News from Nepal

Selected Items From the Latest Issue

March, 1996

Kathmandu Valley

Smokeless Tempos. Nepal has become the first country in South Asia to operate the SAFA tempo, a battery-operated three-wheeler. Eight of them have racked up 75,000 kilometers (46,600 miles) on Kathmandu streets during the last six months, and have proved so successful that they will soon be joined by more than 20 others. The vehicle, which has to be periodically recharged at special stations, can carry up to 600 kilograms (more than 1,320 pounds) and travel at a speed of 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) per hour. The experiment was initiated by Global Resources Institute (GRI) with the financial help of USAID. It is now being operated by the Nepal Electric Vehicle Industry. (Rising Nepal, February 24)


Fire Destroys Documents in Siraha. For the second time in two years, fire has gutted the accounts section of Siraha District Court in southeastern Nepal. It is believed that the fire was started by dropping lighted matches into a ventilator. Security personnel were on duty at the time but they claim "they could not see the fire at night because the windows were closed." Eighty percent of the documents in the accounts room were consumed; the rest were damaged and "are not worth using." The earlier fire destoyed 90% of the documents. According to an observer, "the incident may have been caused by the concerned people involved in financial misappropriation." (Kathmandu Post, February 20)

Legal But Not Very Nice. Man Bahadur, 48, of Baglungpani in Lamjung district northeast of Pokhara tricked his "illiterate and ignorant" father into signing over the deed to his mother's land before the father's death. When Bahadur's 75-year-old mother, now a homeless beggar, came to ask him for food, "he threw her down from the veranda of the house and her hand was broken." He has also made his sister homeless after gaining control of her land, and is alleged "to have looted the property of his youngest brother who has therefore gone mad." The sister has filed a complaint with the District Administration, yet officials there suggest that "it is a hopeless case." Although he has taken advantage of family trust and ignorance of legal procedure, Bahadur has otherwise been careful to act strictly within the law. (Kathmandu Post, February 24)

Waiting for the Chance to Phone in a Complaint. Many people in Syangja district south of Pokhara are still waiting for phone service. Work on installing 150 new telephone lines was completed in January and 1,000 applications for phones have been received and registered in the telecommunications office, yet nothing is happening. "Local people suspect the possibility of fraud." The distribution of telephone lines is the responsibility of local district officials. (Kathmandu Post, February 25)


And Then There Were Six. One of the things that few people expect to find in Nepal is dolphins; yet its rivers are home for a quickly vanishing population of these fish-like mammals. Of the world's estimated total population of 4,000 Gangetic dolphins, or susu, six individuals are known to live in Nepal. There used to be more, but they and the prey they depend on have become the victims of gill netters and pollutants in the rivers. Some have been killed by fertilizers and other toxic chemicals. Others have swum over dams into India only to discover they could not swim back. Now there is agitation to aid Nepal's last half dozen susu and increase the species, perhaps by declaring certain portions of some rivers as "wild and scenic," and thus off limits to human exploitation. If, in the meanwhile, you would like to see a Nepalese susu, we advise you to get out there fast. (The Independent, February 28)

Police Blotter

Famous Beauty Axed. Eighteen-year-old Chandi Sotar Magar, "a famous beauty of Santinagar" (in the south border district of Dang), has been axed to death by her father. He could no longer put up with "her illicit relations with several men," he said. Although the father has confessed his crime, another man, Dipak Malla, "who is supposed to have had close relation with the dead beauty," has also been arrested. (Kathmandu Post, February 25)

A "Unique and Clever Way" of Selling Hemp. An enterprising young man in Kalaiya, headquarters of Bara district (just south of Kathmandu Valley), has devised a "unique and clever way" of selling hemp that does not attract the attention of the police. He "emerges from his house on a bicycle with the two side pockets of his kurta [garment] filled with small packets of hemp," and cruises the marketplace. His customers, who understand what is going on, buy or sell the hemp from out of the pockets, thus making it unnecessary for him to spread out his wares where police will notice them. Those familiar with the operation point out that it also makes it easier for him to charge different prices to different customers. (Kathmandu Post, February 24)


Lovesick Students Fail Exams. Why do high school students flunk exams? Something called the Milan Research and Counseling Center of Kuleswor asked 646 students in 62 districts of Nepal about this and learned that the main cause (more than 47%) was unreciprocated love. Bad omens were also cited, as well as dumb teachers, the interference of household duties, and the distracting allure of radio and television. A relatively small number blamed friends and peer pressure for their failure. More than 30% did not seem to mind admitting that their problem was that they had low IQs. (Rising Nepal, February 22)


Russian Takes First in Yum Yum. The winner of this year's Yum Yum Marathon was Serghei Khomoutov, a Russian and one of 17 foreigners in a field of 60 participants. Only a second separated him from second-place Ram Bahadur Basnet of Nepal. Runners in the fourth annual event started in front of Hanuman Dhoka, touched on both Patan and Bhaktapur then returned to the finish line in Kathmandu's Dasrath Stadium. (The Independent, February 28, Kathmandu Post, February 25)


Fresh Bread for the Khumbu. Now if you find yourself thinking about sugar doughnuts as you climb up the hill to Khumjung, a small village high in the mountains of Khumbu, you will know where to head. The new Everest Bakery, initiated by two enterprising Sherpas with private funds from five individuals, is now in operation. These are the people who started Asian Airlines, the company that has revolutionized transport to the Khumbu by bringing passengers directly to Shyangboche in its heartland in giant rented Russian helicopters. Their dream now is to provide the entire Everest area with fresh bakery products. In their view, the Khumbu has been suffering from bread deprivation ever since Sherpas first discovered how good the stuff was on trips to Kathmandu. But until the bakery opened, the mountain Sherpas have not been able to satisfy their craving except with a product that is already stale by the time it reaches this remote place. The opening of a nearby hydro-electric project now makes it possible to put an electric oven into operation. A building has been constructed, a Dutch cook hired to train local bakers, and the necessary equipment and machinery carried to the site. The fresh bread has been so well received that the Bakery is now diversifying its offerings by teaching its staff to make noodles. Sugar doughnuts will come yet, but for now, maybe it is better for Khumbu trekkers to be thinking about something else. (from Armand Vervaeck, Belgium, an investor in the project, on Internet, and Tenzing Gyazu Sherpa, an on-the-scene observer)

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Contents copyright © 1996, Robert Peirce.
Revised: 22 March, 1996