Nepal

Nepal is a land locked country in South East Asia with a population of 27 million. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered by India to the South, East and West and by China to the North. The mountainous region of Nepal has eight of the ten world’s tallest mountains including the highest point on earth – Mount Everest. Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: Mountain, Hill and Terai. The southern Terai region is fertile and humid. These ecological belts run east-west and are vertically intersected by Nepal’s major, North to South flowing river systems.

The mighty Himalaya - Annapurna

The mighty Himalaya – Annapurna

Nepal is a developing country with a low income economy. It has high levels of hunger and poverty.

Agriculture employs 76% of the workforce, services 18% and manufacturing and craft-based industry 6%. Agricultural produce – mostly grown in the Terai region bordering India – includes tea, rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, root crops, milk, and water buffalo meat. Industry mainly involves the processing of agricultural produce, including jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain.

Agriculture – rice terraces

Agriculture – rice terraces

Subsistence agriculture at Komrong

Subsistence agriculture at Komrong

The spectacular landscape and diverse, exotic cultures of Nepal represent considerable potential for tourism, but growth in the industry has been stifled by political instability and poor infrastructure. The tourism sector contributed nearly 3% of national GDP in 2012 and is the second-biggest foreign income earner.

Besides having landlocked, rugged geography, few tangible natural resources and poor infrastructure, the ineffective post-1950 government and the long-running civil war are also factors in stunting the nation’s economic growth and development.

On 25th April 2015 a massive earthquake struck Nepal. Aftershocks continued to devastate the country for a further month. 9,000 people were killed and 23,000 were injured. Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless and entire villages were flattened across many districts of the country.

Earthquake damage in Kathmandu

Earthquake damage in Kathmandu

Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Patan Durbar Square, some parts of the Pashupatinath Temple, Swyambhunath, Boudhanath Stupa, were destroyed.

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Maju Dega temple

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Maju Dega temple.

Swayambhunath

Swayambhunath

Nepal, is one of Asia’s poorest countries, and has little ability to fund a major reconstruction effort on its own.

On 26 April 2015, international aid agencies and governments mobilized rescue workers and aid for the earthquake. They faced challenges in both getting assistance to Nepal and ferrying people to remote areas as the country had few helicopters. Relief efforts were also hampered by Nepalese government’s insistence on routing aid through the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund and its National Emergency Operation Centre. After concerns were raised, it was clarified that “Non-profits” or NGOs already in the country could continue receiving aid directly and bypass the official fund

Nepal has been criticized for its chaotic response to the quakes that killed almost 9,000 people. The country failed to adequately prepare even though experts had predicted an earthquake was likely. And then the government struggled to cope with relief. In November 2015 6 months after the earthquake many partially damaged buildings in Kathmandu are still standing and rubble is strewn across public parks. Tens of thousands of people are living in plastic tents, with muddy paths and no drains.

Tents in Kathmandu

Tents in Kathmandu

To date the Nepalese Government has yet to spend any of the 4.1 billion dollars that have been pledged to help Nepal recover from its worst natural disaster. The Government has spent nothing on reconstruction.

It was in the aftermath of the earthquake that we decided to go ahead with our planned trip to Nepal. We decided to use a tour operator rather than organise our own trip and chose a small company, Lost Earth Adventures, based in York in the north of England to travel with.

This turned out to be an excellent decision as this small young company were perfect.

Lost Earth Adventures

Lost Earth Adventures

We discovered that Nepal is open to tourists and we would be supporting Nepal simply by visiting the country. Tourism is the largest industry in Nepal, and the largest source of foreign exchange and revenue.

Much of the tourist and trekking infrastructure is up and running again. Hotels and restaurants in the tourist quarter of Kathmandu, known as Thamel, are open, likewise in Patan, Bhaktapur, Pokhara, Lumbini and Chitwan. The latter were not even affected by the earthquake.

Tourists are encouraged and very welcome back in Nepal. There are no food or water shortages in the tourist areas. There are plenty of guides available and 80% of the hotels are empty. So we were welcomed with open arms.

The Nepalese are not the type of people to sit and dwell on trouble. They are proactive in rebuilding the damage and in working within the tourism industry.

We saw busy people going about their lives as they always have.

Nepalese boy with traditional dhoka

Nepalese boy with traditional dhoka

This is a time of rebuilding in Nepal. It’s a time when Nepal needs visitors more than ever.
Tourism is a major part of Nepal’s economy and helps the people of Nepal be self sufficient whilst stabilising the country’s economy.

Nepal needs tourists to visit as soon as possible. It meant bigger warmer smiles, waves and greetings for us from the some of the nicest people on the planet.

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Happy smiley people

Happy smiley people

The only major treks closed are Langtang and Manaslu. All the other treks are open and running. Unfortunately the trek we were hoping to do was the Mansalu trek. It is all about trail that is less travelled. More adventure, more new things to discover and experience unspoiled cultures. However, although Mansalu is now passable there are still issues with bridges and landslides and the advice from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office is still against all but essential travel to Gorka and Langtang. So no Mansalu for us.

One great advantage of travelling with LEA is that co-founder and Director Richard Goodey is in Nepal and has the experience and ability to adapt the trek to suit the conditions and the group.

