It's a crying shame that the new constitutions debacle comes at the worst possible time ever for
Nepal. Ourselves joined with First Steps Himalaya have put all our energy towards helping a district that lost 97% of their homes, 3440 people were killed and 3000 were declared missing. Now getting supplies for basic needs, food and rebuilding supplies is near impossible due to the current border blockade on the India/Nepal border that has halted fuel deliveries to Nepal for going on two weeks now. FSH friends from New Zealand, Court Construction has just arrived in Nepal to work on the roof of their first project - however Durga reports getting supplies right now is near impossible.
|FSH 1st earth bag accommodation block currently underway|
This isn’t the only blockade the country has experienced post quake. When foreign aid arrived in May - donated goods were left on the runway till import taxes were paid by agencies and donors. Sadly a lot of these goods never got to the people in time to be used. Photos came out of Kathmandu showing cargo crates at the airport left for birds and thieves to rip apart. Finally, when villagers received rice it had been spoiled.
The earth quake happened at the onset of the monsoon season. People in the hills fled to Kathmandu afraid of landslides that would most likely happen closing roads and potentially wipe out more villages. If these slides happened (and they did) people wouldn’t be able to help. Because of this imminent threat villagers didn't get their crops in in time for the planting season because they were living in a tent city in Kathmandu and/or their seeds were spoiled. Young girls were at risk of human trafficking in the city and eventually most went back to their villages. Trucks began delivering sheets of tin to provide temporary shelter throughout the monsoon season and tried to plant.
At the time of this blog the monsoons is slowly coming to an end and winter is starting to to set in.
We were concerned people will pick up their bricks and build with them again in this earth quake prone country and we wanted to help offer something safer. Durga Aran, Co-director of FSH organized a summit meet in Kathmandu to teach the concept of earth bag building. It was well received with 70 people turning out for the event.
|Just about ready for the roof|
We just recently hitched up with someone who went into the Langtang region to do a recognizance of the situation there. It was our intent to bring a couple villagers from here to join us on our earth build school building in Sangachok, and to take these skills back with them to their village. Sadly this plan fell apart. It was discovered that the villagers are content to live in their shanty tin dwellings as there is a much more serious problem at hand…THEY NEED FOOD!! They declined any building aid and materials and instead are pleading for money for food. This is getting serious!
Keep in mind that the tin shanty style housing currently being used is what you see in the news and in photos of places like Haiti and Mexico where winters are warm, that is not the case here in the Himalayas. It’s looking very grim at this point. Oh! and did I say that the Nepal government has failed to use the 1.4 billion dollars of foreign aid money?
There are a lot of headlines online right now on the strikes aka bandhas affecting the countries current state, here’s one: http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/world/nepal-looks-for-alternate-fuel-supplies-as-crisis-deepens/143326.html
In short; the border between India and Nepal is a war zone; 40 people have been killed over the border closure stopping fuel coming from India in protest of the constitution; Nepal is landlocked and depends 100% on fuel and other goods from either India or China; the Friendship Highway, the trade route between Nepal and China was destroyed by the earth quake and China is not interested in repairing it till next year; Nepal is at the mercy of the Indian fuel but it’s not really the Indians that are stopping the flow. The blockade is on the Nepal side, It’s the Madhesi people who inhabit the border Terai region.
Madhesi people, have felt neglected by successive Nepalese governments over education, health access, economic activities and development programmes. Many of the poorest communities survive on less than US$1 a day.
How are we affected?
Nepal desperately needs food and building supplies to rebuild and all while in the midst of their main festival season and peak tourist season there is a blockade that streams the much needed fuel. We made pleas to the world post quake to please bring your tourism dollars this autumn to help revive the country by putting people back to work. Now airlines like China East and South are cancelling flights out of the US and Canada to Kathmandu. It’s getting complicated with China’s border on one side and India the other. Why are they cancelling flights when they could operate here with enough fuel to get in and out like other airlines have been doing? We suspect its a political and getting confusing to say the least.
Nepal has decided to throw rocks into a sinking ship. The cost of climbing trekking peaks has just gone up considerably. These new increases have been dickered with at the worst possible time. Here’s the new increases explained:
- Nepalese nationals used to be exempt on permits - now they pay to climb.
- Insurance rates for Nepalese guides now working on trek peaks have to be insured for the same rates as Everest even though it’s just a trekking peak and only 2 to 3 days on the route compared to Everest at 2 months with an ice-fall. It doesn’t matter - we are asked to pay the same $1500 + premium per guide.
- Permits are up as well for these peaks. It used to be a group rate and now it’s all based on individuals increasing the expeditions overall costs.
Many climbers and peak trekkers may not have any knowledge of this before going to Nepal this autumn and will have to come up with extra cash or lose out on their climb. Our fear is this will lead to more tourism corruption on the streets and in the valley’s in the name of climbing. Climbers should be aware of the consequences trying to do things through the backdoor. This can mean loss of life, inadequate leadership and infrastructure, being liable to a guides family for life should something go wrong, or even jail.
Working in Nepal has never been easy. In all our years here, something always goes down; be it weather, virus epidemics, or politics. The next couple of seasons are definitely going to have considerable challenges if the situation with the border doesn’t improve and people don’t get food and shelter.
We’ll be watching closely how this all plays out in the next week. We’ve got climbers, trekkers and a very ambitious earth build team gearing up to go help build a earth bag school.
Please pray for Nepal!
Becky & Tim Rippel