Nepal is not only gifted with stupendous natural resources but also enriched with abundant ancient arts, paintings, sculptures and architectures. These glorious hidden treasures of Nepal just need to be exposed, rendered, and made accessible to its natives and foreigners. The responsibility of the Government then boils down to creating conducive environment for Nepali boutique markets of artisan products. The attention can then be diverted to converting rugged treacherous hills and mountains that encompass almost all sorts of imaginable terrains with magnificent peaks and rivers views, into prosperous trekking, lodging, and hill-top restaurant business. Once, those sectors are covered, the generated capital can then be invested on underutilised water resources starting with run off the river electricity before moving to lucrative large scale hydro-electric power by attracting private and foreign investors from around the globe. We already have India as our prospective principal market for hydro-electric power besides high demand of electric power in our own country.
I have driven continuously for about eleven hours covering for than 600 miles in the United States in several occasions. Even after driving hundreds of miles, the monotony continues. Can you imagine a place comprising of Mountain Region, Hilly Region and Terai Region within the mere 124 miles width? The mountain region is situated in a Great Himalayan Range on the northern part. It includes the highest elevation in the World, the Mount Everest, Sagarmatha in Nepali (8,848m) along with other seven eight-thousand-meter peaks all bordered with China. The Himalayas covers three fourths of the land in Nepal. Abutting the mountains are the the Hilly region ranging from 800m - 4000m in altitudes consisting of Mahabharat Range reaching up to 1,500 - 3,000 meters on the Southern range along with river valleys and hills alternating to the north of this range. Terai Region covers the southern lowland plains bordering India as a part of the northern rim of Indo-Gangetic plains. They were actually formed and fed by three major Himalayan rivers - Koshi, Karnali and Narayani. The outermost range of foothills called Churiaya range, cresting at 700 to 1000 meters, marks the limit of the Gangetic plain. On the north of these foothills, are the low valleys called the inner Terai. So, Nepal consists of all sorts of climatic zone at different altitudes - tropical and subtropical, temperate, cold, sub-artic and artic in ascending order of altitudes and hence it comprises all kinds of biomas: tropical savannas , subtropical broad leaf and coniferous forests, temperate broadleaf and coniferous forests, and montane grasslands and shrublands. Three are even plants indigenous only to Nepal like Yarchagumba (half-plant-half insect: Cordyceps Sinesis) - a fungus, an insect that grows a plant from the top of its head. It has great medicinal values.
Nepal boasts big rivers with huge hydro-electric potential and it ranks second after Brazil in water potential. According to http://www.ippan.org.np/HPinNepal.html, the perennial nature of Nepali rivers and the steep gradient of the country’s topography provide approximately 40,000MW of economically feasible hydro-power potential. Brazenly, we have so far generated a scanty 600MW (1.5%) despite the huge funding made available from foreign donors; an obtrusive evidence of foul politics played by corrupt politicians and administrators, and huge misuse of funds. It is ironical that only 40% of Nepal’s population has access to electricity whereas India on the other hand is benefiting from our rivers; even not hesitating to inundate our villages during monsoon (rainy) season. On top of that misery, Nepalis are experiencing more than 10 -16 hours of load shedding during dry season.
Nepali people don’t actually need to worry that much about vying with other countries in rapidly changing technologies other than “know-how” about the “invented wheels”. At first, we can revamp our most popular profession, agriculture, through available high-tech agricultural tools since most of the economically active Nepali population is still engaged in agriculture. Despite the tremendous effort from the whole family, lack of market facilities, rugged nature of the terrain, difficulties in land tenure, and traditional cultivation method without the implementation of modern tools, Nepali families are unable to rise above the bare subsistence level. Next, comes the task of identifying and unveiling our latent artistic talent that we are gifted with through the use of those handy technologies available to us. Nepal has dexterous artists, sculptors, and architects imbued with ancient hereditary whetted skills; most of them learned the skills as apprentices. Since, the World has already geared into mass production; this is the high time for Nepal to strengthen its economy through crafts and artisan products. These products have very high value; no machine can mass produce these unique artistic products and are exorbitantly price tagged in the World market. Let’s grab this opportunity and start perpetuating our assets by training and mobilizing Nepali people through arts and crafts institutions. Nepalis have already proved the feasibility of international markets by making living, selling in limited numbers, the handicraft products they brought from Nepal to foreign countries and through online websites. The Nepali handicraft products are but not limited to Statutes, Thanka, Pashmina, Carpets, Jewelries, Handmade Paper Items, Metal/Stone/Wood/bamboo/hay Crafts, Garments products and Buddhist items including prayer flags, stupas, incenses. We have lively example of native handicraft businesses sprouted around Manakamana temple; market facilities available after the establishment of easy access to the Manakamana temple through cable cars.
