Above Photo: NepaliTimes/Kiran PandayLike many capital cities in the developing world, Kathmandu has a trash problem. With limited infrastructure and funds, exacerbated by a swelling population resulting from 10 years of conflict in the countryside, Kathmandu’s problems with waste management are to be expected.
As a result, when trash began piling up all over the city in recent weeks, it wasn’t immediately apparent to me that anything was wrong. I noticed heaping piles of trash, including an obscene mound right at the entrance to the tourist district of Thamel, but I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t long, however, until the piles seemed to be multiplying, cropping up all over the city, and much bigger than they used to be.
A few days later, I read a story in a local English publication, which reported that locals in Teku, a community just outside of Kathmandu, were preventing the landfill in their community from being used for the city’s trash. Residents of the community were angry, claiming that promises had been broken and they were not being compensated properly for the use of their land. As a result, trash was backing up all over the city.
With nowhere to dump trash in an overcrowded city, it didn’t take long before the government started to get creative. Officials decided that the Open Theater, the site of this past April’s massive democracy protests, would be the new dumping ground for the city’s trash. Perhaps the site wasn’t chosen for this reason. Maybe it is the fact that this location is in the city center that made this choice so attractive. Or maybe its strategic location next to Bir Hospital, the biggest hospital in Kathmandu, made it seem ideal.
Regardless, there was a plan, a decision, made somewhere in the city by some official that this was the place to put the garbage. Trash would not merely pile up around town wherever it originated. It would continue to be collected and then taken, purposefully, to the center of the city, to a place where sick people come to seek health care and recuperate.
As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for the piles of trash in front of the hospital to grow to incredible proportions. The garbage, combined with the summer heat, was reported to have created a horrible stench that permeated the entire hospital and there were fears that there would be a spread of disease.
I never found a story describing how the situation was resolved, but I can only assume it was because after several days the huge mounds of trash were removed and the city returned to “normal.” Perhaps I’m reading too much into the event, but I can only wonder if using the site of Nepal’s democracy movement as a dumping ground is not meant to send a message. Regardless, it is an interesting anecdote and conclusion to my time in Nepal. As my last day of work draws to a close, I’m sad to say good-bye to all my new friends in Nepal, but as for the garbage…well you can guess how I feel about that.
Posted By Stacey Spivey (Nepal)
Posted Aug 11th, 2006