A little Geography
Nepal is a country long – 800 km – and narrow – 200 km – wedged between two giants: India and China.
As much as the border with India is flat stretching between 60 and 300 m of altitude, as much the border with China is vertiginous, formed by a part of the Himalayan chain which makes in total 2400 km long. It is the highest border in the world!
Nepal can be divided into 3 zones, the mountainous zone, the hill zone and the plains zone: the Terai region.
Only 20% of the total area of the country is cultivable.
Nepal is at the latitude of Florida. This is why the gardens, up to an altitude of 2300 m, can be cultivated all year round. They are constantly producing!
The Himalayas of Nepal have more than 100 peaks above 7000 m and 8 above 8000 m:
Everest – 8848 m
Kangchenjunga – 8,586 m, 3rd highest peak in the world
Lhotse – 8,516 m
Makalu – 8,485 m
Cho Oyu – 8201 m
Dhaulagiri – 8167 m
Manaslu – 8156 m, 8th highest peak in the world
and Annapurna – 8091 m, 10th highest peak in the world.
From west to east, the main Nepalese rivers are the Mahakali, the Karnali, the Kali Gandaki, the Buri Gandaki and the Trisuli, which forms, with the Kali Gandaki, the Narayani river at the edge of which Buddha was born.
A bit of history and economy
Everest was discovered by Europeans for the first time in 1847. It was baptized with its current name by Westerners in 1865 and, from the 1920s, it attracted the interest of mountaineers who launched out to attack its slopes from the North. Thus began the first victims of expeditions, including George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, in 1924, which we will probably never know if they reached the summit. In 1950, Nepal allowed access to the mountain from the South, and in 1953, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay managed to defeat Everest. Today, the number of victims in attempts to climb Everest alone has risen to over 300. More than 14,000 mountaineers have attempted ascent since 1922 and more than 4,000 have successfully attempted it.
The Impact of the West
Nepal has only been open to foreigners since 1951. Previously, it was a closed country, forbidden to visitors. In 1962, 5000 visitors discovered this country blessed by the Gods. Today, there are more than 1.3 million. However, this tourism is largely concentrated on trekking and expeditions. It was estimated that in the 1960s and 1970s each tourist had the services of at least two Nepalese, who did not necessarily live in the Himalayan area. This caused an annual « immigration » of nearly 15,000 porters to mountain regions. The economy of the villages was turned upside down. Farmers preferred to sell food at high prices to a foreigner rather than at cost to their fellow citizens. And the situation has hardly improved since. All this has greatly destabilized village life and brought immense pollution of all kinds of waste in mountain areas: plastics, oxygen cylinders, tent cloths, etc. There is no incineration or water treatment plant in Nepal. In addition, this influx of trekkers from all over the world has taught the children of these villages, by dint of gifts, to systematically beg for candy and chocolate to each walker who passes. This point is very sad because it locks the people in a poverty-stricken and submissive attitude instead of growing and ennobling them.
In addition, the systematic use of timber and firewood by the Nepalese, associated with the increase in demography, led to massive deforestation, in which this influx of visitors for trekking and expeditions greatly contributed. bought firewood, especially at altitudes where tree growth is extremely slow.
This is how entire forests of conifers and conifers have already disappeared, as have many shrubs and junipers. In 20 years, from 1960, the Terai forests have lost a third of their extent.
Erosion and flooding are the disastrous consequences of this deforestation. Today, efforts are being made to try to preserve the country’s vegetation and fauna: reforestation, creation of national parks, regulations, etc. Combined with the ban today on cutting wood for trekking and expeditions, they have made it possible to slow down, or even sometimes halt, the deforestation process. But all of this remains very insufficient.
Despite the tourist windfall, Nepal remains one of the poor countries in the World. Nearly 70% of Nepalese households are in a vulnerable situation and live on less than 300 rupees a day or 2.25 €… barely 67 € per month.
Here, as elsewhere, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. When we know that the land next to the meditation temple of the ashram is more than 500 € per m2, this raises questions. There is, therefore, as everywhere in the world, an increasingly wealthy population.
In fact, the Maoist civil war between 1996 and 2006 generated a wealth of certain people thanks to the systemized racketeering. The revolutionaries came to the villages, blew up a house and asked others to give them money otherwise their house would also blow up.
The enormous influx of Western money, coming from other countries of the world, following the earthquakes of 2015, has also greatly contributed to a strong increase in corruption and to the enrichment of certain people.
Finally, migrant workers are increasingly numerous in Nepal. Official figures show that 294,094 Nepalese emigrated to find work in 2010, up from 55,025 in 2000. In 2012, the World Bank calculated that remittances represented 22% of all of Nepal’s economic output and this figure is increasing. The real figures would be about double. Nepal is the second-largest migrant labor force in Qatar after India (Construction sector in Qatar).
Of course, tourism takes a large part in the economy of the country. It offers a minimum of work to many people. But when the earthquakes took place, tourists deserted the country for a year! This situation was, moreover, accompanied by the blockade of India. The neighboring giant had closed its borders for 7 months to force Nepal to vote for a Hindu rather than a secular constitution. It was an economically very difficult period. Disasters and political instability can eliminate this economic windfall overnight. This makes Nepal very vulnerable.
It is in response to all this that Ramchandra favors the education and instruction of children, the only way in his eyes to allow the country to evolve towards a more serene and balanced economy, but also more social and spiritual.
Society and Spirituality
Nepal has almost 30 million inhabitants, more than 60 different ethnicities and castes and as many languages and dialects:
- The Kshatriya caste – the warriors – represents 16% of the population.
The Brahmins’ caste – those who study knowledge (normally), represents 13% of the population.
The Tharu, the first inhabitants of the Terai, represent 7%.
The Tamang, close to the Tibetans and the Sherpas, living north and east of Kathmandu, represent 6% of the Nepalese population…
The Newar, the first inhabitants of the Kathmandu valley, constitute around 5% of the Nepalese population…
The other main people of Nepal are the Gurung, 1.7% of the Nepalese, living in the Pokhara region, the Thakali, the Kiranti, and the Magar…
The Sherpas, the ethnic group best known in the world for the ability of these people to carry heavy loads in the high mountains, represents only 0.5% of the population.
One of the specific traditions of Nepal and the tradition of living goddesses dating from the 17th century: the Kumaris.
They are 12. Little girls, from 4 years old, from Buddhist families, are chosen from thousands of candidates by a committee of Buddhist priests. Each of them is selected when she loses her first baby tooth and must resign at the time of her first period, to return to normal life.
It happens to cross a procession with the Kumari in Patan or Bhaktapur, the ancient cities close to Kathmandu.
© Abel Millot — © Les Enfants de Ram — © Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir — © Auronepal Travel & Trek — Janvier 2020