Kathmandu: The SAARC Programming Committee, meeting here Saturday for its 49th session ahead of the 18th SAARC Summit, has decided to close down three regional centres and merge four others, bringing down the total number of such centres from 11 to five.
The move aims to end the duplication of work carried out by these regional centres and to reduce the expenditure, a statement from Nepal's ministry of foreign affairs said.
The committee decided to do away with the Saarc Information Centre in Kathmandu, Saarc Human Resource Development Centre in Islamabad and the New Delhi-based Saarc Documentation Centre, according to the statement.
It also decided to merge the SAARC Forestry Centre in Bhutan, SAARC Disaster Management Centre in New Delhi, Saarc Coastal Zone Management Centre in Maldives and Saarc Meteorological Research Centre in Dhaka into one. It will be set up as the Saarc Environment and Disaster Management Centre.
The SAARC Information Centre in Kathmandu and the Saarc Documentation Centre in Delhi will be merged with the SAARC Secretariat. It was decided to permanently shut down the SAARC Human Resource Development Centre in Pakistan.
The SAARC Agriculture Centre in Dhaka (established in 1988), the SAARC Tuberculosis Centre in Kathmandu (1982), the SAARC Energy Centre in Pakistan (2006) and the SAARC Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka (2009) will remain open.
Joint secretaries or equivalent officers from the foreign ministries of member countries participated in Saturday's meeting, which was inaugurated by Aishatah Liusha Zahir, chair of the programming committee and the leader of the delegation from the Maldives.
Yagya Bahadur Hamal, leader of the Nepalese delegation, was later elected as the new chairman of the committee.
The implementation of the closure and merger of the centres will be completed by Dec 2016.
Among the issues that came up for discussion before the committee included a proposed calendar of SAARC activities for 2015 and the status of implementation of the committee's earlier recommendations.
The committee will submit its report to the SAARC Standing Committee, which includes foreign secretaries from member countries, slated to meet here Nov 23-24.