Nepal is truly a beautiful country, but if there’s one thing I kept coming back to it was the state of the infrastructure. The roads were in an appalling state in so many places – some were just dust baths (even in Kathmandu), others were composed entirely of chunks of broken tarmac, and others had pot holes that could swallow whole houses. In many places in Kathmandu the edge of the road was a mess of broken sidewalk, gaping holes, rebar, watery puddles, clumps of sand and garbage. And let’s not forget the roads where part of it was washed away down a cliff. I can generally put up with a fair amount of discomfort and whatnot, but being in a jeep with two wheels a couple inches from a 100 foot drop was more than I could bear. “I think I’ve reached my limit,” I told Paul as I clung to the door handle and made sure to keep the door unlocked in case we needed to roll out in a split second. Sabine thought I was being particularly annoying and silly but I could barely function on that particular dirt road.
But it wasn’t merely the roads. The Internet crawled and hiccuped along in most of our hotels. The electricity was still on load balancing in some towns. Garbage was strewn everywhere and many rivers were full of it. And sending a couple of letters back home took 7 weeks to arrive.
But where this touched me was the fact that Nepalis have to live with this poor infrastructure. They do so with grace and humour, but they have to put up with it and live with it every single day. Their government isn’t going to resolve these infrastructure issues any time soon. And when you see the amount of money pouring in every day from tourist visas and hiking visas, especially for remote areas, you wonder what is going on.
So when I found myself in a tuk tuk ride with a Nepali working for Plan International, a NGO, I seized the opportunity to ask him how he thought Nepal could improve the state of the country. He was happy to talk.
“First,” he said, “there must be a stable government. We cannot have elections every 1 or 2 years, whenever the government want. Every 4 years, every 5, this is better. We cannot achieve any real change of significance without a stable government.”
“Secondly,” he continued, “there must be protection for investors. Their money must be secure. They have put much work into their investment and they do not like to feel that they must walk away from it.”
“Thirdly, we must be able to mobilize our resources. This in my mind are the three most important things we need to do.”
“But how will the government in Nepal become more stable?” I asked him.
He paused for a couple of seconds, and then replied, “It must be from the people. It’s up to the people.”
And that was where we left it.