On 30th Sept. 2019 our PM KP Oli announced officially that Nepal is an open defecation free (ODF) country – the first in South East Asia. This campaign had started in schools in Nepal as far back as 2011. Surprisingly on 2nd October 2019 , 104th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, PM Narendra Modi of India made a similar statement at Sabarmati that India too was now an ODF country too.
Have we now joined the club of the elites. In the olden days the trekkers coming to Nepal would know that they were near a habitation by way of the smell wafting through the atmosphere to their nostrils or even by seeing it at the side of the path that they were following. One has to remember that this is in conformity of the old Nepali saying, “Goan ko mukhiya, haguwa”. Many years ago a friend of mine told me that many years ago when he was young, the farmers used to ask the local children to go and defecate near a cauliflower plant. Another story of the past is that a defecating person would cover up his or her face if a passerby came along that way so that s/he would not be recognised ! Yes, times have certainly changed now.
Many years ago I was in Amsterdam, the capital of The Netherlands. As I walked around, I was very surprised to see the pavements in the famous city covered here and there with faeces. Then suddenly I saw a motorised object with a man sitting on it coming along the pavement. It would stop where the faeces was, then ‘whoosh’ and the faeces would disappear. As I enquired further I found out that a lot of elderly persons living alone kept fairly massive dogs as pets and also to frighten away any likely intruders. Every morning they would let the dog out to go and relieve itself on the pavement or even on the streets.
Some years ago, I was in Canada and it was usual for me to see people taking their dogs on a leash to the park. There the dog would evacuate its bowels and the owner would the take out a plastic bag and pick up the ‘poo’ with it and then put it in a bin nearby. So presumably the Netherlands and Canada could claim to be DFN or defecation free nations. Canada however would still be a dumper of plastics on the seas by way of some underdeveloped country such as Indonesia.
Another big problem is the disposal of cattle and pig manure. They let of methane gas in the atmosphere. In large scale farming the manure is kept in holding tanks but if there is any leak the soil or ground water can be contaminated. Our traditional method of disposing of cattle manure was of course to dry and use it as fuel or alternatively as fertiliser of the land. More recently gobar gas has come into vogue and even modernisation in this 21st Century age of publicity. One remembers vividly the inauguration of the piped gas supply that our PM did at Biratnagar some months back!
The pronouncement of whether Nepal and India are ODF countries should be taken as the first step in the process of making our environment cleans. It is a process of making our populations aware.
Thankfully this Dasain has come and gone without the usual petrol or garbage crisis. The petrol pumps were open and the garbage was being collected regularly. However, whether it was all over the metropolitan areas or selected parts I am not sure. I am thankful to God for these small mercies.
As the population increases in the Kathmandu valley one is certain that the problem of plastic is going to increase by leaps and bounds. Any garbage dump, of whatever size it may be is going to be filled up sooner or later. One hears that some plants are in the process of being built to produce energy. All this is going to take time.
Being aware of the sorry state of Kathmandu roads and the time it has taken so far to do just cosmetic work on the Chabahil – Boudha stretch one wonders what to expect. Frantic efforts have been made in the one week prior to the visit of the Chinese President Xi Jiping to the capital of Nepal. How long these overnight made asphalt roads will last is anyone’s guess. One only wishes that they would have used plastic pellets instead of stone aggregates for the roads being tarred. The Chabahil-Baudha road would have been completed long ago and would not have been in a state of limbo for over three years.
As far back as Asar 2075 (July 2018) a stretch of 100 meters of Anupam Tole of Pokhara Municipality of Gandaki Pradesh became the first municipality of Nepal to asphalt a road with plastic garbage. The wastes were first converted to pellets, mixed with bitumen, spread on the road and finally compressed to make a metalled surface. This section of the road was inaugurated by mayor Man Bahadur KC. Congratulations to all the pioneers of Gandaki for their initiative.