Unveiling Nepal’s Development Dilemmas, Is it Development or Disaster?

By Nirmal Khatri

Societies across the world today has taken many strides to promote the well-being of the citizen. Despite the strides taken, we continue to face multilayered/multidimensional crisis of pain and suffering, uncertainties, insecurities, loss of livelihood and dignified live and eventually death. The world leader met in 1992 to take some challenges on the ecological destruction produced by the dominant model of development, even after quarter to century we are facing more serious crisis than we know of it in 1992. Today it is no more ecological crisis but acutely social, an eco- socio emergency.

Nepal being one of the oldest nations historically now the young nation with 24 years media age, having 29 million population whose more than 5 million works outside nation especially in gulf. The nation is like a yam between two big boulders India and China accommodates 120 language and 126 ethnicities, where religious harmony has been practiced as a culture between Hindu and Buddhist and also between Muslim. This country is diverse not only religiously, culturally but also geographically and environmentally where tropical climate to alpine environment accommodated 8 highest Himalayan peaks out of 14 highest peaks in the world, with about 2300 glacial lakes. The country is a home to more than 6000 rivers, and about 5300 lakes, with its
technically feasible hydro energy of about 83000MW, and economically feasible is about 40000 MW, and not able to produce even 1% of economically feasible hydro remains an oxymoron in the development trajectories in energy sector. While more than 3000 young Nepalis youths are leaving Nepal in last 9 months every single day, the youth bleeding is vacating villages and our production are declining. the country that used to be exported of rice, ghee and oil, now has been feeding its citizen because of remittance sent by Nepalis migrant worker who are sweating in gulf with their (3D) dirty, difficult and dangerous job, also categorized as (3L) low pay, low skilled and long hour work. While the country is feeling pride and hopeful with its conservation of forest cover area in last 30 years, from 26 % to 45%, we have completely forgotten our Nepali youths to take into consideration in this conservation process. The feeble monitoring system of collateral free loans and its inability to make proper regulation to especially rural women communities are trapping them into the indebtedness, which is why protests are manifesting to debt cancel across nation among micro finances.

Nirmal Khatri Presenting His Views in Department of Sociology, Loyola College Of Social Sciences, Trivandrum, Kerala,India

Nirmal Khatri in Department of Sociology, Loyola College Of Social Sciences, Trivandrum, Kerala,India

The country has no access to the sea, narratives of landlocked has been barrier to the big infrastructure projects. We are not able to see Nepal as a land linked nation. Remittance, has become one of the highest sources of income, which is very costly for the country’s development that has left land and terrace naked and barren, village beginning to be vacant and unproductive in the country. Our remittance is not able to produce investment, instead its spent mostly on consumption.

One of the brighter sides, one of the major benchmark /hallmarks of the Nepal’s development model is Community Forest Conservation. As community took the responsibility of conserving forest, about 22000 CFUG in Nepal were able to conserve/preserve the forest area, increasing cover area from 26 % to 45 % in last 25 years. Tourism promotion, poverty alleviation, women empowerment, and empowerment of marginalized community were the positive impacts of community forest. Conservation overwrites management of forest.

Forest is source of livelihood for most of the rural village life. Unfortunately, we were able to market coke very famously instead of juice of Bel/Stone apple. Our youths do not /and not able to see their future in our forest, instead they see their future in gulf, Youth were isolated from the forest during this conservation process. Our youths today they pick more dates in Arabic Nation, more strawberries and oranges in Portugal or producing vegetables in in South Korean farms where our berries and medicinal plants were left behind. Here lies the biggest challenge how we enable our youths to see their future in the forest of Nepal, not in the deserts and skyscrapers of the Gulf or in European Farm.

Another backbone of keeping Nepalese women and children healthy is the Female Community Heath Volunteer known as (FCHVs) started in 1990s. Maternal Mortality rate, Infant Mortality rate has been dramatically declined in last 30 years. Today there are about 52000 FCHVS active across nation, strengthening public health, yet many more health treatments remain very complicated as well. These FCHVs are the educators, medicine distributors to children, also care taker of the community in both rural and urban areas of Nepal. In more than 75 % of child birth case, these FCHVs has been there within 30 minutes of child delivery time.

But there are growing challenges of public health, and Covid 19 crisis has made situation much worse and difficult too. Public health service has been compromised and commodified, in case of chronic disease public are not able to afford, only few people can afford. I have seen many
patients with the speakers moving for the donation to get the treatment. Cardiovascular, liver disease, kidney failures, cancer has trapped people and not able to afford the service to live, that has put many lives in both death zone and debt trap.

The irony is , while a Nepalis doctor succeeding in transplanting a dead heart to protect lives, we have thousands of Nepalis migrant workers coming home in Coffin because of heart failure,   some of the families even couldn’t afford to get their dead body back home, while Dr Kumud is succeeding to transplant dead hearts somewhere in Australia about 7900 KM far from Nepal. While yes, Dr. Dhital’s achievements bring hope and pride to the nation, it’s crucial to address the health and well-being of Nepali migrant workers. Everyday 1500 to 2500 youths from Nepal leaving to abroad either in search of job or for higher studies, and we have every day 1 to 2 Nepalis youths coming back home in coffin.

