I was always curious about and keen on visiting beautiful Nepal and hence, when my flight landed at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport on 14th November,2017, I was thrilled and glad that finally, I could make it! Though the sole purpose was to participate in the Tenth South Asia Economic Summit, I had planned to spend some time to see, experience and enjoy Nepal, especially Kathmandu!

Nepal, particularly Kathmandu, is a globally recognized tourist place, thanks to the serene beauty of the Kathmandu Valley - the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Kathmandu, Lalitpur Patan and Bhaktapur. Other attractions of this region are its arts and crafts in metal, wood, stone & terracotta, with an amazing blend of Hinduism and Buddhism. Two more attractions of Nepal are, undoubtedly, the birth place of Gautam Buddha and the world’s highest peak - Mount Everest. Pashupatinath Temple is one more star attraction, besides several other important temples and shrines. It is no surprise that all these attractions, coupled with spectacular landscapes and exotic culture, pull more and more international tourists to Nepal. Tourism therefore contributes to a large chunk of GDP of this small country, which is smaller than my state – Gujarat in terms of area and population! Kathmandu was ranked third amongst the top ten travel destinations on the rise in the world and ranked first in Asia, in 2013! While 2015 earthquake had disturbed the tourist traffic, I guess now it is speedily getting restored.

But, I got my first jolt the moment I came out of the airport. There was utter chaos in the name of traffic... the roads were there for namesake... I could see that there was acute shortage of water... there were piles of rubbish all around...drainage work was going on at snail’s pace...it was like an urban nightmare. But surprisingly, people were taking it easy, as if it was fate accompli. It seemed, neither the administration nor the citizens were concerned about this chaos!! My visit to Bhaktapur was even more disappointing because, almost three years after the earthquake, this heritage city is still in shambles! It sounded like restoration and maintenance of this heritage site is nobody’s business. Many tourists were disappointed with the state of affairs but for locals, it was life as usual!!

While talking to locals about this state of affairs, the blame was placed on the unstable government, political uncertainty and widespread corruption. But while talking to some of the administrators and planners at the summit, I was told that the main culprit is unplanned, unchecked and uncontrolled urbanization. Population density of the region, I was told, has created allied issues like vehicular density, garbage disposal, water supply, sanitation and so on. A ray of hope here is the involvement of many international agencies working in the region.

Anyway, these are the common issues of developing economies the world over and we have to live with the situation and enjoy life because, it goes on. That’s the reason, as my flight was taking off from Tribhuvan Airport, I promised myself to come again to understand Nepal and see some more places in the foothills of the great Himalayas...

Publisher - INSITE