To add to the difficulties post earthquake being faced by the Nepalese people since 23rd September 2015 there has been a shortage of fuel.

The bulk of the energy in Nepal comes from by fuel wood (68%) agricultural waste (15%), animal dung (8%), and imported fossil fuel (8%). Nepal has no known oil, gas or coal deposits

The 2015 Nepal fuel crisis, which began on 23 September 2015, is an economic and humanitarian crisis which has severely affected Nepal and its economy. As a landlocked nation, Nepal imports all of its petroleum supplies from India. Nepal’s landlocked border check points with India have been virtually blocked – most of them by Indian officials and one by activists from Nepal’s Plains dwelling Madhesi community who are unhappy with the country’s new constitution. Imports of petroleum, medicines and earthquake relief material have been choked.

Queueing for domestic cooking gas in Kathmandu

Queueing for domestic cooking gas in Kathmandu

Nepal accuses India of imposing a fuel embargo. India denies the allegation, saying its truck drivers and tourists are too scared to enter Nepal because of violence and unrest in Terai, the country’s southern border region. The long-marginalised Madhesi and Tharu, minority groups that live in southern Nepal, say the constitution leaves them underrepresented in the federal government.

The Nepalese government claims that India, which has close cultural ties to the Madhesi, is working in cahoots with protesters to disrupt imports and make the government capitulate to their demands

When their demands for amendments were ignored, they hit the Kathmandu power base where it hurt the most, by blocking border crossings and disrupting customs checkpoints, which are the lifeblood of the landlocked country

As a result of the fuel shortages, Nepal’s economy is being strangled. Ordinary Nepalis are bearing the brunt of the shortages, after fuel and cooking gas became black-market commodities that only the privileged few can afford.

The impact of the fuel blockade is substantial. In early October, Nepal’s scant reserves neared exhaustion and the government was forced to introduce fuel rationing. Since then, the effects have spread to every sector. At local markets, food prices have gone up — 30%, 50%, 100%. Restaurants are raising prices and scaling back production and, even in the capital city of Kathmandu, homeowners have begun switching from propane to firewood. Buses are severely overloaded.

Overloaded bus

Overloaded bus

Private transport is uncomfortably expensive. Hospitals are running out of supplies.
There are huge queues for fuel. Petrol is available on the black market, but at 6 times the normal price it is out of reach of ordinary Nepalese people. With plummeting temperatures of winter approaching a solution must be found.

Queueing for petrol

Queueing for petrol

The Nepalese government needs to negotiate in good faith with Madhesi leaders in ongoing talks and assure New Delhi that they are serious about addressing their demands. The crisis has polarized hills-plains relations, and he has to mend relations with India.

Nepal may be the underdog, and India may be overreacting with asymmetrical vengeance, but Kathmandu really has no choice but to massage bruised egos in New Delhi, try to understand where India’s real interests lie and to be smart about it.

The New Delhi establishment also hasn’t realized just how counterproductive this is, and how bad the bullying makes India look. India should learn to pick on someone its own size.

In practice there was little impact of the fuel shortage on us. We occasionally lost power in our Kathmandu Hotel but this was usually short lived. Our transport was all arranged by LEA and they were paying the hugely inflated black market petrol prices. Most restaurants were offering a limited menu as they were cooking on wood fires but there was still plenty of choice. We saw overcrowded public buses but we were comfortable in our nice new minibus. (thank you LEA).

Black market petrol fuels our new mini bus

Black market petrol fuels our new mini bus

We had a fabulous 3 weeks in Nepal. Most of the time was spent trekking but we also enjoyed some time in Kathmnandu and Pokara. Despite all of their problems the Nepalese people were friendly and very welcoming.

Our porter Binod on the Mardi Himal ridge

Our porter Binod on the Mardi Himal ridge

Modi Khola valley below Machhapuchhre Base camp

Modi Khola valley below Machhapuchhre Base camp

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7 thoughts on “Nepal

  1. Bikesy

    Great read, the before and after photo of the Maju Dega temple is shocking, especially when you realise how solid they built these things originally. How did you get on with the altitude aspect of the trip?
    Tony

    Reply
  2. Tony

    Awesome read, just looking at the photos and the before and after of the Maju Dega temple is shocking, especially when you think how solidly they built these things originally. How did you get on with the altitude aspect of the trip?

    Reply
    1. Barbara

      Durbar Square in Kathmandu has been very badly damaged and will take millions of dollars and years to restore. A collaborative team of international and national experts from the Department of Archaeology, Government of Nepal and Durham University, has started a series of post-excavation surveys and rescue excavations but there didn’t seem to be much progress .
      I will be writing some posts about the trekking in due course.
      We went over 4000m twice on the trek (Mardi Himal base camp and Annapurna Base Camp)and I had some problems with the altitude which slowed me down a bit but nothing out of the ordinary.
      I’ll be putting more photos of the damage in Kathmandu on facebook presently.

      Reply
  3. Tony

    Thanks, looking forward to it. Hiking at 4KM high is pretty impressive too! (apologies for duplicate post above wasn’t sure if the first one had gone through)

    Reply

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