US embassy cable - 02KATHMANDU371


Identifier: 02KATHMANDU371
Wikileaks: View 02KATHMANDU371 at
Origin: Embassy Kathmandu
Created: 2002-02-15 09:41:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

E.O. 12958: N/A 
REFS: Bixby and Ekpuk e-mails to Embassy Kathmandu on ESF 
1.  Regional Environment Office (REO) for South Asia, 
based at Embassy Kathmandu, would like to propose several 
projects for FY 02 and FY 03 funding via South Asia Bureau 
regional Economic Support Funds (ESF).  While all of the 
proposals have an environmental dimension, they are cross- 
cutting, multi-purpose concepts that will contribute to 
regional stability, confidence-building, and support other 
important U.S. objectives in the region.  REO would like 
to withdraw the FY 02 and 03 requests for USD 1 million 
per year for an integrated river basin management and 
flood forecasting proposal and substitute three new 
proposals.  The total request for REO projects has been 
revised downward slightly for FY02, to USD 1.2 million, 
and sharply, to 1.3 million, for FY 03. 
2.  Projects have been listed in priority order, with 
approximate amounts required for effective execution in 
each of the fiscal years 2002 and 2003.  Projects with an 
asterisk are new proposals; others are ongoing initiatives 
requiring continued funding already submitted through the 
MPP and BPP processes. 
     Project                       FY02           FY03 
(1) USGS Bengal Basin              250,000        350,000 
Groundwater Arsenic Research 
(2) Forests, People, Conflict      250,000        150,000 
and Insurgency* 
(3) SA Transboundary Water         150,000           - 
Quality Monitoring Project 
(4) Environmental Crime*           250,000        250,000 
Anti-Trafficking Enforcement 
(5) Asian Water Quality            100,000        250,000 
(6) Regional Environmental         200,000        300,000 
Governance Initiative              -------        ------- 
TOTAL:                           1,200,000      1,300,000 
3.  Thumbnail descriptions of the initiatives follow 
(complete project proposals to be furnished if needed): 
--------------------------------------------- - 
USGS Bengal Basin Groundwater Arsenic Research 
--------------------------------------------- - 
REO requests USD 250,000 in FY02 and 350,000 in FY03 to 
fund continued research by the U.S. Geological Survey into 
the causes of groundwater arsenic contamination in the 
Bengal Basin.  This would complement, not/not duplicate or 
replace the separate request for bilateral ESF by Embassy 
Dhaka and our USAID mission to Bangladesh. (Note: The 
World Bank has USD 37 million left in a USD 40 million 
fund for arsenic research and mitigation in Bangladesh, 
but the results of this research are needed to be able to 
use the funds effectively.)  Regional funds would be used 
to cover the cost of USGS participation in a multi-donor 
effort to research the extent of the problem in Nepal's 
Terai and investigate the mobilization pathways by which 
the arsenic makes its way into the groundwater.  In 
addition, it would fund travel to India, especially West 
Bengal, for USGS consultations and collaborative research 
with responsible Indian officials and groundwater experts. 
(Coordination of research efforts between India and 
Bangladesh to date has been poor.) 
Justification: Arsenic-contaminated groundwater has been 
called - accurately, in our view - the greatest natural 
disaster ever to strike mankind, affecting tens of 
millions of people in the Bengal basin, including Nepal's 
Terai.  The problem is not limited to South Asia, as 
extensive contamination has been discovered in the 
countries of the Mekong region, as well as in the U.S. 
USGS has great credibility with all partners involved in 
the arsenic question and, by common consensus, has the 
greatest scientific capacity to address hydrogeological 
and geochemical issues that need to be resolved.  Nepal 
offers several comparative advantages for extending 
research already underway: 
-- The contaminated aquifers are much closer to the 
Himalayan source of the arsenic.  The simpler hydrogeology 
(compared to the complicated stratography of the Gangetic 
Delta) is more likely to yield early answers as to how the 
arsenic gets into groundwater. 
-- The relatively recent and less extensive development of 
groundwater resources in Nepal offers an opportunity to 
study aquifers less influenced by human activities. 
-- The concentrations of arsenic in Nepal are roughly 
equal to those found in parts of the U.S.  The Terai, with 
its relatively stable population, is favorable to a study 
of the long-term effects of consumption of moderately 
contaminated water -- of great interest to U.S. health 
authorities studying cancer risk. 
