The British media is still a place with few South Asians in powerful positions, but some plough their furrow and break through by working hard across different topics and by expanding their skill-base. Full of energy, striking and tall with a sleek appearance, dynamic Navin Singh Khadka is talking to me by his desk on the second floor of his vibrant newsroom. He’s the Environment Correspondent for the BBC World Service and reports across different media platforms; TV, radio, online, social media.
Navin Khadka regularly gets audiences of tens of millions. He has 5,000 followers on Facebook and several thousand on Twitter, so probably many of his loyal digital followers will read this column in the Asian Voice. His stories are gaining in popularity, especially with young audiences. One secret to his success is that he is in many places at once; he’s a rare correspondent able to report in four languages; Hindi, Urdu, English, Nepali. He has been based in London for 16 years.
Navin Singh Khadka has broken a number of stories about Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world. One was about a new route up the mountain – how expeditioners can climb in a way that avoids avalanches.
“Another story was about how the precious little oxygen bottles are stolen. How the Everest mountaineers might be a few metres from the summit and find their stock gone. They have to abandon their expedition. Who takes them, what happens to them,” he says.
How China Handed an Accolade to India
Navin Khadka was recently filmed atop another kind of mountain; a mountain of recycling; a mortal amid piles of waste paper. He explains; “After China banned the recycling of papers, we found that the biggest importer of recyclable paper was now India. We went to Gujarat and filmed in one of the recycling plants there. We looked at how India is managing this transfer.”
Farmer Suicides in Maharashtra
There’s a World Service radio documentary that Navin Khadka presented that was nominated for the prestigious AIB award.
Navin tells us; “Called Watching My Father, it is about the psychology of farmers’ families in rural areas of Maharashtra, in the wake of a record number of suicides committed by farmers in this Indian state. Tens of thousands of farmers have killed themselves in several states of India after they were unable to repay loans because of failed crops and unfavourable market conditions. The situation is such that families of farmers live with the fear that their bread-winner might be the next to commit suicide. Politicians in the state said our programme helped them in their campaign and the Maharashtrian government later announced a loan-waiver for all farmers in the state.”
Indian Border Story
Navin Khadka also covered a story based in a sensitive border zone.
“This is about what happened after the Doklam standoff between Chinese and Indian armed forces. Both the armies withdrew after 70 days. We exposed that China was not releasing Hydrological data that India needed and used for flood forecasting in its Assam state, while Beijing was sharing the same with Bangladesh.
We exposed that and after the story went out, China has begun to reveal that data,” he recalls.
Summits, Politics and Finance.
Mr Khadka also attends big international summits like climate change conferences where he has interviewed India’s environment ministers and met luminaries like Al Gore. Mr Khadka is the first Asian, indeed he is the first untraditional, non-white person, to have been appointed to his role. He’s the first Environment Correspondent to have graduated from the World Service Languages Unit. His stories have been picked up by the Guardian and the Washington Post.
Examples of the kinds of stories he covers are; the illegal trafficking of wildlife, energy, and the major issue for our time; climate change. But he points out that environment stories also involve politics and finance.
He gives us an example.
“President Trump promised the US a revival of its coal industry. He found it a challenge to implement that promise. Trump invited PM Modi to the US. Together they signed something called the Strategic Energy Partnership. Buried deep within that document is a chapter relating to coal and oil. Now, the US can send its coal and oil to India as one way of supporting those industries. See, that’s politics, that’s business.”
“We found that the biggest importer of recyclable paper was now India.”
Navin Singh Khadka.