"BLOOD ON BBC HANDS" - blaming 'foreigners' for all Nepal's woes

Great harm is done when the BBC (and other media) employ so-called journalists, who are completely "out-of-their-depth" in terms of comprehending the complexities of 'global warming'.  Unless one has relevant scientific training, an inquiring and objective mind, a biased approach is adopted - especially when journalists pretend to be brave, when they are in reality, cowardly.

Instead of addressing the real issues, posturing by the likes of BBC World Service Environment Correspondent Navin Singh Khadka contributes to the death of Nepalese and foreigners! I am not exaggerating.  Just because one is born in Nepal and has worked as a journalist in Nepal, does not bring any relevant training or depth-of-knowledge.  What knowledge of botany, zoology, conservation, trekking, mountaineering, climate science, glaciology, cultivation, Tibetan Medicinal plants has Khadka got?  What qualifications?  Was he born and brought up in a Himalayan mountain village?  What degrees does he hold? What research has he ever undertaken?

The BBC also provides a smoke-screen for serious wrong-doing and fraudulent claims by Nepalese (and Indian) officials, which damages the very environment Mr Khadka claims to be protecting.  A little knowledge, is indeed a dangerous thing... IF neither Nepalese nor Indian botanists actually know which species are rare or abundant, how can they possibly be conserved?  In the mean-time, strictly limited resources are devoted to common species, when the genuinely rare are abandoned to their fate.  International organisations and institutions in the UK play a major role in this sorry state of affairs....

Chris Chadwell's knowledge, overall, of the flora of the Himalaya (in the field), in cultivation and of conservation measures, is second-to-none.  Why is someone with unrivalled expertise not being consulted?  Instead, those who set-up fake charities are invited to conferences, producing false reports, which suit the Governments of India and Nepal....

Chris is deeply concerned about global warming but it is essential that scientifically sound evidence, that adds-up and makes sense, is presented in an intelligent manner.  Instead, the BBC hires someone they know has a dumbed-downed, sensationalist-style, not understanding the basics of the science involved.  Mr Khadka makes up for a lack of rigour by twisting, insinuating and down-right lying!  Such conduct provides ammunition for the 'doubters', whose position I strongly disagree with but as an objective scientist, I cannot but agree that Mr Khadka is biased, see:

To be fair, Navin is skilled at tabloid-level, dumbed-down, sensationalist journalism.  He does not, it seems, understand what a paragraph is?  Perhaps he should transfer to the staff of a UK tabloid-newspaper....

Examples of Navin Singh Khadka's (Environment reporter, BBC) articles 



EXAMPLE 3: ILLEGAL HUNTING ON THE RISE IN AFGHANISTAN  I did write to Francesca Unsworth, then Director, BBC World Service, in 2016 formally complaining about my mistreatment by Mr Khadka and his lack of competence in covering environmental topics but she was dismissive and "covered his back" suggesting he was experienced and senior.  God help the BBC if this is what they really think!  The simple explanation, is that as was the case with Sir Cliff Richard, they have gone 'down-market' and wish to appeal to the reader's of tabloid printed newspapers.  What an immoral, dumbed down world we live in....

Talk about writing about subjects he knows nothing about.  His simplistic sentences (has he not heard of paragraphs or would that be too advanced for low-attention span internet readers, I wonder, which are now the BBC's target audience?)  How often do you think Mr Khadka has actually been to Afghanistan?  I doubt if he is brave enough to venture there too often, if at all! The nearest I have been to Afghanistan was whilst leading a botanical tour in Pakistan.  My party were turned back prior to the Khyber Pass by a Pakistani tank!  Our local agents knew this would happen, so should never have listed it in our programme; two of the party, who had booked the tour specifically to see the Khyber, were naturally upset and blamed me....

