Buddhist tour connecting India, Nepal

Kathmandu: Nepal will soon launch a bus tour from Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha, to different Indian cities having important Buddhist pilgrimages, to lure over a million tourists to the country during the Tourism Year 2011.

The Eco-tourism Buddhist Circuit pilgrimage tour will start from Lumbini in Western Nepal and take a round of Indian cities Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar before concluding at where it started, said Nepal Tourism Board chief Prachanda Man Shrestha.

The ten-day tour aims to promote Nepal’s tourism, which had suffered a lot during the decade-long insurgency, by luring Buddhist pilgrims from around the world, Shrestha said.

The pilgrims would get to see Buddhist stupas, chaityal, monasteries, mahaviharas, arts and architecture and religious literature from different parts of India and Nepal during the tour that would cost around 400 US dollar per person.

At the initiative of the Nepal Tourism Board, two 42-seater deluxe buses will be arranged as per the packaged tour programme that would start its trial run in November.

The regular bus service will start from January 2011 to coincide with the Nepal Tourism Year.

Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini some 2,554 years ago and he got enlightenment in Bodhgaya, preached his first disciple in Sarnath and died in Kushinagar of India.

Though Buddha was born in Nepal, the country has not received its proper share from the Buddhist pilgrimage tour due to lack of publicity and lack of connectivity, the minister claimed.

Through the packaged tour Nepal aims to get its share from around 300,000 Buddhist pilgrims who are currently visiting mainly Indian cities annually, Shrestha said.

From Zee News

Unicef: Nepal ‘should suspend’ adoptions

The adoption of children from Nepal should be suspended, the international body that governs adoption between countries has recommended.

An investigation found children from remote areas were falsely declared to be orphans and put up for adoption without their parents’ knowledge.

Case study: Adopted in France

A draft report by The Hague Conference on Private International Law urges Nepal to take steps to prevent abuses.

Nepal temporarily suspended international adoptions in 2007.

It introduced new rules in 2008 and international adoptions were resumed.

Documents faked

But the report from the Hague Conference says that abuses are still rife. Its investigation found that documents which declared children as orphans were often faked.

Children who were put up for overseas adoption had been taken from their families to care homes in the capital, Kathmandu, under the pretext of receiving education.

The probe found evidence of “false statements” about the child’s origin, age and status; lack of transparency and accountability for the money coming into Nepal from international adoptions; and an absence of a policy on such adoptions.

It said Nepal had failed to prevent the abduction, sale and traffic of children and recommended the government suspend international adoptions to allow new laws and procedures to be implemented.

The report follows a probe by Unicef, and other NGOs. The Swiss-funded charity, Terre des hommes, said it found that more than 60% of children in orphanages had parents who could take care of them.

“The Hague report makes a very strong finding which is that there is evidence of abuse in terms of paperwork. Paperwork is created to declare the child an orphan whereas the child… could be supported in the family,” Terre des hommes Nepal country director, Joseph Aguettant, told the BBC’s Joanna Jolly in Kathmandu.

Unicef and Terre des hommes have previously reported that it is common for Nepalese children to be abducted, trafficked and, in effect, sold.

Nepal’s adopted children mainly go to Spain, France, Germany, Italy and the US.

Our correspondent says that the report has been welcomed by those working in child protection in Nepal who say the proper safeguards need to be in place before children are offered for international adoption.

From BBC

Kathmandu: UNICEF to launch awareness campaign on swine flu in schools

KATHMANDU: With a view to inform the schoolchildren of the menace of Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Nepal has embarked on an awareness campaign in different schools under the Avian Influenza Project (AIP).

The move follows recent swine flu-scare throughout the nation.

After the initial phase of campaign in Kathmandu Valley schools, UNICEF is launching the awareness campaign in schools of the five districts in Jhapa, Illam, Sunsari, Morang and Chitwan.

Binoy Dil Lama, the project officer, said that the first round of briefing and orientation on the swine flu was concluded recently in 65 schools, including the +2 colleges, of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.

“The AIP works with ‘Green Plus,” a student organisation, he said, adding, “a meeting would be held next week with the Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation of Nepal (PABSON) and the Department of Education.

An orientation programme has also been planned for the District Education Officer (DEO) about the issue.

Lama of UNICEF has urged the schools not to close them down on seasonal flu but suggested the government to take sample test and make it conformed before closing the schools.

He said that they had introduced a package programme for addressing the present situation where they had given two hours of training to teachers and students with the objective of bringing awareness.

“Local NGOs are helping us in this project,” added programme officer. The jingle and advertising song related to the disease is going to be on air from December 15.

