Disinformation campaign

    34

    Wrong statistics

    At Tribhuvan International Airport, one welcome plaque proudly proclaims: “Nepal is the second richest country in water resources (after Brazil)”. My recent encounter with this (mis)information rekindled memories from schooldays.
    The first time I read about our hydro potential was in school textbooks. I never questioned the authenticity of the information conveyed by the supposedly infallible course books. oneway

    More than anything, it made us, young students, very proud of our nation’s resource-richness. But later when I came to know that more credible sources suggested otherwise, my pride shattered.

    I was surprised by the negligence of concerned authorities: how can information of such gravity be fallaciously thrown into textbooks and inculcated into young brains? And now, seeing the same untruth at the country’s only international airport, shocked me to the core. The major point of entry into the country, which in a way is the first impression of Nepal, has plaques misstating important national facts in bold letters. The impact it will have on reliability of information on offer here is hard to calculate.

    The total renewable water resource in Nepal is approximately 210 cu km, which ranks 44th in the world. On average, theoretical hydro-power potential of Nepal in terms of electrical energy is expected to be around 3,000 GWh per year, placing it 72nd in the world. In terms of megawatts, the potential is estimated at 83,000 MW, of which only half is considered technically and economically feasible.

    Our immediate neighbors India and China have 150,000 MW and 378,000 MW of feasible hydro-power respectively. With Brazil, the US and Canada yet to be considered, we don’t stand anywhere near the top in the chart of hydropower potential.

    The spread of misinformation on this scale via formal and informal sources poses a serious question on the credibility of the country among international audiences. An inquisitive visitor with internet access can easily identify the falsity. Finding such information in government facilities and publications will lead them to doubt the veracity of the government itself. Consequently, in the final analysis, our claim on various controversial issues, including the birth of Gautam Buddha, might be disputed. Moreover, the credibility of other important facts lacking proper documentation, like the recently discovered ancient cave paintings in Mustang, may also be questioned.

    Information is of essence only when we know what to do with it. Moreover, if conveyed through right channels among right people using the right approach, the returns can be rewarding. The international airport in Nepal can benefit from its position as the entry point of many visitors. And if we want to capitalize on this, we should first start with disseminating correct information at the airport. It is the government’s responsibility to verify relevant facts and statistics before endorsing any information, especially at such prominent places. Information which has been derived from unreliable and unauthentic sources should be cross-examined before dissemination.

    Nepalis like to boast about our cultural and natural beauty and diversity. But these are not enough to lure visitors, no matter how beautiful our country is. We care little about the fact that in this age of easy connectivity and travel, proper information and aggressive advertisement is needed to convince visitors to come. We have wasted the opportunity to let the world know that Nepal is an ancient hub of many religions and practices, with numerous cultural and adventurous destinations. We have not been able to capitalize on the fact that Nepal has repeatedly been listed as one of the top tourist destinations by travel magazines and websites.

    The information center at the airport, which as of now stands as an isolated booth, can play a more significant role in spreading truthful information of vital importance in the form of booklets, pamphlets, travel offers, etc. Graphic display advertising adventure sports like rafting, paragliding, trekking, hiking, mountain climbing and many more will not only gain the attention of incoming visitors but also encourage potential investors. This will generate revenue for the country as well as endorse tourism via word of mouth, reducing the cost of advertisement.

    In this respect, the government should not only filter and verify information but also advertise right. Tourists mostly visit only Kathmandu or specific destinations like the Annapurna Base Camp and Everest Base Camp. They can be made to spend more days here if they know about all the tourist destinations here. It is the prerogative of the government (and private sector) to use truthful information for the benefit of nation, and if not, at least to make sure the information they give does not harm the nation in any way.

    The author is an Engineer currently residing and working in Canada
    SUMAN KHAKUREL (167suman@gmail.com)

    Source : Republica