Archives for category: Environment

“We started out by raising funds through deusi-bhailo” Moti Ghimire, the president of Jagriti Nagar Tole Bikas Samiti recounts with a smile, “We’ve come a long way.” Jagriti Nagar is a tole, or neighborhood, located on the western bank of the Bagmati river between Naya Baneshwor and Purano Baneshwor. Occupying an area of approximately two hundred square meter with about four hundred homes and small businesses, much of the early history of this tole consisted of people from many districts of Nepal purchasing land and constructing homes in this area, with the first house in this settlement being built around 2046 BS. As the settlement in Jagriti Nagar expanded, a committee was formed in 2048 BS to develop the infrastructure of the tole. However, it took another four years for this entity to be registered with the Central District Office of Kathmandu.

Given the newness of the settlement, the main priority of Jagriti Nagar Bikas Samiti during its early stages was to build proper infrastructure for its denizens. This has led to the gravel roads being upgraded to black-topped roads with the Kathmandu Municipality Corporation (KMC) funding 60% of the project and the other 40% coming through the contributions of the community. With unfailing persistence, the Bikash Samiti has been advocating for a cleaner neighborhood. Despite the fact that Jagriti Nagar is right next to the notoriously dirty Bagmati river, it is relatively clean as the members of the tole have taken the initiative to periodically clean the tole themselves. On the roads of Jagriti Nagar, one can see speed limit signs and marked speed breakers, which are some of the undertakings of the Bikas Samiti. Also, this Bikash Samiti has declared the tole free from sand and gravel exploitation in the neighboring Bagmati river.

Today, Jagriti Nagar Bikash Samiti has diversified in its approach to developing the community. “We do a lot of things throughout the year,” Mr. Ghimire says, “We have blood donation programs. We felicitate those who passed SLC with distinction and the octogenarians of Jagriti Nagar every year. We have community fundraising programs during Dashain and the Nepali New Year. We have a poetry recitation festival. But everything we do, we do it together as a community. No matter where you come from, where you live, it is always important to develop a mutual sense of responsibility.”

In addition to developing a mutual sense of responsibility, the members of the Bikash Samati also believe in developing self-reliance. Hence, the Bikash Samiti does not receive funding from any NGO, INGO or other external development partners. All the office holders in the Bikash Samiti are volunteers and do not receive any form of renumeration. Funding for their activities is derived from the community itself: through a household membership fee of Rs 100 which they collect from every household every two years.

A commendable and exemplary initiative of Jagriti Nagar Bikas Samiti was to search for any annexed public land in the tole that had appeared after the Bagmati river had changed its course. The present working committee was able to identify such land on the eastern part of the tole, on the banks of the Bagmati river. The Management Committee then wrote to the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) requesting it to look into this particular land and to transfer the ownership to the Nepal Government. CIAA and the branches of the Nepal Government, including the Department of Measurements and Kathmandu District Land Revenue Office, KMC, KMC Ward No. 34 came to the assistance of the Bikash Samiti in gaining control of the public land. After the ensuing litigation, land area of about six and a half ropanies was transferred to the Nepal Government. Several months later, the Bikash Samiti received a formal letter from KMC stating that it was entrusted with safe keeping and building a community park in this land. Again, the Bikash Samiti raised funds from the community to pay for 20% (Rs 291,000) of the proposed park while KMC funded the remaining 80% (Rs 882,000). A boundary wall and a temporary gate have already been constructed.

The Bikash Samiti has also been working with KMC, KMC Ward No. 34 and Nepal Government to raise funds for the construction of a concrete bridge on the Bagmati Bridge. This new bridge, which is already under construction, will connect the Airport section of the Ring Road with the proposed Bagmati Corridor Road. “More work on this bridge has been completed than on the main bridge connecting Purano Baneshwor to Sinamangal” Mr Ghimere states with a smile “To aid the construction of this bridge, we have provided our public land to store steel rods and other construction materials. For this reason, the work on the park has been temporarily put on hold” Mr. Ghimire points to three large circular steel pillars of the bridge under construction, “But as most of the column of the bridge has already been completed, we can hope that we can begin work soon.”

Standing on the banks of the Bagmati river, looking at the bridge being constructed nearby the empty plot of land that will soon become a park, Mr. Ghimire further underscores the fact that “We can’t always ask the government to do everything for us, sometimes we have to take the initiative ourselves. That is what we do with this Bikash Samiti, we provide a platform for the community to take the initiative, to fulfill their needs themselves, to fight for their rights. It is not only enough that we ask for things, it is equally important to work with your neighbors to bring about positive change.”

