I first came to Nepal 10 years ago. The political situation was unstable and the King was under house arrest. Few Westerners graced the streets outside Thamel and the new found democracy was playing out in regular strikes and road blockages – travelling could be a nightmare. When I realised it was exactly 10 years since I’d been here I thought it would be interesting to look at what’s changed – what has been the impact from development?
At first, it was hard to pick out what has changed, but the more time I’ve spent here and the more time I’ve reflected I can see distinct changes, at least in Kathmandu. More of the roads are tarmacked, they are wider and busier but weirdly less polluted…as is the river – although there are still high levels of pollution and rubbish.
There are more people, the population of Nepal has been expanding at an incredible rate, particularly within the cities. Riding on the roofs of buses is a thing of the past –which I’ll admit I actually quite miss. And there is the creeping in of globalisation with the springing up of malls and independent coffee shops. As yet I’ve seen no Starbucks. Oh and the ever present ‘selfie’ which seems to taking over the world.
Gone is the load shedding (planned power cuts) that used to happen for up to 18 hours a day and there is a definite shift in attitudes and social norms within the young, middle class.
Outside of Kathmandu the changes are less evident, at least to my eyes, although data does suggest some shift. Attitudes and social norms are slow to change and there is an evident difference between what exists in the constitution and how this plays out in practice.
But the people are still the same hospitable and gentle people I remember. It is still a country I feel safe in and Nepal hasn’t lost its incredible natural beauty. Even in the relative development of the Kathmandu valley you can walk into lush countryside within the hour….oh yes and the momos (Nepali dumplings) are still yum.