However, most importantly, Mr Khadka's research (does he undertake any?) did not stretch to BBC News, 'Bird Hunters 'emptying Afghan skies' by Bilal Sarwary, Parwan & Kapisa provinces, 30th July 2013 - which contradicts Mr Khadka's.  See:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23486991  Bilal is one of the brave journalists who risk their lives (unlike the comfortable Mr Khadka). I am not a great one for twitter but can recommend Bilal's account: https://twitter.com/bsarwary?lang=en. Returning to his article above,  the 'hunters' are primarily Afghanis! His explanation, and justification, is that many Afghans hunt birds for meat. There is also a thriving trade in canaries and finches which are trapped. sold and smuggled to Iran, Pakistan and Gulf countries, where they are popular as house pets.  The head of Afghan's Environment Protection Agency told a local TV channel that he estimates nearly 5,000 birds are smuggled out of the country every year (this may be a conservative figure) including falcons and Houbara Bustards.  Within the article, he rightly says, "In truth, no one really knows" and "It is impossible to know how many birds are killed in Afghanistan every year". But defends Afghanis, saying one must understand that this is the way of life here. Hunting of birds has been going on for hundreds of years (strange that he knows this, as do I but not Mr Khadka). Besides, many government officials are themselves hunters.  Who will speak against them?" The government banned the hunting of migratory birds five years ago in a presidential decree but the law is still to go through parliament (which Mr Khadka failed to mention) - and the ban is barely enforced.  Unfortunately, Afghanistan is not a party to the Convention on Migratory Species (Mr Khadka failed to mentioned this as well). Mr Khadka tends to omit facts which do not support his biased position.  He did not mention that some birds may have changed their migration routes, which  might explain the apparent drop in numbers.  Without proper scientific dta, it is impossible to know. Wow, Mr Sarwary is self-evidently of a much higher calibre than Mr Khadka.  I propose they replace Mr Khadka, as his articles are a joke to a trained scientist.  Why does the BBC employ un-trained staff?  Is it that it is 'politically correct' to employ someone from the Indian sub-continent?

It seems extraordinary that the BBC, with all its resources, vast budget and obscene salaries it pays to senior staff, that they cannot come up with an image of any of the 150 species listed as 'at risk'!  Instead, they use a picture from Iran....

Mr Khadka's text is given first, in black; my comments in whatever colour you call this!

EXAMPLE 1. ILLEGAL HUNTING ON THE RISE IN AFGHANISTAN  11th February 2014. Really, how would he possibly know, as it seems he has never actually been to Afghanistan! Since when has it risen? Has conducted no surveys there - he holds no relevant qualifications and consulted no genuine authorities about wildlife in the region.  With a minimum of proper research, I could provide a balanced, accurate account - not that this is what the BBC wants - just tabloid-level head-lines and simplistic sentences.  Are the BBC trying to be worst than the worst of our tabloid press?

Illegal wildlife hunting is on the rise in Afghanistan - threatening several key species, campaigners say Which campaigners? - how can we judge unless we know and what evidence; Mr Khadka's claim is unscientific and false, perhaps even fraudulent but sounds 'clever', showing how 'concerned' the BBC is.

Officials admit it is happening in most provinces despite regulations banning hunting, including a decree by Afghan President Hamed Kharzai Just how does any of this indicate hunting being on the rise?

There have been claims that hunting is carried out by locals and by foreign nationals from Middle Eastern countries

However, Afghan officials could not confirm this to the BBC - It is well known that bother occur and both have no doubt been happening for centuries! But what is new? I would imagine that the reticence on the part of the Afghan officials is understandable and readily explainable but Mr Khadka choses not to do so....  Do readers need me to spell it out?

The country has listed 150 species of wild animals and birds as at risk within its territory but there are no detailed records of how many have been killed or poached. Durrrr... of course there are no meaningful records.  Do such records exist for Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan or other nations near to Afghanistan.  Presumably Mr Khadka does not realise that birds are 'animals'?  What utter tosh.

Authorities say that the ongoing conflict has made monitoring almost impossible I do not understand what 'almost' impossible - reminded of his use of 'totally' illegal in his twaddle about collecting Himalayan seed.  The status of Afghan wildlife, bird or otherwise has never been monitored is a scientific way!  It has very little to do with conflicts.  Which 'authorities' is Mr Khadka talking about - it is the norm for him to avoid identifying the source of his claims....

But environmentalists have accused some politicians of using illegal wildlife hunting as the means to secure the backing of influential from countries in the Gulf Region for their electoral campaigns in Afghanistan Such hunting has gone on for centuries, so what is new?  As wildlife is not monitored, how can Mr Khadka, who has no relevant training, has no expertise about wildlife in this part of the world and has undoubtedly never set foot in the mountains of Afghanistan (he would surely have bragged about it had he done so), possibly claim 'Illegal hunting on the rise in Afghanistan'!!!  This is a typically unscientific, indeed downright false, claim by Mr Khadka.  Just which 'environmentalists' is Mr Khadka talking about?

"With the election campaign heating up, some groups and elements that are close to a few (Middle East) countries are bringing people from those places to secure further support for their candidacy", said Abdul Rahman Salahi, a civil activist with the Herat Professional Council. Why are the 'groups' and 'elements' not named? Why are the countries not named?  If we are not told, how can we judge the veracity of Abdul's claims? Surely, most importantly, hunting can only take place at certain times of the year, since some of the species concerned migrate.  Mr Khadka probably does not understand this. By 'Professional Council' does Mr Khadka mean 'Shura'?  If so, why did he not use its proper name?  IF he considered readers would not be familiar with the term, he could easily have explained what it meant!

