Into the Kali Gandaki, and the reality of the road

Yesterday we walked to Jomson and then today a short walk to Marpha. What a contrast already to the first part of our trek up the Marshyangdi Valley to Manang and then over Thurong La pass. We saw signs of road building, but nothing like we encountered as we walked down from Muktinath into the Kali Gandaki Valley. Tractors pulling trailers carrying local people, motorbikes … not a lot as yet, but enough to disturb the peace and solitude of walking.

Descending from Muktinath to Pokhara
Descending from Muktinath to Pokhara
In the Kali Gandaki, it will never be this peaceful again
In the Kali Gandaki, it will never be this peaceful again
The road, cutting through the fields of Marpha. This is a clear example of the impact of what my mate Dave calls “straight line thinking”
The road, cutting through the fields of Marpha. This is a clear example of the impact of what my mate Dave calls “straight line thinking”

In Marpha Village we met with Mr Bhakti Hirachan.  We walked above Marpha to a spot with a commanding view of the village and Kali Gandaki river, where we stopped for a while.  He talked about the issues they’re faced with, as well as the positive things they are doing. While they are observing changes with climate, the biggest issue at present is the development of the road. Mr Bhakti has been opposed to the road and still is. He believes it will create more environmental problems.  I agree with him.

“Currently I don’t see big environmental issues but I am worried for the future because of the road construction that is taking place here. Once the highway is completed, there will be many buses plying the road and creating bigger environmental problem. Then I think the condition will be very very bad.” Mr. Bhakti Hirachan, Hotel Owner and Social Worker
“Currently I don’t see big environmental issues but I am worried for the future because of the road construction that is taking place here. Once the highway is completed, there will be many buses plying the road and creating bigger environmental problem. Then I think the condition will be very very bad.” Mr. Bhakti Hirachan, Hotel Owner and Social Worker

I offered to write my reflections for him, which included the following:

Of far greater importance than the road in the Annapurna region is the need for reafforestation. If I consider the needs for:

1)      environmental protection

2)      sustainable fuel supplies

3)      water resources protection

4)      natural beauty protection

5)      sustainable local economies

6)      social well-being

then I find far more reasons to be funding reafforestation rather than road building.  All of the above matter hugely in developing resilient communities in the face of climate change and other issues.

Marpha Village is a beautiful place, and has a very strong community.

“We have a very powerful women’s group called the Mothers’ Group and also a Youth Group who have been instrumental in promoting and implementing environmental management practices. The Mothers’ Group has been crucial in promoting planting of deforested areas, waste management and safe drinking water. The Youth group has been the effective voice in encouraging young people to be actively involved in the community work, preserving the environment and culture.” Mr. Bhakti Hirachan

They have worked as a community to protect their unique environment. How they cope with the challenges and changes that the road brings remains to be seen.

Leave a Reply