US embassy cable - 02KATHMANDU964

UPDATE: ATTACKS ON INFRASTRUCTURE

Identifier: 02KATHMANDU964
Wikileaks: View 02KATHMANDU964 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kathmandu
Created: 2002-05-17 10:53:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PTER ECON ECPS ENRG NP Maoist Insurgency
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.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KATHMANDU 000964 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR SA/INS 
STATE ALSO PASS USAID - DCHA/OFDA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PTER, ECON, ECPS, ENRG, NP, Maoist Insurgency 
SUBJECT: UPDATE:  ATTACKS ON INFRASTRUCTURE 
 
REF: A. (A) KATHMANDU 0696 
     B. (B) KATHMANDU 
 
1.  (U) Nearly 4,000 people--civilians, military, police and 
insurgents--have been killed in Nepal's six-year-old Maoist 
insurgency to date.  According to Ministry of Defense 
figures, more than 10 percent of that number--572--were 
killed in the first half of May alone.  (Note:  MOD figures, 
especially regarding Maoist casualties, are notoriously 
unreliable.  In our calculations, we have always taken their 
lowest estimate.  End note.)  Countless more have been 
injured, maimed for life, or have fled their homes.  To our 
knowledge, there has been no calculation of the economic 
impact of this loss of life, limb, and manpower. 
 
2.  (SBU)  Besides the mounting human toll of lives lost in 
the six-year-old Maoist insurgency, the cost of 
Maoist-inflicted damage to Nepal's fragile infrastructure 
continues to climb (Ref A).  While destroying rural 
infrastructure might seem to contradict the Maoists' 
purported pro-poor ideology, the attacks likely serve other 
purposes for the insurgents, i.e., isolating already remote, 
underserved areas in the far west; intensifying already 
substantial budgetary pressure on the Government of Nepal 
(GON); and forcing the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) to divert 
already insufficient troops from the battlefield to the 
protection of key infrastructure. 
 
3.  (U)  The attacks, which typically target and disable 
small, village-level projects, have increased in frequency 
over the past several months, threatening to set back years 
of development progress in this impoverished nation.  Another 
typical tactic is the robbery and destruction of local 
branches of the state-owned Agricultural Development Bank, 
which provide credit for micro-enterprise schemes for rural 
residents in the hinterlands.  The Ministry of Finance 
estimates just the cost of repairing damaged infrastructure 
alone at about USD 100 million (Ref B)--money that the 
Ministry will be hard pressed to find.  As a result, many of 
the disabled projects are likely to remain so indefinitely. 
Many observers view the attacks as part of a deliberate 
Maoista plan to cut off districts from communication with 
other parts of the country, isolating them from government 
contact. 
 
4.  (U)  Hydropower:  Since January, nine hydropower 
facilities, both donor and community supported, have been 
damaged or destroyed, leaving more than 125,000 people 
without electricity.  Many of these were micro-generation and 
community-built schemes, but two larger projects, the USD 20 
million 12 MW Jhimruk hydropower project in Pyuthan district 
and the 5 MW Andhikhola project in Syangja district, were 
also badly damaged.  Another casualty:  the salaries of 
workers employed at some of these small projects.  At least 
90 employees at plants destroyed in Bhojpur, Khandbari, 
Phidim, Jomsom, Darchula, Bajhang, Taplejung, and Tehrathum 
are losing their jobs. 
 
5.  (U) Telecommunications:  The Maoists have also destroyed 
more than three dozen telecommunications towers, primarily in 
the west, the repair of which will cost the state-owned Nepal 
Telecommunications Corporation more than USD 25 million. 
Damage to repeater towers, terminal towers and VHF towers 
have completely cut off the far-western districts of Achham, 
Bajura, Darchula, and Bajhang, while nearly all of the lines 
in Doti, Baitadi, Dadeldura, and Kailali have also been cut. 
 
6.  (U) Airports:  13 district airports--again, nearly all 
located in the west--are non-operational because of damage 
sustained during Maoist attacks.  Among the districts thus 
cut off from commercial air transport are Achham, Rukum, 
Darchula, Bhojpur, Dolpa, Bajura, Kailali, Baitadi, Khotang, 
Bajhang, and Jajarkhot.  Repair costs are estimated at USD 
1.7 million. 
 
7.  (U) Local Government:  About one-third of Nepal's 3,900 
Village Development Committee buildings have been destroyed, 
many of them burned to the ground.  Over 250 rural post 
offices have been similarly destroyed. 
 
8.  (U) Banks:  To date, Maoists have robbed a total USD 4.2 
million from various bank branches.  In addition, the 
insurgents have destroyed 132 branch offices of the 
Agricultural Development Bank; 17 offices of the state-owned 
Rastriya Bankijja Bank; and 13 offices of Nepal Bank Limited. 
 The dwindling presence of financial institutions in the 
hinterlands has also affected development projects that rely 
on local banks for cash disbursements. 
 
9.  (U) Bridges and Roads:  Attacks on bridges (Ref A) and 
roads continue.  An attack on a a bridge in Surkhet District 
has left members of dozens of communities without access to 
neighboring districts, while damage done to three different 
suspension bridges in Mugu cut off a number of VDCs from the 
district headquarters.  In a turnabout of usual events, local 
residents near Nepalganj forced suspected insurgents who had 
destroyed a suspension bridge to repair the damage. 
According to press reports, it took nine cadre five days to 
fix the damage.  Work on 12 road projects covering 418 km in 
far-western Nepal has been suspended because of the violence, 
affecting 4 million people. 
 
10.  (U) Water:  On April 15 in Dhading District, Maoists cut 
off the water supply pipelines and dismantled the intake 
system, depriving an estimated 10,000 people of drinking 
water.  On April 22 Maoists set fire to the district water 
supply office in Sindhupalchowk district.  An April 23 attack 
on the Bijauri Drinking Water Project in Dang District has 
deprived nearly 25,000 people of potable water.  About 30 
meters of pipes were completely destroyed, while another 
1,000 meters were carted off, along with 20 kg of lead and 
500 sockets, presumably to be used as ingredients for 
improvised explosive devices.  On April 26, a Maoist socket 
bomb exploded at an irrigation project in Tanahu, injuring a 
four-year-old child. 
 
11.  (SBU)  Comment:  There are various theories as to why 
the Maoists are now targeting infrastructure--especially 
infrastructure that benefits the poorest of the poor in some 
of the remotest districts in Nepal.  Some observers speculate 
that the attacks reflect just how desperate the Maoists have 
become.  Some suggest the attacks are intended to increase 
the general misery index, increasing pressure on the GON to 
come to the negotiating table.  Others say that the 
destruction marks the next progression in the insurgents' 
revolutionary game plan.  Certainly some of the devastation 
does seem intended to isolate large parts of the far-west of 
the country, and to deprive those residents of the few 
government-provided services available in these remote 
reaches.  Such tactics have also forced the RNA to divert 
already scarce manpower to protect key 
infrastructure--including 75 district headquarters.  The 
Maoists may not be winning many hearts and minds with this 
vicious new approach, but they don't seem to care. 
Apparently for them, keeping the RNA stretched thin and the 
GON unable to ensure basic services to its citizens is a more 
important goal. 
MALINOWSKI 

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