Airawati Rural Municipality is located in the Pyuthan district of the Lumbini Province of Nepal. It has an area of 156.75 square kilometres and a population of 22,392. Nabil Bikram Shah, elected from the Nepali Congress, leads the rural municipality as its chairman. Our Bijuwar correspondent Salim Miya talked with him about the work he has done since his election. Excerpts:
What has the rural municipality done to prevent and control the spread of the coronavirus in its area?
The rural municipality is doing everything it can to prevent and control the spread of the coronavirus. We have conducted many programmes to raise awareness about the virus. We monitor everyone coming from outside Airawati and quarantine them at their homes. We also operate a five-bed hospital with an oxygen facility. The rural municipality also provides ambulances for critically ill patients so they can reach the hospital before it’s too late.
Similarly, when the country was reeling under a kit shortage, the rural municipality purchased 150 kits with its own resources to ensure that the COVID-19 testing did not stop. Two of our health institutions operate laboratories. We provide free testing to the locals. We feel that we have done a good job in preventing and controlling the infection here.
Have those efforts paid off? How is the present situation of COVID-19 in Airawati?
The infection rate has been declining steadily. We recorded a total of 135 cases of COVID-19 in the rural municipality, of which, only 13 are currently active. Of the 13, two are receiving treatment at the isolation centre built by the local government. The situation is slowly returning to normal.
What challenges have you faced while working?
In the initial stage, lack of budget and manpower were our biggest challenges. Our geographical remoteness is also an obstacle to development. Poverty, unemployment and preference for foreign employment have also held us back. We are also forced to limit our projects within the scope of the grants provided by the provincial and federal governments. We are not able to meet the high expectations people have for us. Nevertheless, we have been doing our best to achieve development by overcoming these challenges.
What important works have you done since the election?
Before our election, the state of physical infrastructure in the rural municipality was very poor. After we assumed office, we prioritised the construction and expansion of roads which has made travel to and from all the wards very easy. We have also been expanding access to electricity, drinking water and irrigation. The Dangbang Lift Drinking Water Project, which is a big project of the rural municipality, is nearing completion. This year, we will provide drinking water to 70 per cent of the households in Airawati. We have also begun modernising agriculture.
Four of the six wards of Airawati now have their own offices. The offices of the remaining two wards are also under construction. To improve the quality of education, we have constructed buildings for schools and have been recruiting teachers. Furthermore, we have been operating health posts as well as community health units and village clinics to provide healthcare to all. Likewise, we have constructed water recharge ponds in all 52 community forests of Airawati. Numerous other projects are also being implemented.
How have you been addressing the demands of the locals?
As elected representatives of the local people, I believe we have a responsibility to make a positive difference in the lives of our citizens. Since the very first year, we have ensured public participation in our works. While devising projects, we incorporate the demands raised by the people through their ward offices. We engage with the community at every stage of project planning and implementation. We are committed to the overall development and prosperity of the rural municipality in line with the people’s aspirations.
How many of your election commitments have you fulfilled?
During the election, I had promised to focus on building infrastructure like roads and I have done that. I had promised to build a prosperous Airawati in five years and I am working towards that goal. We have fulfilled 95 per cent of our election commitments in our four years in office. I am focused on delivering sustainable people-centric development.
What will the rural municipality look like at the end of your term?
There will be well-organised roads in all the wards of Airawati. The quality of education and healthcare will be better than it is now. Agriculture, tourism and electricity will have taken a leap. Almost all houses will have access to drinking water. Every ward will have a playground. The projects we implemented during our time in office will start yielding results.