Forests, People, Conflict, and Insurgency 
REO requests USD 250,000 in FY02 and USD 150,000 in FY03 
for an initiative to counter the spread of regional 
insurgencies through a sustained effort to promote 
community-based natural resource management policies in 
forest areas of South Asia.  The purpose is to identify 
specific socio-economic measures and policy changes that 
will prevent disadvantaged, disenfranchised and 
dispossessed societies and communities from becoming the 
perfect breeding ground for extremist ideologies and 
violent movements.  Goals of the project are: 
-- Reduce tensions and conflicts between people and the 
government agencies through participatory, socially 
acceptable and sustainable forestry/natural resources 
policies and regulations. 
-- Give local people greater access and greater 
entitlement to forests and other natural resources, 
enabling them to raise their standard of living and 
discouraging them from extremist ideologies and 
-- Identify corruption in forestry management and find 
effective solutions to curb abuses. 
Justification:  Forests in Nepal, India Bangladesh, Bhutan 
and Sri Lanka and parts of Pakistan have turned into 
battlegrounds between government forces and insurgents. 
Ultra-left-wing "Naxalites" reportedly control an area two 
and half times the size of North Carolina in the dense 
forests of eastern India.  During a recent meeting, Indian 
Naxalites and Nepalese Maoist groups agreed to form a 
South Asian Maoist Coalition in a forest corridor from 
western Nepal to the hinterlands of Andhra Pradesh in 
Southern India to facilitate their movements and 
operations.  There is no one specific cause for the rise 
of such insurgencies in these areas.  However, there is 
now a general understanding that such insurgencies have 
been fueled by the dispossession of people of their 
traditional rights and access to natural resources, arcane 
and socially unpopular forest policies, severe poverty, 
and the alienation of forest people from the political 
mainstream.  People who traditionally depend on forests 
for their livelihood have joined the insurgents or are 
sympathetic to their cause.  They often find it easier to 
deal with insurgent groups than with corrupt government 
officials.  In many forest areas, insurgent groups are 
running parallel governments and issuing populist decrees, 
such as raising the price of forest products sold by local 
communities.  Forests also function as the resource base 
of insurgent groups, which resort to lucrative trafficking 
in wildlife products, illegal timber felling and other 
illegal activities to finance their activities. 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
South Asia Transboundary Water Quality Monitoring Network 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
REO requests USD 150,000 for FY 2002 to complete Phase 
II of this initiative, which seeks to establish a 
regional network for collecting and sharing water 
quality data of transboundary rivers South Asia.  The 
main U.S. partner for execution is DOE's Sandia 
National Laboratories Cooperative Monitoring Center. 
In the current phase of the project, the focus is on 
using technology to complement ongoing and existing 
projects and activities of the partners in the network 
and supporting institutions to foster a common 
understanding of critical water issues and improve 
communication and data sharing within the region.  The 
second phase of this project aims to: 
-- Broaden the partnership - include more strategic 
institutions in monitoring water quality in the region. 
-- Increase the number of parameters monitored and the 
geographic extent by enlarging the area of coverage 
(i.e., number of mutually agreed test sites). 
-- Strengthen the partnership by providing additional 
training and technological know-how. 
-- Institutionalize the partnership by creating a 
permanent framework for cooperation and data sharing. 
-- Move to the policy sphere.  As the extent and 
severity of regional water quality problems emerge from 
these studies, we hope that the partners will be 
motivated to seek support from their governments for 
regional approaches to pollution mitigation. 
Justification: South Asia is one of the most water- 
stressed areas of the world.  Many sub-regions, including 
southern Pakistan, western and southern parts of India, 
and nearly all of Afghanistan, are already facing moderate 
to acute shortages of water scarcity, increasing the 
danger of social conflict and fragmentation within these 
societies.  Compounding the problem is the fouling of 
existing supplies.  Water quality in South Asia is 
degrading at a fast - and accelerating -- pace.  Pollution 
of surface and ground water is caused by poorly planned 
and uncontrolled growth of industries, human settlements 
and agricultural runoff.  Lack of adequate water data is 
hampering the ability of scientists in the region to 
understand the true extent of the problem and find 
effective solutions.  Regional cooperation in this area 
can support sustainable development and, consequently, 
social, economic, and political stability - thereby 
contributing to the relaxation of regional tensions and 
reducing the risk of conflict.  There is considerable 
potential for embedding this project in a larger regional 
approach to water quality issues funded by multilateral 
lenders and other major bilateral donors -- please see the 
section entitled "Asian Water Quality Coalition." 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
Environmental Crime Anti-Trafficking Enforcement Project 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
REO requests USD 250,000 in each of FYs 02 and 03 to 
support South Asian governments in strengthening their 
capacity to enforce Multilateral Environmental Agreements 
(MEAs).  South Asia is in immediate need of assistance in 
implementing and enforcing MEAs, especially at the 
operational levels, i.e. intelligence-gathering, inter- 
agency coordination, detection of contraband and smuggling 
operations, prosecution of traffickers, and 
institutionalization of enforcement training.  Expected 
outcomes of the project include: 
-- Increased knowledge about the status of MEA enforcement 
in South Asia and diagnosis of deficiencies, particularly 
in intelligence and investigative techniques. 