From HimanayanTimes

Nepal ministers talk global warming in icy Everest heights

Kathmandu: Nepal’s coalition government on Friday basked in the global limelight with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal leading a historic meeting of his cabinet in the shadow of Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world, to draw the attention of nations to the perils of climate change.

For the first time in the history of Nepal, nearly two dozen ministers, wearing down jackets, blue sashes that said “Save the Himalayas” and oxygen masks, trooped to Kala Pattar, a village at 5,542 m, more than half-way to the Everest peak, to hold a sensational cabinet meet against a backdrop of towering mountains and thundering winds.

“It is a significant and historic meet,” Nepal said, signing a 10-point Everest Declaration. “The world should unite with the Himalayan nations to raise one voice. Now is the time to stop the negative effects of climate warming. Let’s start with sacrifices from our own countries.”

As its own commitment, Nepal has declared nearly 6,000 sq km in three different regions, rich in bio-diversity, as conserved areas.

It will also stand behind the march of 30 Everest summiters who will stage a rally in Copenhagen on December 11, in the course of the UN global conference on climate changes in the European capital, to ask the world to save the Himalayas.

The bleak plateau, surrounded by snow-clad mountains and bereft of vegetation, became the cynosure of all eyes on Friday as the world waited for Nepal’s government to begin its cabinet meeting near the Everest base camp.

A sign propped up between two national flags declared a cabinet meeting was in session with chairs lined up before narrow long tables.

The meeting, delayed by more than two hours, was preceded by the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues first alighting in Syangboche, a village located below the plateau, for health checks.

Helicopters belonging to the army and private airline companies then ferried the ministers to Kala Pattar where Chief Secretary Madhav Ghimire called the meeting to order, wielding a megaphone to make himself heard.

Though the much-awaited meeting lasted only 10 minutes, experts and travel entrepreneurs said it had succeeded in winning world recognition for Nepal, the Himalayas and the Sherpa community living in the Himalayan region.

The prime minister emphasised that Nepal, one of the least developed nations, was not guilty of carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

Developed nations, he said, were responsible for the damage worldwide and therefore had a duty to come to the help of the victimised nations.

There are nearly 2,000 mountain lakes in Nepal, which boasts of eight of the 10 highest peaks in the world, including the Everest. Of these 2,000 lakes, 24 are in danger of bursting, experts say.

The global warming has been causing glaciers to retreat in the Himalayas and denuding the majestic peaks of their snow cover, making them look bare and smaller.

“When I climbed Mt Everest in 2007, I was shocked to see how bare it looked. There was little snow,” said Sonam Sherpa.

“If the Himalayas die, all Nepalis will die,” added Doti Sherpa, deputy chief of Nepal Sherpa Sangh. “It will devastate entire South Asia, not just Nepal.”

Inspired by the Maldives government holding a cabinet meeting underwater, Nepal’s Forest Minister Deepak Bohra conceived the idea of an “Everest” meet.

Nepal’s cash-strapped government, accused of frittering away tax payers’ money, spent only Nepali Re.1 though the expedition cost over Rs.6 million.

The entire expenses were borne by the private sector related to travel tourism.

After criticising it as a gimmick, there was grudging public admiration on Friday due to the immense world interest the meeting generated.

Veteran journalist Kanak Mani Dixit welcomed the Everest meet cautiously.

“It is right to capitalise on the Himalayas,” he said. “But to ensure that it is not a mere gimmick, there should be follow-up action.”

Dixit, editor of Himal magazine, said that while the government was drawing attention to the adverse effects of global warming with the Everest meet, forests were being hacked down in Nepal’s Terai plains. IANS

From IndiaEdu

WWF honours Nepali climbers

KATHMANDU: The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) felicitated Climate-for-Life Ambassadors Apa Sherpa and Dawa Sherpa with its most prestigious Leaders for a Living Planet award at a function held at Gland, Switzerland on Wednesday.

The WWF International Director General Jim Leape felicitated the duo with the highest honour given to an individual by the wildlife organisation, for their role as a true global citizen, whose deeds have drawn the global attention to the impact of climate change in the Himalayas.

“Apa and Dawa represent the real people from the real world. Their experiences are not based on somebody else’s data or research; they have witnessed with their own eyes the melting Himalayas,” said Leape while addressing the function, adding that their exemplary efforts have helped understand the impact of climate change on the lives of billions of people the world over.

Apa and Dawa are in Geneva to raise awareness about climate change in the Himalayas as a part of the European Expedition of the Climate-for-Life Campaign.

The two Nepali climbers are scheduled to travel through Chamonix, Vienna and Brussels as a run–up to the much awaited COP 15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen early this December.