The merest mention of Nepal evokes immediate images of the majestic grandeur of the Himalayan mountains, of precipitous gorges and mountain passes, and of course, of Mount Everest herself, the highest mountain on the planet, standing some 8.8 thousand metres above sea level. Yet tragically, this country is no paradise on Earth. Literally sandwiched between the two most highly populated and rapidly developing mega-nations, of India to the south and China to the north and east, Nepal, with some 30 million people, is one of the least economically developed nations on the planet. It is estimated that one in four Nepalis live below the poverty line while the nation’s economic growth continues to be adversely affected by political uncertainty, multi-factorial social conflict and, most significantly, by a host of natural disasters. It certainly experiences much more than its fair share of such natural disasters as earthquakes, floods, fire, drought, and landslides leading to its status as one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth.
One can only begin to imagine the scope of the challenges that these circumstances present to those in Nepal who assume responsibilities for the design, development, investment in, and maintenance of infrastructures that facilitate crucial economic development such as roads, power, information technologies, water and sanitation.
Where does one even start?
This was the question with which our host Richard Bawden, opened his conversation in this episode with someone who is intimately involved with precisely these matters in Nepal and who was a recent participant in a CIDSEL international short course on infrastructure development. Saumitra Neupane is a political economist specialising in policies, institutions, and markets of water and energy resources. For the past decade, he has been engaged in several research and reform initiatives in Nepal’s water, energy, agriculture, and infrastructure sectors. At present, he serves as the Executive Director at Policy Entrepreneurs Inc. and is leading PEI’s strategic initiative on infrastructure diplomacy.