in the race of modern-day development. Through local elections, local governments have reached the doorsteps of the people. The doors for foreign investment have been opened now, while the country can now focus on investing on energy, health, transport, financial, information and communication technology, water and food sectors.

The new government should prepare favourable environment for entrepreneurs to generate more employment opportunities, which will not just help to advance critical infrastructure but will also assist to retain young human resources of the country.

Lack of opportunities at home has been forcing millions of Nepali youths to fly abroad in search of jobs.

Nepal can also offer what they call good business practices through its abundant natural resources. According to the World Bank’s 2014 report, Nepal’s contribution towards CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) is 0.284 whereas the countries like Bhutan which has branded their nation as ‘zero carbon nation’ contributes 1.289.

Even though we have abundant natural resources that can offer responsible business practices, we haven’t been able to utilise them.

As the world is looking for a responsible way of doing its business and investment, Nepal can offer its unique aesthetic beauty along with carbon negative practices. Nepal now needs to leapfrog to the age of modern-day technology. Investors in various sectors should be invited to help Nepal achieve its development goals.

The government should realise the country’s potential and offer a win-win situation that can benefit both the investors as well as the country. Nepal should understand that just pumping a huge amount of money without concrete vision will not drive it towards prosperity. Tangible outputs are expected.

Nepal may have got into the shell for years due to various reasons, but time has now come to open its wings and fly towards the path of prosperity.

Stability which was required the most to expedite development efforts is just knocking on our doors. We just need to pay heed to opportunities that are on our way. It’s time Nepal came out of the cocoon.

A version of this article appears in print and online version on January 04, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.


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Ever since the industrial uprising, the growth of cities’ population around the world is increasing at an exponential rate. Every hour hundreds of people move towards cities for better amenities. In this race, predominantly recognized as a rural country, Nepal is also heading towards the race of rapidly expanding cities. A World Bank report shows that the urban population growth rate of Nepal is up to 7 percent in Kathmandu Valley and with a population of 2.5 million it is considered  the fastest growing metropolitan city in South Asia.

Following the promulgation of a new constitution in 2015, people of Nepal got a chance to vote for their local representatives after 20 years. As the local election started a common slogan amongst the mayoral candidates was making their place a ‘Smart City’.  It is not easy to convince people struggling with basic critical infrastructures to fully agree with their fancy election slogans that might just bring social media controversy and  laughter.

As the term ‘Smart City’ is getting tremendous attention, most of the people might be curious to know about what it stands for. The United Nations Economic and Social Council says there is no standard definition of a smart city. There are also arguments to describe smart cities—some people claim that it is primarily technology-centric, while others claim for a better urban planning and reliable services.

On the basis of population, resource availability and urban facilities, by March 2017 there were 263 municipalities in Nepal, of which only 58 existed before 2014. This rapid growth of municipalities is one of the indicators that shows Nepal has built a basic foundation for smart cities. There is no city in the world that can be named as a 100% smart city—some cities are struggling from scratch whereas others are adding values.

A smart city has a vibrant culture that attracts people to visit that place and has a quality of life and facilities for people. Feeling safe and reduction of pollution, organized traffic system, disabled friendly pedestrian pathways and well-managed cycle lanes are in place. It has an educated inclusive society that is well informed and can take leading actions towards adopting advanced concepts of a smart city.

In China, the concept of smart cities was initiated in 2010 – identifying more than 300 cities guided towards smart city development plan. The initiative kicked off with people-centric approach endorsing a six-year  (2014-2020) National New Urbanization Plan (NNUP). The government has taken Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model involving the participation of research institutes, government institutes, citizens consent, IT services, internet companies and more.  Hong Kong is known as the premier smart city leader of Asia/Pacific for actively implementing information communications and technologies to improve citizen service effectively.

Similarly, In June 2015 the Government of India, Ministry of Urban Development endorsed smart cities—mission statement and guidelines aiming to cover 100 cities in five years’ duration 2015-16/2019-20). As its smart solutions, they will be focusing on e-governance and citizen services, energy management, waste management, water management, urban mobility and others like tele medicine/tele-education, incubation, and skill development centers.

In April 2015, the government of Nepal banned plastic bags and urged entrepreneurs to come with innovative ideas to fulfill the gap. Use of electric vehicles is highly promoted in Nepal. Currently, there are more than 14 districts in Nepal where you can use 4G services whereas mobile internet service is available almost all over the country. The 2073/74 budget has mentioned that 72 districts headquarters would be connected with high-speed fiber internet. The  budget mentions a master plan for a smart city will be developed and implemented at Palungtar, Gorkha. Similarly, 10 cities, including Dadeldhura and Lumbini, will be upgraded as modern smart cities.

No doubt, the idea of a smart city includes a wish list of infrastructures, information and communications technology and amenities. Nonetheless, in Nepal’s case our culture, tradition, natural resources are our big assets that should centrally focus on our smart cities planning. Our smart city should be disaster resistant, eco-friendly, walkable and most of our services that are manually being operated should be guided with the use of information communications and technology. Private sectors should be engaged and new entrepreneurs should get a chance to practice their innovative ideas.

It is high time the government came up with an adequate research and a guideline that ensures investment for the long-term development visions and proper timeline to accomplish set goals. We already have a few cities in Nepal that are rich in culture, tradition and local resources which attracts hundreds and thousands of tourists every year. These cities don’t need tall and fancy buildings to be considered as smart cities. If the local government understands its exclusivity and promotes its unique culture, reinforces citizen-centered decisions then it can be the most exemplary smart city of the world.

A version of this article appears in print and online version on October 11, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.