EDITORIAL: MCC comes into force

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Nepal will benefit from the MCC projects only if they are completed in time

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)-Nepal Compact, a U.S. funded project to develop a high-voltage transmission line and 300-km long road project, entered into force from August 30, with MCC Vice-president of Compact Operations Cameroon Alford and Nepal’s Finance Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat exchanging a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday. The government of Nepal and MCC officials announced the official launching of the US$ 697 million ($500 million U.S. grant and $197 million matching fund from Nepal government) project, 18 months after Nepal’s federal parliament endorsed the MCC pact on February 27, 2022, along with its 12-point “interpretative declaration”.

In a press statement, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu said that Nepal’s constitution would prevail while implementing the MCC projects. The projects should be completed within five years, failure to which will lead to the closure of the fund to be provided by the U.S. government. However, both Nepal and the MCC officials are mum about the future of the projects if they are not concluded within the time.

As per the understanding, the allocated fund will be utilised to build a 315-km-long 400kV transmission line from Lapsiphedi in Kathmandu to New Butwal via Ratmate in Nuwakot and Damauli in Tanahun.

Once this transmission line comes into operation, Nepal will be in a better position to export its energy to India in a hassle-free manner. Another road project to be identified by the government of Nepal will help connect people and also engage as well as enhance business.

A total of 1,471 hectares of land have already been acquired for the construction of 856 towers for the transmission line and three sub-stations, two of which belong to Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). An agreement to construct a 120-km-long New Butwal-Gorakhpur 400kV transmission line has already been reached between Nepal and India. Around 300 kilometres of roads will also be either repaired or upgraded to enhance better connectivity.

Nepal was selected as an eligible country for the MCC Compact way back in 2012 after it met certain conditions. An agreement to this effect was reached between Nepal and MCC officials in 2017. However, Nepal’s political parties were divided over the MCC as some of the clauses were found to be superseding the country’s constitution, and the MCC was also reportedly included as part of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Military Strategy. In the 12-point interpretative declaration, endorsed by Nepal’s Parliament, it is clearly stated that Nepal will not be a part of the America’s Indo-Pacific Military Strategy and that Nepal’s constitution and laws would prevail in the event of any controversy that might arise while executing the two projects.

While it is a welcome move that both Nepal and the MCC-Nepal Compact have entered into force, there are challenges galore. It could be a Herculean task for the MCC-Nepal Compact to conclude its works within the stipulated time given Nepal’s poor institutional capacity. A day before the MCC pact went into force, some of the political parties, including some ruling partners, aired their suspicion on the U.S. stance on the interpretive declaration. Such views from the ruling partners will not augur well for the timely conclusion of the projects.

Online abuse

With a mobile in every hand and internet penetration ever increasing, internet abuse has become a topic of serious concern. Cyber bullying, cyber crime, cybersex trafficking, internet homicide and computer viruses intended to harm users’ computers are being widely reported these days, both inside and outside Nepal. And the victims include, adults, both male and female, as well as children. Cyber bullying, where a child is tormented, threatened and harassed by another child online, is a growing issue. And now a study has shown that children in Nepal are also increasingly at risk of sexual abuse through the internet.

The study conducted by Bal Awaz among 514 children in Bagmati and Koshi provinces has revealed that children were asked for obscene pictures by unknown persons on several internet platforms. As children approach their teens, their curiosity could lead them to access porn sites on the internet, which puts them at risk of online sexual abuse. The government has tried to block many such sites on the internet, but it is a losing battle, with people finding ever new ways to circumvent them. Awareness about online sexual abuse and ways to respond to requests for obscene pictures would greatly help the children.

Source: The Himalayan Times