Borekot Rural Municipality, often considered the poorest and remotest local level in Jajarkot District, was formed by merging the former village development committees of Sakla, Ramidanda, Nayakwada and Rokayagaun.
Mahendra Shah, elected from the Nepali Congress, leads the rural municipality as its chairman. Our Jajarkot correspondent Sahadev Basnet talked to Shah on development issues and his performance. Excerpts:
What are some of the major works that you have done after assuming office?
When we assumed office, there was no infrastructure of any kind in the rural municipality. One of the main things we did was build a road to connect Borekot with the district headquarters with the rural municipality’s own budget. All the nine wards of Borekot have also been connected by road.
Furthermore, all the nine wards are now operating out of their own buildings and not out of small rented rooms like before. Out of the seven local levels of Jajarkot, Borekot was the first one to construct its own office building.
We have also improved the quality of education and health service. Every ward has a health post or a health unit. We have also managed an MBBS-graduate doctor to man our Primary Health Centre.
What initiatives have the rural municipality taken to mitigate the impact of COVID 19?
During the first wave of COVID-19 last year, we built quarantines in all the wards and made adequate provisions to place every person coming from outside the rural municipality there. The rural municipality also provided free food, which included locally grown items like maize and beans, to 1,200 people.
When the second wave hit, we immediately set up an isolation centre with oxygen and brought infected people there for treatment. We conducted antigen tests in every ward. We have also arranged all the necessary medicines for the COVID-19 patients.
What were the main challenges you faced in the last four years?
The main challenge is the inadequacy of the budget to meet the expectations of the people. The people have high hopes from the local government but we do not have a sufficient budget to meet them. Similarly, we have not been able to rehabilitate the hundreds of people who lost their homes in last year’s floods and landslides. Lack of coordination between the three levels of government during development works has also created problems.
What plans have you formulated to prevent the food shortage that inflicts Borekot every year?
The rural municipality has taken two initiatives to prevent food shortages in the future. One, we have distributed free seeds to local farmers and conduct programmes to attract people to farming. Another, we have made arrangements to implement irrigation projects so that no land has to lie fallow due to lack of water, and we have mobilised technicians to test the soil in the fields and advise the farmers on the best crops to grow.
What works do you plan to do in your remaining term?
This rural municipality is a treasure trove of valuable herbs. We will introduce concrete programmes to conserve and utilise the herbs for the betterment of the local people. We will spend our remaining time in the office on implementing employment-generating projects with long-term benefits for the overall development of the rural municipality.
The roads within the rural municipality will be upgraded so that they remain operational year-round. Youths will be motivated to run businesses at the local level instead of pursuing foreign employment. In order to ensure the reproductive health of women and effectively implement maternal and child health programmes, health workers will be sent door-to-door to provide services.
What are your plans to promote tourism in the rural municipality?
Borekot Rural Municipality holds great potential for tourism. We are currently making a master plan to connect all the tourist places of the rural municipality by road. The rural municipality plans to boost its income by developing tourism.