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Raj Kumar Sharma: Determine flights based on weather conditions rather than fixed times

Raj Kumar Sharma: Determine flights based on weather conditions rather than fixed times

New rules for helicopter operations introduced by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) have made significant impacts in Karnali Province. There are fears that restriction in helicopter flight operations after noon, ban on movement of cargo using sling, and requirement of obtaining flight permit from CAAN instead of airports will affect transportation of goods to Karnali and rescue operations. Bishna Prasad Sharma of ApEx talked to Karnali Province Chief Minister Raj Kumar Sharma on these new rules and other aspects of the province government. Excerpts:

What are the priorities of the Karnali Province government?

The priorities of the Karnali Province government revolve around the effective implementation of policies and programs, as well as the budget. The provincial government has been actively working towards the implementation of approved policies and programs, reviewing past experiences, and engaging with relevant ministries and agencies for the successful execution of the new budget. The province government has passed the Karnali Training Institute Bill and is working on its implementation. Similarly, the Sport Bill, Civil Servant Bill, Provincial Police Bill, and Dalit Rights Bill have been drafted. The focus also lies on addressing issues related to federalism, including financial, administrative, and legal aspects, in order to overcome challenges and uplift the province from its current multifaceted poverty.

Do you think the people could feel the implementation of federalism in Karnali Province?

While the concept of federalism is enshrined in the constitution, the implementation of true federalism, encompassing financial, administrative, and legal dimensions, is still a work in progress. The Karnali Province, in particular, has faced challenges in fully experiencing the benefits of federalism. Despite the aspirations for a decentralized governance structure, challenges remain, and the province is still grappling with multifaceted poverty and neglect, requiring further efforts to bridge the gap and ensure the effective implementation of federalism.

How does the Karnali Province government plan to address the slow spending of the development budget?

The Karnali Province government is dedicated to accelerating development, job creation, and effective budget utilization. The slow spending of the development budget is attributed to various factors, including the lack of financial, administrative, and legal federalism. The interference of vested interests, such as the medical, land, educational, and contractor mafias, has also contributed to delays. The province recognizes the need for a robust legal system and adequate manpower to address these issues promptly. By improving administrative aspects, enhancing legal frameworks, and ensuring sufficient human resources, the government aims to expedite budget spending and promote timely completion of projects.

How does the Karnali Province government plan to enhance rescue mechanisms and address geographical difficulties?

The Karnali Province government is committed to addressing both preventive measures and effective rescue mechanisms in the face of geographical challenges and accidents. While accidents are a concern, the province emphasizes the importance of liberating its people from poverty and hardship through proactive measures. Initiatives include upgrading lifelines such as the Bheri Corridor, Karnali Highway, and Rapti Highway, as well as implementing immediate rescue operations through aircraft, helicopters, and other means. The government acknowledges the need for reliable air services and discussions have been held to improve air transportation. We also have plans to promote electric vehicles.

The government has imposed a rule prohibiting flights in remote areas after noon. What are your thoughts on this decision and its potential impact?

The government’s decision to restrict flights in remote areas after noon raises significant concerns. Accidents and emergencies can occur at any time. The decision to limit flights based on time without consulting relevant stakeholders, including us, is worrying. It is essential that decisions of this nature are made through collaborative discussions. I intend to address this matter with the relevant authorities and engage in further conversations. Flight schedules should be determined based on weather conditions rather than fixed times, as safety should always take precedence. Up until now, flights were permitted after 12 o'clock, and Karnali has not experienced any significant accidents in this regard. I will work diligently to resolve this issue through earnest discussions with the appropriate authorities.

How might this rule impact the transportation of essential goods, such as food and building materials, in Karnali?

Undoubtedly, this rule will have adverse effects on the transportation of essential goods in Karnali. Not all districts within the province have convenient transportation access. Even in areas with transportation facilities, certain types of construction materials cannot be efficiently transported via road. This is particularly true for remote districts like Humla and Dolpa, where air service is a necessity for transporting various items. It is crucial that air service availability is contingent on weather conditions rather than fixed timings, to ensure that the vital needs of the people are met without disruption.

For the last many years, goods have been transported to Humla using helicopters from Sallisalla to Kharpunath. Restricting takeoffs solely from airports will significantly impede these operations. Transportation options should be accessible and affordable, irrespective of location, and this matter demands careful consideration.

Could such regulations force Karnali’s residents to rely more heavily on Tibet for essential goods?

While it’s true that some residents of certain areas, like parts of Humla and Dolpa, have historically relied on Tibet for daily necessities, Karnali as a whole is not currently dependent on Tibet.

The restriction on helicopters for sling operations has been introduced. What might be the implications of this decision?

The decision to prohibit helicopters from conducting sling operations raises questions about its rationale. If there are safety concerns, it is worth noting that helicopters have previously conducted heavy-load operations without issue. This decision warrants further examination, and I am committed to engaging with the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) to better understand the reasoning behind this rule. The safety of both the crew and passengers must remain a priority, but a well-informed and collaborative approach is essential to ensure that decisions made do not compromise crucial services and operations.

Flight permits, which were previously obtained at airports, now require clearance from CAAN. Could this potentially delay rescue efforts?

The transition from obtaining flight permits at airports to obtaining them from CAAN could indeed introduce delays in rescue efforts. The bureaucracy involved in this process may impede swift action, which is particularly concerning in emergency situations. As we uphold the principles of federalism, it is essential that decision-making authority is also extended to provincial levels. Alternatively, establishing provincial offices within the regulatory body could help facilitate smoother and faster clearance processes.

The government has imposed VAT on air tickets. Could this lead to increased flight costs for travel to Karnali?

The recent imposition of VAT on air tickets raises concerns about potential cost increases for flights to Karnali. It is important to thoroughly examine the reasons behind this decision. While the state's right to levy taxes is acknowledged, it is equally crucial to consider the impact on rural populations. People living in remote areas should not be burdened with excessive financial strain. Any taxation measures should be thoughtfully implemented, taking into account the financial capacities of the population. These concerns will be addressed through discussions with higher authorities, ensuring that the interests of the people are safeguarded.

How is the Karnali Province government working to create jobs and address poverty?

The Karnali Province government recognizes poverty as a significant challenge and is actively working towards its alleviation through various strategies. The province's policy and program emphasize key areas, including education, health, employment, good governance, and infrastructure. Job creation and self-employment are central to these efforts. The province is prioritizing industries related to agriculture and forest production and focusing on commercial agriculture and entrepreneurship. The protection and utilization of indigenous crops and natural resources are also part of the plan. The government aims to create employment and self-employment opportunities for 10,000 people annually, contributing to poverty reduction and economic growth in the region. The implementation of federalism is viewed as crucial in achieving these goals.