"Because of the methods adopted by some politicians and the fact that the international forces are leaving Afghanistan, people are quite worried that illegal hunting will now go up." Excuse me but the headline for this article is that 'illegal' hunting has already gone up!!  Does Mr Khadka (and the BBC editors) not bother to read through what is 'posted' to check it makes sense?

Traditional hunting

Herat recently saw a street protest against alleged illegal hunting.

"Our demo is against a number of [foreign nationals] who have come to the west of Afghanistan where they have violated Afghan law by hunting wild animals," Khalil Parsa, head of the Afghan Network of Civil Societies, told BBC Persian radio during the protest.  Is this network the same as The Afghanistan Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN) and if so, why not use the full name? See: https://www.humanrights.dk/projects/afghanistan-civil-society-human-rights-network  or is it Afghanistan Civil Society Forum, see:  http://www.acsf.af/english/  It is certainly confusing to me.  Essential to get these matters correct.  Given the political implications and bad feeling that might be generated.

Visuals showing people wearing traditional Arabian male dress arriving in Afghanistan with falcons have been posted on the internet and local media have covered the issue widely. Interesting term - "visuals".  Perhaps this terminology, which I personally have never come across before, is prevalent in Nepal?

Officials say that they saw the media reports, but found no clear evidence during their investigation. They added that strict instructions have been issued to local authorities to look out for illegal hunting. What rubbish.  Surely Mr Khadka realises this but he is accustomed to blindly quoting un-named officials.  Which officials?  It makes a big difference.

But some international organisations working on wildlife conservation also say that foreign nationals have been involved. How silly. As I said, it is well-known that 'foreign nationals' have hunted in Afghanistan for centuries. Mr Khadka is trying to create the impression that this is something new.  It is not.  Perhaps Mr Khadka does not know this is the case.  Clearly, as is always the case, he has not researched the topic properly!

"Even during the war, people from the Middle East were going there for traditional hunting, which they do using falcons," said Ejaz Ahamad of WWF in Pakistan. Yes, so what?

Abdul Wali Modaqiq, deputy chief of Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency admitted illegal hunting was on the rise. How could he tells, as no proper monitoring of hunting/wildlife populations has ever taken place.  It is thus an unscientific, false and a potentially fraudulent, claim.

"Of course, it has gone up in most of our provinces for food and recreation," he told the BBC. What is he basing it upon.  What relevant qualifications does he hold?  What surveys has he personally ever been involved in?

"In the last few decades, we have indeed lost some species of wild animals and birds because of illegal hunting. But I cannot confirm if [foreign nationals] are involved in all this, although I have heard about them through the media." All very vague and unscientific.  On what evidence.  How many professional field ornithologists who have the expertise to reliably identify birds and other wild animals, are there in Afghanistan and how often have they undertaken year-long surveys/bird-ringing/animal-trapping programmes in Afghanistan?

When another incident of alleged illegal hunting was reported in Herat last year, the government promised an investigation. But conservationists say nothing came of it.  All vague again - just attempting to create a false impression.  I am reminded of the article Mr Khadka wrote about seed collecting in the Himalaya!

"Hunting using falcons is a tradition in Arab regions," said Raghida Haddad, executive editor of Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia magazine, published by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development.  This is common knowledge.  Perhaps Mr Khadka did not know this, so felt a need to add it?

"But after each hunting season, dozens of falcons are released into the wild... so that their population remains healthy. My research into this topic supports this claim. I am sure Mr Khadka knows of no objective scientists with expertise in this area to check with. I am not a zoologist of any description but a botanist but I do...

"As per the alleged hunting in Afghanistan by people from our region, we have no idea about it." Why does Mr Khadka blindly accept this statement?

Some Afghan officials agree that illegal hunting has pushed animals like the brown and black bear, Asiatic cheetah, lynx, ibex, Siberian crane and Houbara bustard onto the list of at-risk species in Afghanistan. Which Afghan officials?  Vague, typical.

In neighbouring Pakistan, the federal government allows dignitaries from the Gulf region to hunt Houbara bustard, a migratory bird from Central Asia. This is well-known.

"This is done to respect bilateral relations with the Gulf countries," say officials with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which has listed the bird as vulnerable. I don't understand what this means.  Other than a diplomatic way of avoided causing offence to powerful countries?