Tourism is concentrated in Kathmandu valley which is adequately equipped with hotels, food supplies, and transportation services. The other places like Pokhara, Mount Everest area, and Narayani area are getting some attention. Still, the main means of transportation in other areas are the network of footpaths interlacing the mountain terrains and valleys. There are few roads that follow the river systems. Highways like Banepa-Bardibas are nearing completion. There are no alternate highways to Banepa-Bardibas as of yet. The people travelling east from the capital has to detour west about 200km from Mugling and back which is about 8 hours of detour. Are we in limbo and incapacitated; ungrudgingly and insanely commuting 8 hours of detour every time till now?
My recent visit to Nepal in August 2011 made me realize how resourceful we are which I overlooked before visiting the United States. The elaborated panoramic view of whole range of mountains extending from Dhaulagiri in the wast and Mount Everest in the east from Daman village at an altitude of 2320 m is breathtaking. Located at Tribhuvan highway known for its adventurous winding roads, just about 100km south of Kathmandu, it can be the great vacation getaways for Nepalis residing and working in congested and polluted Kathmandu valley including foreign visitors. I was overwhelmed to find the abundant information about this place along with elegant resort and well maintained observatory tower being located at this highway carrying very sparse traffic. So, I was content to contribute some amount at the entrance to the observatory tower. I found few waterfalls on the Tribhuvan highway but not that many as in Pasang Lhamu Highway that leads to Nuwakot palace. We stopped by at some waterfalls along the way to Pasang Lhamu Highway to drink water; cold and refreshing enough to satisfactorily quench any one’s thirst as if it is the elixir. The waterfalls are located at almost every corner of the hill, small and medium. Ironically, just few miles away in Kathmandu, there is dearth of drinking water. We also found few straggled restaurants along the road overlooking gorgeous serpentine rivers gorging deep through Himalayas; great sites for lodging and rafting business.
In the United States, Americans exhibit ancient arts and artifacts of foreign countries via their museums. The monuments of even low importance are highlighted and made a great tourist attractions with restaurants and recreation centers sprawling in organized fashions. As an example, the Grand Canyon of Arizona (http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/index.htm) which has been attracting about five million people each year, looks “is this it for that hype?” for Nepalis or Nepal visitors. But look at their outreach to different business opportunities with their services: Shuttle buses, Public Transport, River trips, Guided tours, Mule trips, Hiking, Ranger programs, visitor centers, Sun rise/set observatory towers, Lodging, Campground, and Goods/Foods stalls. Forget about the tourist center and other services, there was not even a simple board directing us towards the Nuwakot palace!!!
This 2011 visit to the magnificent Pokhara city was my first time despite my dire longings to explore it before coming to the United States. The Patale Chhango known for Davis Fall after the disappearance of the body of one of the hikers named Davis in 1961 who was swept down the waterfalls and carried down into the underground passages and caves that run below the waterfalls. Davis Falls is the result of water from Phewa lake after following a gorgeous rocky stream. The water eventually rush down to Davis falls and literally disappears. There is no success story of anyone appearing alive diving down the Davis Falls. So, Patale Chhango is also called Hell’s Falls. You can track the water of Davis falls going through the Mahendra Cave (aka Gupta Cave) located across the street from Davis Fall; at proximity of Gupteshowr Mahadev temple. The gurgling waterfalls and the rocky stream follows at the dead end of the Mahendra Cave - a natural cave made from limestone decorated naturally in spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. This area could have been well known in the World as a mystique site never ever explored. Unfortunately, it looks unobtrusive amid the irregularly sprawled stalls and shops. There could have been a shopping complex with all those shops and stalls in that building furnished with amenities attracting tourists. Also, the availability of rooftop hotels overlooking Davis Falls, Phewa Lake and Fish tail (Machhapuchhre) mountain in Annapurna Mountain Range could have the visitors captivated in the state of trance.