-- A strategic plan devised by South Asian governments to 
build their intelligence-gathering regarding various types 
of illegal trafficking, bolster MEA enforcement capacity 
and develop measures to control this illegal commerce. 
-- Enhanced regional capacity to detect illegal commerce 
under several MEAs and apprehend/prosecute traffickers, 
consistent with international obligations. 
-- Greater domestic and international coordination and 
cooperation among the various law enforcement agencies in 
South Asian countries charged with enforcing MEAs. 
-- Creation of an indigenous South Asian capacity to 
provide field-based MEA training modules to law 
enforcement officials. 
Justification: Terrorism is a threat to democracy and 
civil society everywhere, and cutting off the sources of 
finance and support for terrorism is one of the highest 
priorities for the U.S.  Typically, when South Asian 
insurgencies falter in their popular support, they link up 
with existing criminal networks to finance revolutionary 
activities through such varied illegal pursuits as drug 
running, trafficking in women and children, smuggling of 
arms and ammunition, as well as illegal commerce in 
products covered under the convention on endangered 
species (CITES).  More recently, the development of 
illicit markets for chemicals prohibited or regulated 
under the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances 
(ODS) have opened up another extraordinarily lucrative 
line of business for criminal smuggling syndicates. 
Reports indicate that profits from this criminal activity 
may be second only to the narcotics trade. 
Asian Water Quality Coalition 
REO requests USD 100,000 in FY02 and USD 250,000 in FY03 
to support participation by USG scientific agencies, such 
as USGS and EPA, in a broad-based, multi-donor initiative 
to address water quality issues in South Asia.  The funds 
would be used to pay for TDY travel for consultations and 
joint research by USG scientists in the region.  We would 
welcome support from REO for Southeast Asia/Pacific 
(Bangkok) in soliciting additional support from EAP and/or 
OES for this proposal. 
Justification: See the comments on the South Asia Water 
Quality Monitoring for background.  The World Bank and 
other multilateral lenders, as well as international 
organizations such as UNICEF and WHO, have recognized the 
inefficiencies involved in designing country-specific 
programs for each of the many contaminants of concern 
(i.e., arsenic, fluoride, cadmium, other metals, 
fertilizers, organics such as pesticides, microbiological 
organisms, etc.)  As a result, a coalition of donors and 
international agencies is now considering a broad 
initiative on water quality for the South and Southeast 
Asian regions.  These entities frequently seek world-class 
expertise and consulting services from top-ranked USG 
scientific agencies, but are prevented by their charters 
or other technical reasons from funding USG activities. 
The purpose of this request is to ensure that the premier 
U.S. scientific capabilities can be employed effectively 
to support an international initiative to address critical 
South Asian water quality issues. 
Regional Environmental Governance Initiative 
REO requests USD 200,000 in fiscal year 2002 and USD 
300,000 in FY 2003 to promote environmental good 
governance in South Asia.  Small grants (not to exceed USD 
25,000) will be provided, on a competitive basis, to local 
and national non-governmental organizations.  The grants 
will help implement projects to: 
-- Enhance civil society's environmental knowledge base, 
-- Build local governments' capacity to integrate 
environmental considerations into development planning, 
-- Promote effective enforcement of environmental 
regulations at the local level, 
-- Strengthen local communities' ability to manage natural 
resources in an environmentally sound manner, 
-- Encourage local environmental advocacy and stewardship 
using democratic means. 
Justification: One of the major causes for rapid 
environmental degradation in South Asia is the poor 
implementation of environmental rules and regulations and 
the insufficient ability of local governments to integrate 
environmental considerations into their development 
planning.  The low level of environmental awareness of the 
rural population and the lack of effective civil society 
organizations to advocate and promote environmental 
conservation further aggravates this problem.  There is an 
immediate need to strengthen environmental governance at 
the local level.  While there is a growing effort by 
central governments to devolve more power and resources to 
the local level, there has been a lack of complementary 
efforts to assist local communities and governments to 
manage their natural resources in a sustainable manner. As 
a result, the natural resource base, the source of 
livelihood and sustenance of the mostly rural people of 
South Asia, is increasingly threatened. 
4. The Regional Environment Office for South Asia hopes 
the above will be useful to the South Asia Bureau in 
setting priorities and planning for FY 02 and 03 regional 
Economic Support Funds. 

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