Dr. Sanduk Ruit who doesn’t need any introduction has done cataract surgery of more than 120,000, more than any doctor in the world, who is known as the “God of Sight” , Gary Bryan, an Australian ophthalmologist, thinks that Ruit restores the eyesight by performing cataract surgery and implanting a lens inside the eye as simple as Henry Ford developed a car in the United States.His low-cost cataract treatment ‘Ruitectomy’ – reduced the cateract surgery cost from the staggering US $100, to the affordable US $3.His innovation of these magical intraocular lenses i.e. 500,000 lenses are manufactured yearly in Nepal and is sold in 70 countries around the world. While Dr Ruit is treating the blindness across not only in Nepal, but across world, we Nepalese are yet to get treated with social blindness we are living with, with our eyes open.

There are these small intervention and practice and praxis across Nepal, helping to put pieces into place for the common good, and making a community a better place to live in. Reviving and Restoring work of Rabindra Puri in Vernacular Nepali Architecture that proved to be anti- earthquake structure, very less affected by earthquake in 2015, helping to address the possible mitigate the risks associated with earthquake, health benefits and also climate change in long run.

While most of us are very busy, blindly following the building of concrete, Rabindra puri is busy in reviving traditional vernacular architecture through rebuilding schools, community, model village, and temples in preserving heritage in a way that incorporates the issues of climate
change to some extent and proved to be anti-earthquake structures based on our indigenous

While few hands like Ani Choying Drolma , a Buddhist nun contributing to government’s fund by singing song across the world, our government and public are busy in retarding government fund, either by pulling strings, or by cutting corners, and doing conjob, or finding the shortcut or bribing.

My experience says while we are looking at development at spectacular issues, we are not looking our everyday quest of learning for the meaning of life. We have completely lost the trust for each other. The youths are suffering from the crisis of faith in Nepal. They don’t have trust on governments, on institution in the country both academic and nonacademic. Parents do not trust their children for their ability to make difference inside country, inside Nepal. Nepalese parents are not willing to invest in Nepal to make things, but ready to put everything for you to go abroad, wherever it is. committing suicide, increasing crimes of rape and robbery, drugs and depression are becoming normal routines. Villages are becoming vacant, fields and terraces are becoming barren, unproductive. I have seen the long queues of Nepali youth to apply for Public Service Commission job, but very hardly to get public service, most of us don’t want to choose to study either in public school or university or to go to public hospital. Even most of the public officials don’t want to use public service, they choose to send their kids to private school and get private hospital’s service. The dying of trust among the families, among the individual and institution is leading to the dying of our community network and strengths, which is degenerating our societies and communities very rapidly and isolating us.

This raise very serious question, as a community or society, we have lost who we are? What is our identity? What is our relationship among us? The society that has lost its philosophy, has also lost its innovation over time. This raises another serious question to the educational system, that had number of literate graduates, but not enough educated humans and eco-socio-spiritual beings. Students are just being converted into labor for the labor market, like a cog in the machine. This is reproducing violence of nonviolence, sustaining this violence, creating problems in the first place and to address later. We are being more focused on getting good GPA, degrees and jobs, rather than meanings, learnings and virtues and values. Educational institutions dislodge and divorce both the learners either students or educators from the community, who are seen as one of the biggest culprits of society today, for most of these alienation and brokenness that is shattering our relationship with nature, society and with selves. If we keep doing with all these, we are putting the final nail in our own coffin.

The country, the community that used to worship its river, its lake and mountains, and even the body of self, has today the filthiest and most polluted rivers and mountains. Then what development we talk about? we are yet to understand and explore the what it means to be prosperous Nepal and happy Nepalis, the slogans are just confined to political agendas. To me, in the name of development without understanding its core essence, with just copy paste model, we have murdered our ability to create of future generation through education, wiped our culture in the name of development, we have lost our community networks and community feelings. We are no more in communities. We have shifted to the lost community, where our thread of network and relationship has been rusted with long term damage. As a community we have lost our identity and our philosophy and values.

These remarkable individual intervention I mentioned above such Dr Ruit, , Rabindra Puri and so on are actually questioning the notion of development, and re-imagining the development which doesn’t fall under the radar of government , and mainstream media. It is this initiative which are challenging the existing dominant development models in Nepal.

Our intervention in the name of development today, creating trust deficit among us individually and institutionally, personally and professionally, community wise and nationwide, or even policy wise. It’s not the heart failure that is killing Nepalis migrant worker at Gulf, its because the cancer created by our development models in our everyday forms of relationship, which is why pandemic of disaster and discrimination is shattering and destroying our communities, and environment. Maybe we forgot to ask ourselves, the most fundamental and foundational question, what it means to development as a Nepali? Can we ask this question? Should We? Aren’t our blind copy paste model of development turning into anthropogenic disaster in

Blog is based on Nirmal Khatri Presentation in Department of Sociology, Loyola College Of Social Sciences, Trivandrum, Kerala,India


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