Seti river is another part of Pokhara shrouded with mystery. Seti river carves a very deep but narrow gorge through Pokhara city from Bagar to Sita Paila. We were told that all three recommended bridges over Seti river - K.I. Singh at Bagar, Mahendra at downtown, and Prithivi Highway near the bus park, are covered with bushes and dumped garbage thrown from the bridge. So, we ended up at the bridge near Pokhara Museum from where we had a glimpse of churned milky white turbulent flow of Seti. What about creating a scenic view at least in all those famous bridges? Who would not love to hear the serenade from the burbling water and wonder about its mystery flowing about 20 m deep through Pokhara city playing hide and seek. At some places, its width is strikingly low at about 1m; small enough to attempt broad jumping.
The Annapurna Mountain Range looks awesome from Sarangkot village at an altitude of 1600m which overlooks Pokhara city with magnificent Phewa Lake on its southern direction. I was delighted to find hotels and lodges on the top for people visiting there for splendid view of sunrise: mountains glistening and glowing with the golden touch of early morning refracted rays, and paragliding: down landing to the Fewa lake savoring the lake and the mountain view while airborne. The observatory tower and its surrounding areas adjacent to the barrack at Sarangkot doesn’t have any facilities and are not well maintained even though you pay for it.
My recent visit to Sindhuli Gadhi which lies at Mahabharat Range reaching up to 1,500 - 3,000 meters, near my homestead (Dhungrebas, Sindhuli), made me despondent. I was perplexed to observe the derelict condition of great historic place situated at such a beautiful location. This is the place where the British soldiers first experienced the defeat in Asian soil despite being armored with advanced weaponry such as guns and canons in 1767. My father told me that it used to be a big city when he attended the school there. The elegant Sindhuli Gadhi palace perpetuated by the late folk singer Krihsna Bahadur Thapa in the song titled “Sindhuli Gadhi Ghumera Herda (Sauntering through Sindhuli Gadhi)”, is in rubbles now with small portion of crumbling masonry obscured by unkempt bushes. This is currently connected to Bardibas Banepa Highway via clambering trail from Shola Bhanjyang. But the ruined disheveled run-down fort is still in its pristine state, not yet ready for tourists. So, the question is do we still want to wait and watch? It requires a minimum of our effort not only to preserve it but generate money to sustain it. This historic site can be great tourist attractions creating job opportunities for at least its native villagers.
The themes of artistic works in Nepal have been primarily religious. Almost every object you see in Nepal are relics. Buddhists and Hindu’s manuscripts illustrated with hieratic images of gods and goddess (deities) and Thanka paintings (paintings on clothes) dates back to early 9th century. Images of Hindu deities and Buddha are chiseled in stone, copper and bronze. Wood carvings - extremely intricate and beautiful windows, doors, temple roofs, roof-struts and other artifacts; are carved entirely by hand. The beautiful example of sculptures in Nepal from Lichhabi period are Sleeping Vishnu in Budhanilkantha temple, and Vishnu Vikrant at Lazimpat. Architectures of Nepal are classified as Pagoda, Stupa, and Shikhara. Pagoda style is a multi-roof structured with wide eaves supported by carved wooden struts; dates back to architect Araniko in 13th century. The best existing examples are Kasthamandap, Basantapur palace, Pashupatinath temple, Taleju temple, and Changu Narayan temple. Stupa is Buddhist in style - hemispherical mound topped by a square base - narrowing towards the top. The famous one is Swyambhunath Stupa. Tall pyramidal tower whose surface is broken up vertically into sections with the bell shaped part on the top of the final section is the Shikhar style. Krishna temple in Patan is one of its example.
Almost all hilly areas in Nepal, though I mentioned only few those I witnessed, are apropos candidates for profitable trekking, hill-top hotels, and lodgings business. Even a medium working class Nepalis are in a position to afford for these places as their vacation getaways, however, not enough development budget has been devoted to the development of infrastructures for these money markets. To attract tourists from all around the World, to generate revenue, and to preserve our heritage, cultural values, and Nepali tradition, there is a paramount need to immortalize our ancients arts, paintings, sculptures and architectures. It is also imperative for local elected authorities to provide access to scenic attractions with elaborated information as well as facilities and maintain a peaceful environment and ambiances. The boutique markets needs to be promoted through arts-and-crafts institutions and by creating a conducive export market for artisan products. There are few online websites of Nepalis handicrafts for international customers and couple of organizations like Federation of Handicraft Association of Nepal (http://www.nepalhandicraft.org.np) established to enhance and promote handicraft trades and industries. The initiatives from diplomats to promote these markets through arts and crafts exhibitions at different countries.is lacking a big time. The last but not the least, the huge hydro-electric potential is at our disposal in the offing to be exploited.