"The principle threat is from hunting by Middle Eastern falconers, largely but not exclusively on the species' wintering grounds." Who has given this quote?  Why is their name and organisation missing?

A recent court order has put an interim ban on hunting of the migratory bird. Which bird?  Here we go again, Mr Khadka being typically vague - presumably he must mean the Houbara Bustard?

Pakistan media reported that the court had asked the government to notify all 33 hunting permit holders from Gulf countries to arrange for representation during the next hearing. So what?

Meanwhile, the chief of Kabul Zoo, Aziz Gul Saqib, said: "We know that illegal hunting is going on in many places of our country but we have not been able to control such activities. How does he know?  What is the evidence?  All unscientific.

"At present, creating awareness against such practices has been our main measure and we hope it will work." The article has petered out..... In reality, no proper evidence, only anecdotal, to support the sensationalist headline which Mr Khadka loves - on this occasion 'blaming' foreigners, rather than Afghans' who probably are guilty of far more hunting than 'foreigners'.

For the record, my own, superficial inquiries confirm that there is no doubt that a lot of Arabs travel to Afghanistan for hunting, going there to catch falcons and hunt Houbara (and quite probably everything else that flies or moves).  However, as quite a lot of the Houbara which over-winter in the Gulf breed in Afghanistan so they have a vested interested not to over-hunting them there (they are not stupid and these activities, have, as I have stated, being going on for a long time, long before Mr Khadka was born, let alone became as journalist).  In parts of the Gulf (perhaps all over) huge areas of land is set aside as 'Houbara' reserves, which is wardened to prevent locals from hunting in order to allow the higher up sheikhs and princes to hunt there exclusively. It is hard to know the actual figures of birds being taken within these reserves but, by and large, they are not over-hunted and the Houbara has always survived quite well. There certainly has been coverage in the press via bird forums (it seems Mr Khadka has not consulted these but then he is completely out-of-his-depth when it comes to serious ornithological matters - had he done so, he may well have come across a head-line which would have been just down his street i.e. claims of a Royal party taking 2000 Houbaras in a single visit to Afghanistan in 2014.  Imagine what Mr Khadka could have 'composed' with this story!!  I agree with more intelligent and better-informed ornithologists familiar with the habitat of Houbaras, that the stories were wildly over-exaggerated.  To support this view, Houbara, are typically thinly distributed over the terrain, and a hunting party covering  25-50 square miles in a day, may take 3-4 birds, perhaps up to 10 in good habitat.  So under ideal conditions it would have taken 200 days - more likely 500+ days.. Preposterous then but let us not let sound evidence and facts get in the way of a 'Khadkhaesque' story, beloved of the BBC!

As for the sort of surveying required to even begin to understand the occurrence of bird species in just one part of Afghanistan, I am reminded of my first scientific expedition to Ladakh (the terrain and bird-life here is similar to some parts of Afghanistan) on the University of Southampton Ladakh Expedition back in 1980.  How old was Mr Khadka 38 years ago? Although not involved in the planning of that expedition, I was brought in as team-leader of the botanical component, a survey of vegetation in the Suru Valley.  The main objective of the expedition was a bird-ringing programme in the upper Indus Valley.  Bird-ringing has been essential to get a better understanding of the bird-fauna of the area, as some birds are difficult, if not impossible to be accurately and reliably identified using binoculars from a distance (no matter how expert the ornithologists and how familiar they are with the birds of the part of the world they are operating in - there cannot be many Afghan ornithologists who can reliably identify the majority of Afghan birds; Mr Khadka is no ornithologist let alone 'birder' as serious bird-watchers like to be known), so they are reliant on visiting foreigners to study Afghan birds properly, with the demands of vast desert and mountain terrain. 

The Southampton team set-up mist-nets to trap the birds, regularly checking (the head of the ornithological project was an 'A' class ringer, meaning he had the skills and experienced to safely ring birds and supervise others) the nets.  They worked hard and produced impressive results during the period of the expedition but realised (as many birds are migratory) that they had not got a full picture of the bird-life of the Upper Indus.  So two of the team returned the following year for a full 12-month ringing programme, thus representing one of the most thorough ever completed in the Indian sub-continent.  I wonder how many comparable monitoring projects have been completed in Afghanistan?  Mr Khadka certainly does not know.

I cannot explain why the BBC pays so-called journalists like Mr Khadka to write overly-simplistic stories, one sentence at a time?  I am sure I am not alone at expecting better standards at the BBC.  Still, many British people trust the content of BBC News.  Based upon my 'totally' illegal mistreatment at the hands of Mr Khadka, I cannot but advise them to not trust anything put out by the BBC.