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Newsletter July 2009

Spring in Nepal was memorable for all the wrong reasons this year

Sixteen hours a day load shedding power cuts. Water shortage. Strikes. Road closures. Price increases in everyday food items. No petrol. No diesel. No kerosene. No gas. Schools closed. Demonstrations and disruptions in all parts of the country.

During March/April, we were experiencing load shedding power cuts of 16 hours a day making life generally, but particularly in the office very difficult, with hardly any time during the day available to use the computers, machines etc. it was so difficult for everyone to conduct their businesses during this time. In Thamel, (the main tourist area of Kathmandu) where I use office facilities, there was no power from 08.00 to 16.00 for three consecutive days of the week and others it would be available from 08.00 to 12.00 or 12.00 16.00 or in the middle of the night! The schedule was similar, but at different times of the day, in other areas of the city and valley. Many small businesses were affected and some, who needed electricity to run machines etc., had to close down resulting in no work for many people. Some larger government office buildings and banks had generators and battery power for lighting but it was a difficult situation for all.

For most of the local people their daily routine was based around power cuts, with school exams in late March early April homework and exam preparation was done by candlelight in many houses. Nepali New Year falls in the middle of April and this was not a good start to 2066. I had taken some windup torches for the family and they proved very useful with our children rigging them up to throw a pool of light on the table for their homework, they were very useful in many other instances also. With very few hours of electricity recharging any other electrical items was also difficult.

On top of this there was a water shortage also, where we live in Kathmandu there was no water coming through the pipes for a month, when it did come there was no electric for the pumps to lift the water from the mains pipe to the tanks on the roofs of the houses, it did get better with some coming every 5 or 6 days!! The authorities would occasionally send a water tanker, at random times and with no notice, so you only knew about it when the neighbours shouted a warning or you saw others rushing down the road with water carriers and containers etc.

With almost continual strikes and road closures in the Terai, the region bordering India in the south, no fuel or food was coming to Kathmandu and the shortages were becoming worse day by day. With rising prices for everyday items life for the ordinary people was very difficult at that time.

Many of these troubles facing the local people have to be laid at the feet of the Politicians of all parties, who are haggling and posturing for positions of power presently trying to form a 'consensus government' instead of attending to the immediate needs of the people.

However, from the tourists viewpoint much of this went unnoticed as many hotels have generators to keep some power supply most of the time and paid large amounts of money to government departments for tanker loads of water, if they didn't have their own direct ground supply. They were able to keep their services much the same as usual. Exceptions were times when Maoist affiliated trade unions caused problems with strikes and closures. We were able to manage the time and itineraries for our clients without any major problems. Clients to our Jungle Camp in Chitwan National Park had some changes due to road closures in the area and were taken to a hotel owned by the camp in Bharatpur, the night before, and then had a walk to the airport during the road closure next morning for the return flight to Kathmandu.

Nepal Trekking in Nepal: Everyone is in reasonable health in Kathmandu and in Pangum, we continue to 'battle on' despite all the difficulties and disruptions in Kathmandu and in Nepal generally. In Kathmandu the children completed another school year with exams passed, with reasonable results, to allow them to move up to the next class. In Pangum village the children also continue to make progress at school, the eldest daughter has finished her first year in college at Jiri where she is training as a nurse/community medical health assistant. Recently, at the start of her second year, she has been sent out to some remote districts on practical training which will prove very useful for the future as well as being yet more 'new experiences' for her. In the present unstable political climate in Nepal it is difficult to see what the future holds for all the students and young people, we can only hope it will change for the better sooner rather than later.

Once again we are very grateful to everyone who gives us support for our work direct in Nepal. Support both financially and with the continued supply of clothing for children and adults in the villages and in Kathmandu, also to those who make available medical supplies for Khunde Hospital high in the Khumbu. Our projects are ongoing and we look forward to continued support in the months and years ahead.

Denis and all the Nepal Trekking Family