06 November 2015

The Current Situation in Nepal

As always seems to be the case, Nepal is not having a great time overall these days. I'll save myself the trouble of writing an entire essay by including this excellent article summarizing what has been happening at a national level (just skip the contrived title).

Here in Khandbari, few people are still visibly reeling from the effects of the earthquakes, as the epicenters were quite far away from here and the damage was not as serious. This town is growing at such a fast rate that it's difficult to tell which construction projects are new and which are earthquake repairs.

However, the shortage of gasoline, caused by protesters in the Tarai region, and probably also by the Indian government, has had a markedly negative effect on Khandbari. In the past month, I'm aware of just two deliveries of gas, 500 liters each, of which motorists could only purchase two liter increments, and which was quickly exhausted. I've heard that some people have been able to buy smuggled gas for a whopping $5 per liter. Cylinders of cooking gas are also very scarce. It's a very strange situation; there's so little fuel that people are cooking with fires and riding their motorcycles downhill with the engines off, but somehow there's enough for two private helicopters to land here this week (probably heading toward Mount Makalu to rescue overzealous tourists).

Also in short supply here are construction materials and various foods - onions, potatoes, rice (though the next harvest is coming shortly), and lentils, among others. This district does not produce enough food to sustain itself indefinitely; instead, it imports foodstuffs from other districts, paid for by exporting cash crops (primarily cardamom and rudraksha). There's plenty of other food for now, and the things which are running out are still obtainable at outrageous prices, but as anyone who has been to Nepal knows, having no cheap rice and lentils greatly interferes with the typical Nepali diet. In a sad irony, the shortages do not seem to extend to the surrounding villages, because they had no choice but to be mostly self-sufficient even before these current problems began.

Village scene
Every day there is some story in the news about gas convoys coming from China or a number of tankers making it through the Indian blockade, but none of it is coming here as of yet. In the meantime, school continues, everyone is eating overpriced daal bhat, and we're making tea over a wood fire, in the old way.

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