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Withdrawal of rural development project

In Nepal, where a Maoist insurgency has left many rural areas out of government control, development work in remote locations has been hit the hardest. Due to the threat from the insurgents, Kathmandu has already suspended most of its development projects in the poorest districts of the country. So people living in rural areas have begun to rely on international and local aid agencies for many of their basic needs. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Nepal depends almost entirely on foreign aid for rural development. Since June 2004, key donor agencies such as British DFID, Germany's GTZ and the Swiss SDC have been reducing their rural health, education and infrastructural development programmes one after another, in response to demands from Maoists rebels that aid agencies work through them. GTZ recently announced that it was stopping its road development project, referred to as the "Green Road", in the Gorkha district about 100km northwest of the capital. Gorkha is home to Maoist leader and main ideologue Baburam Bhattarai. The road was already under construction by Rural Programme Nepal (RPN), in conjunction with GTZ, which had allocated about US $370,000 for the first phase of the work. Twelve thousand poor local villagers were involved in the construction work as part of GTZ's "Food-for-Work" programme. Many of these villagers were receiving a free supply of basic foods in return for their labour. But work has been stopped for the past four months due to intimidation by guerrillas, who have been targeting communication towers and booby-trapping roads to force the government to concede to its demands for a new constitution that would turn Nepal into a republic from the present constitutional monarchy. Gorkha lies in a remote, mountainous area of west Nepal and is considered to be one of the poorest districts in the country. The road was being built to enable agricultural produce to be more easily brought to market and to enhance other economic activity in the region. On New Year's Eve, GTZ decided to terminate a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the local government authority, the District Development Committee (DDC) of Gorkha, after local villagers told agency representatives of the Maoists' threats. "We had to terminate the MoU as the security situation did not improve. GTZ will resume its support if the concerned agency requests us officially [and informs us] that there will be no obstacle in the construction work," Bidhan Chandra Rajbhandari, coordinator of RPN/GTZ, told IRIN. GTZ currently works in 27 out of 75 districts around the country with its Food-for-Work and Cash-for-Work programmes. However, unlike other aid agencies, GTZ is unlikely to curtail further projects. "We have resumed GTZ-funded activities in many districts of west Nepal despite the security problem," said Rajbhandari, who added that work in eastern Nepal had been going on well without any Maoist obstacles.

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