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Syria truce begins under US-Russia deal

Gorkha Post

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DAMASCUS — Guns fell silent across Syria on Saturday after a landmark UN-backed truce became effective, the first major truce in five years of civil war that have claimed more than 270,000 lives.

On the stroke of midnight, terminating ceased in rural areas around the capital and the devastated northern city of Aleppo, AFP reporters said, after a day of intense Russian air strikes on rebel bastions across the country.

Monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was quiet in the north of Latakia province and in the central provinces of Homs and Hama.

“I may be up late tonight and hope I won’t be wakened tomorrow by the sound of airplanes,” Mohammed Nohad, a resident of Aleppo’s southern rebel-held district of Al-Kalasseh, told AFP.

The nationwide cessation of hostilities would be the first pause in fighting since Syria’s civil war broke out five years ago.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said peace talks would resume on March 7 if the ceasefire holds and more aid is delivered — a key sticking point in negotiations for a truce.

But previous attempts to end the fighting have failed and Russia and the US, which back opposing sides in the fight, have warned that applying it on the ground will be difficult.

“I can’t hide the fact that I’m happy the war has stopped, even for a few minutes,” 24-year-old regime soldier Abdel Rahman Issa said from the battlefield Jobar area on the eastern outskirts of Damascus.

“If it continues like this, maybe we can go home.”

Analysts have also questioned whether it can be effective on Syria’s complex battlefields, as the truce allows fighting to continue with Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front jihadists.

There were intermittent clashes after the ceasefire began between pro-regime forces and both groups, the Observatory said, as well as fighting between jihadists and Kurdish forces.

AFP

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Economy

Govt decides to award Budhi Gandaki Hydel project to Chinese firm again

Gorkha Post

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KATHMANDU — The government has decided to award contract for the construction of the 1,200-megawatt Budhigandaki hydropower project, a national pride project, to China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) once again.

A Cabinet meeting on Friday has decided to award the contract for the project to CGGCL reverting the erstwhile Sher Bahadur Deuba government’s decision to develop the 1200MW project with internal resources.

The Cabinet meeting has directed the Energy Ministry to initiate the process to award the project to the Chinese company.

Following the government decision, the Energy Ministry will now invite the Chinese company for talks and prepare a draft of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) before signing it, according to multiple sources at the ministry.

As per the Cabinet decision, the ministry has been asked to hold talks with the Gezhouba, prepare a proposal, and strike a deal to execute the $2.5 billion reservoir project.

Earlier on May 15, 2017, the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government had awarded the contract to construct the Budhigandaki project to CGGCL, juat nine days before he was to resign from the PM’s post.

The Dahal-led government had awarded the contract to CGGCL at a cost of Rs 260 billion as per a study carried out by a French company, Tractebel Engineering.

The agreement, however, invited controversy as the project was handed to the Chinese company without initiating a competitive bidding process.

The Budhi Gandaki hydel project has been touted as a key project to resolve the perennial power crisis in the country. The government has allocated Rs18 billion for compensation payments and operational expenses for this fiscal year.

The Gorkha and Dhading district administration offices are currently distributing compensation to owners of the land taken over by the project.

More than 8,000 households will be affected by the project, according to the latest report.

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