Mr. Moti Ghimire Standing outside the Jagriti Nagar Bikas Samiti Office

 

The New Bagmati Bridge that will connect the backside of the Ring Road to Jagriti Nagar

 

The Steel Pillars of the New Bridge Across the Bagmati River Under Construction

 

Phulchoki is a hill in Lalitpur district and falls within the Kathmandu valley. My father and I decided to go to Phulchoki for a picnic. We drove from Satdobato to Godavari from where the road to Phulchoki begins. We passed St. Xavier’s School at Godavari where my father went to school as a kid and it lies right on the bottom of Phulchoki hill. My father told me that in his St. Xavier’s years, they used to have an annual Phulchoki day where they used to scale the hill on foot. He viewed the hill with a certain sense of nostalgia which intensified my curiosity. The hill is foggy throughout the year. Even the occasion that I had chosen wasn’t that auspicious, the hill was lost in a thick fog. The gravel road was  intermingled with patches of black-topped road and it was steep and rough most of the way. But even then, the road was quite scenic with mother nature at her most brilliant. On the way, I saw rhododendrons, the national flower and a hummingbird which I tried to photograph but it was too fast for me. Phulchoki is also rich in iron ore deposits and purple colored rocks are scattered all over the road. When we reached the top, we found a communication tower which plays a crucial role in the telephone and televisions networks as with as civil aviation of Kathmandu and the whole country. And as a result there is an army regiment garrisoned on the top of Phulchoki which safeguards the tower. There is also a small temple dedicated to the local Phulchoki Mata. A temple, a tower and an army regiment, we found them all gathered on top of Phulchoki. “This is different”, he murmured as the military encampment went against his expectations. We had our picnic nearby the small temple, as my father began drowning in his past recollections of the hill as he’d known as a kid at St. Xavier’s Godavari. I ignored him and watched the tower which was beleaguered in the mist. I observed the siege that the mist was carrying out on this hill. A serene moment of perfect silence as I felt the chains of civilization break. And this is the reason why I love traveling.

St. Xavier School at Godavari

The Uttis (Atnus Nepalensis) Forest at Godavari

The Rough Road to Phulchoki

A Pond near the Top of Phulchoki Hill

Phulchoki

An Army Truck Delivering Water to the Army Regiment

The Communication Tower in the Midst of Fog

The Tempe on Top of the Hill

The Temple Again

Danger Sign and Barbed Wires Bordering the Army Barracks

Tibetan Prayer Flags

A Hollow Tree on the Way to Phulchoki

A View of Kathmandu

A Hill Scarred by Marble Quarries Opposite of Phulchoki

A Traffic Island

The Lonely Road to Phulchoki

Two kilometers from Belbari is Betana Wetland Conservation Project, a serene wetland and a laudable conservation project in addition to being a popular picnic spot. A praiseworthy effort, this place kills your stress like the way Navy SEAL killed Osama Bin Laden, and will energize you to run like a DuraCell bunny to oblivion. Maybe I am indulging in exoticism, but in kalyug when we are neck deep in ocean of feces, maybe we need places like this to remind us of our umbilical relationship with nature. Maybe if we stop ticking off Nature Mata then we can avoid 2012.

Betana Lake

Boats in the Betana Lake

Betana

Right in the neighborhood of Betana is an old Kirati cemetery that nobody seems to notice or care about. The Kirati people (Kirat is a collective term for the Tibetan origin ethnic groups in eastern Nepal like Rai, Limbu, Lepcha, Dhimal etc) bury their dead and they put large tombstones with inscriptions.

An Old Tombstone

A Collection of Tombstones

Tombstone Inscription in the Limbu Script

A Mordern Tombstone

On the other side of the road, there is a camp of tea stands loaded with junk food and cigarettes.

Tea Stands

Inside a Tea Stand

Teastands

Huge Tree nearby the Tea Stands

The Mystical Brahmaputra River

My train was headed to Guwahati, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Assam. Guwahati is located on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra river which has an average depth of 124 metres. The mystical Brahmaputra river along with the famed Kamakhya temple are obviously the star attractions of Guwahati.

Brahmaputra River as Seen from Guwahati

The City of Guwahati which lies on the South Bank of the Brahmaputra River

The Queue Outside Nava Graha Temple on a Hill overlooking the Brahmaputra River

Brahmaputra River Ferries

A "Garbage Recycler"0n the Banks of the Brahmaputra River

Ferry Boats of Brahmaputra (Modeled after the Nortorious Junks of Hong Kong)

To Umananda Temple (Located on an Island on the Brahmaputra River)

The Island where Umananda Temple is Located

People Working on the Banks of the Brahmaputra River

The Brahmaputra River!

Water Cycle!

Boats on Dry Land